This blog post will help you discover the intricate framework of the human skeleton and learn about the fascinating growth process of bones. Find out how forensic science helped solve a famous mystery, and how that same technique is used today to fight crime. Plus, we've collected ten amazing facts about the human skeleton, read on to find out more!
How Is A Bone Grown?
A human infant typically has 300 bones; as the body ages, bones fuse to form larger bones. A human adult has between 206 to 213 bones (the number of vertebrae, digits and ribs varies). There are various types of bones in the human body. Flat bones are thin and protect delicate internal organs like the brain. Long bones are cylindrical and provide support for the body's weight. Short bones in the wrists and ankles are cube-shaped and provide stability and movement. The body also has irregular bones that don't fit into any category, designed for specific areas like the vertebrae protecting the spinal cord.
Bones are made of constantly renewed living tissue, and this process is known as remodelling. Remodelling helps to repair any damage that has occurred to the bone and also helps to keep the bone strong and healthy. There are two main types of tissue: compact bone and cancellous bone. Compact bone is the dense outer layer of bone that you can see and feel. Cancellous bone is a spongy inner layer of bone that contains blood vessels and marrow (the soft tissue that produces blood cells).
Compact bone comprises tiny units called osteons arranged in a circular pattern around the marrow cavity. Each osteon has a central canal (containing blood vessels) surrounded by concentric layers of hard mineralised tissue. The spaces between the osteons are filled with cancellous bone. The cancellous bone looks like a honeycomb and supports the compact bone. It also contains marrow, which produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It is structured to provide the most support and strength to the bone.
When a bone breaks, the first step in the healing process is for a blood clot to form around the bone to protect it and provide the cells it needs for healing. A soft callus replaces the blood clot, and over time, this callus hardens into a tough tissue restoring strength to the bone. Over time, the remodelling process reshapes the bone, restores blood circulation and returns it back to its original state.
What Can We Learn From Bones?
Bones can also help tell the story of who we are. Bones can show the diet and lifestyle of our ancestors, as well as their health and any diseases they may have had. By studying bones, we can better understand how our ancestors lived.
Scientists can study bones for their DNA content. DNA is the genetic material that makes up our genes. Scientists used bones to identify the remains of Russia's last Tsar, Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov and his family, who were executed in 1918. Their whereabouts remained a mystery for over 70 years. In 1991, an excavation of a mass grave revealed bones which belonged to the Romanov family. Scientists compared DNA from these bones with DNA from the blood of their living relatives, including Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to confirm their origin. Dr Peter Gill, a forensic scientist, working on the case, says,
"Our work identifying the Tsar's remains helped to create the UK national DNA database and accelerated the development of new methods for forensic testing with small samples of DNA. Today these are used around the world in forensic investigations by the police and have been used to solve thousands of criminal cases." (Read Dr Peter Gill's first-hand account here)
Bones can also be dated using radiocarbon dating, a technique used to date organic material, such as bone. This technique works by measuring the amount of carbon-14 in a sample - carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon that decays over time, and measuring the amount of carbon-14 in a bone, can help with establishing its age.
Ten Facts About The Human Skeleton
1. The skeletal system provides structural support for the body, protects vital organs, produces blood cells, stores minerals, and allows humans to move.
2. 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our teeth and bones.
3. The femur is the longest bone in the body (approximately 19 inches) and can support up to 30 times your body weight!
4. The tibia, or shinbone, is the second-longest bone in the human body. The average size for a tibia on the right leg of a male is almost 14.5 inches.
5. The smallest bone is the stapes, between 2-3mm and it is located in the middle ear.
6. Most adult human skulls have 22 bones, and they are designed to protect the brain from injury and support the muscles in the face and scalp.
7. Two types of cells are involved in bone remodelling; osteoblasts are responsible for building new bone tissue, and osteoclasts are bone cells that reabsorb old bone tissue.
8. Over 50% of adult human bones are in the hands and feet.
9. The weight of an adult male skeleton is approximately 10.5 kg.
10. Joints connect muscle to bone, the areas where bones meet to form the joint are covered with a fibrous tissue called cartilage to prevent them from rubbing directly against each other.
Interested in Learning More?
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