The Pil­lars of Life

Do our 206 bones com­mu­ni­cate with one another? Can our way of liv­ing be de­duced from our skele­ton? And can we be­come un­break­able? In­sights into the mys­te­ri­ous uni­verse in our body…

iD magazine - - Contents -

Could hu­mans be­come un­break­able?

The cross sec­tion shown be­low of the fe­mur, the large bone of the thigh, re­veals highly com­plex con­struc­tion. Its ball-shaped end sits in the socket of the hip joint, which en­ables our legs to move. Inside, an ex­tremely fine net­work of bone fibers makes bones very re­sis­tant to break­age and also saves a lot of weight. Although the net­work is solidly con­structed, it is con­stantly be­ing re­built by the bone cells. This is why bones can ad­just to bear­ing an ex­cep­tional bur­den— as oc­curs when we start playing a new sport. The net­work is typ­i­fied by a cer­tain struc­ture (cir­cled in red) that al­lows pres­sure waves to be con­ducted through the bones. In the cen­ter of our bones the net­work is less pro­nounced. This chan­nel is filled with red bone mar­row— a fac­tory for the red and white blood cells. Sci­en­tists have re­cently dis­cov­ered that bone tis­sue pro­duces hor­mones: Bones re­lease os­teo­cal­cin into the body, which in­flu­ences glu­cose me­tab­o­lism. Mice with an os­teo­cal­cin de­fi­ciency are obese and prone to di­a­betes.

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