Human Body: Bones

Are bones living or dead?

Human Body: Bones

Discovery Place Science

Are bones living or dead? (age 9)

That is a good question. When you see an example of bone, you often see it as white, hard and lifeless. It almost looks rock-like. Bones look this way because of the way they have been preserved, usually bleached and dried out. In fact, bones, like all other tissues in your body are alive.

Because bones are the main support structure for us, they are made of a hard material that is mainly calcium. Throughout this hard substance, are blood vessels and nerves. Blood is the body's transport system, bringing nutrients and oxygen while taking away waste products. Anything that is alive in the body needs these things to nourish it. If your bones did not have these blood vessels in the bone, you would be in trouble if you had a broken bone. Often when you have a broken bone, the doctor will put a cast or splint on the broken part. This makes sure that the bones don't move. Where the bone is broken, new bone cells grow from the living bone cells and the bones grow back together.

If it weren't for living bones, you would not be able to ‘grow up', When a person grows taller, the bones (and muscles, etc.) inside the person are getting longer. How much your bones grow determines how tall you are. If it weren't for living bones, people would still be baby size and have broken bones for a long time. In fact, about the only ‘dead' things in a person's body are things that aren't nourished by blood vessels. This would be the hair on your body, the ends of your fingernails and the tips of your teeth. These things are alive when they are first formed, (in the skin, at the cuticle of the fingers and inside teeth), but the end parts are not alive.

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