Fast facts about your skeleton and bones1
The human skeleton is made up of 206 bones.Your bones are a vital part of your body – supporting your body and protecting all your essential internal organs. But your bones do even more than hold you upright, protect you and help you to move.
What do bones do?1
Although it’s mostly a hard substance, bone is actually a living and growing tissue. It is mostly made up of collagen and calcium. Collagen is a protein that makes your bones a bit flexible. Calcium (in the form of calcium phosphate) is a mineral that makes them strong and rigid.
As well as giving support and protection, your bones play the important role of storing calcium and other minerals, and releasing them into the body when you need them.Your bones also store fat and contain a soft substance called bone marrow that produces blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets).
How are bones structured?1
Bones are structured differently according to their job but are all composed of several layers (see figure 1). On the outside, a membrane containing nerves and blood vessels surrounds the bone and nourishes it.
The next layer is the compact bone, which gives the bone strength. Inside this is a spongy layer (also called cancellous bone) which looks like honeycomb. Finally, in the centre of certain bones is the bone marrow.
Taking care of your bones1
Bone is a living tissue, and this means that new bone is constantly being created while old bone is being removed.When you’re young, new bone is created faster than old bone is removed, helping your bones grow bigger, heavier and denser.As you get older, bone tends to be removed faster than it is created, which makes the bones less dense and more likely to break (or fracture).
This condition where bones become weak and prone to fracture is called osteoporosis. There are ways to make sure that your bones stay strong and healthy. Eat a balanced diet that includes calcium and vitamin D. Take regular weight-bearing exercise.
How are bones affected by Gaucher disease?2
In Gaucher disease, a substance called glucosylceramide can build up in the bone marrow.The balance between creating and removing bones can be affected, making bones weaker and more prone to defects. People with Gaucher disease can develop mostly bone pain and bones with decreased density which may in small number of patients cause fractures.
1. Anatomy and Physiology. OpenStax at Rice University. Published 25 April 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1-947172-04-3. Available at https://openstax.org/details/anatomy-and-physiology.Accessed September 2019
2. Cappellini MD et al. European Oncology & Haematology. 2018;14:50–56.
GZEMEA.GD.19.07.0152 – Date of approval September 2019