Feb 6, 2010

Human Skeleton

The human skeleton consists of 206 bones. We are actually born with more bones (about 300), but many fuse together as a child grows up. These bones support your body and allow you to move. Bones contain a lot of calcium (an element found in milk, broccoli, and other foods). Bones manufacture blood cells and store important minerals.

The human skeleton consists of both fused and individual bones supported and supplemented by ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. It serves as a scaffold which supports organs, anchors muscles, and protects organs such as the brain, lungs and heart. The biggest bone in the body is the femur in the upper leg, and the smallest is the stapes bone in the middle ear. In an adult, the skeleton comprises around 14% of the total body weight and half of this weight is water.

Axial skeleton

The axial skeleton (80 bones) is formed by the vertebral column (26), the thoracic cage (12 pairs of ribs and the sternum), and the skull (22 bones and 7 associated bones). The axial skeleton transmits the weight from the head, the trunk, and the upper extremities down to the lower extremities at the hip joints, and is therefore responsible for the upright position of the human body. Most of the body weight is located in back of the spinal column which therefore have the erector spinae muscles and a large amount of ligaments attached to it resulting in the curved shape of the spine. Only the parts of the skeleton that are directly affected by the exercise will benefit. Non weight-bearing activity, including swimming and cycling, has no effect on bone growth. control the minute and complex facial movements.

Appendicular skeleton

The appendicular skeleton (126 bones) is formed by the pectoral girdles (4), the upper limbs (60), the pelvic girdle (2), and the lower limbs (60). Their functions are to make locomotion possible and to protect the major organs of locomotion, digestion, excretion, and reproduction.


The skeleton has six main functions:

The skeleton provides the framework which supports the body and maintains its shape. The pelvis and associated ligaments and muscles provide a floor for the pelvic structures. Without the ribs, costal cartilages, and the intercostal muscles the lungs would collapse.

The joints between bones permit movement, some allowing a wider range of movement than others, e.g. the ball and socket joint allows a greater range of movement than the pivot joint at the neck. Movement is powered by skeletal muscles, which are attached to the skeleton at various sites on bones. Muscles, bones, and joints provide the principal mechanics for movement, all coordinated by the nervous system.

The skeleton protects many vital organs:
The skull protects the brain, the eyes, and the middle and inner ears.
The vertebrae protect the spinal cord.
The rib cage, spine, and sternum protect the lungs, heart and major blood vessels.
The clavicle and scapula protect the shoulder.
The ilium and spine protect the digestive and urogenital systems and the hip.
The patella and the ulna protect the knee and the elbow respectively.
The carpals and tarsals protect the wrist and ankle respectively.

Blood cell production
The skeleton is the site of haematopoiesis, which takes place in red bone marrow. Marrow is found in the center of long bones.

Bone matrix can store calcium and is involved in calcium metabolism, and bone marrow can store iron in ferritin and is involved in iron metabolism. However, bones are not entirely made of calcium, but a mixture of chondroitin sulfate and hydroxyapatite, the latter making up 70% of a bone.

Endocrine regulation
Bone cells release a hormone called osteocalcin, which contributes to the regulation of blood sugar (glucose) and fat deposition. Osteocalcin increases both the insulin secretion and sensitivity, in addition to boosting the number of insulin-producing cells and reducing stores of fat.

Sex-based differences
An articulated human skeleton, as used in biology educationThere are many differences between the male and female human skeletons. Most prominent is the difference in the pelvis, owing to characteristics required for the processes of childbirth. The shape of a female pelvis is flatter, more rounded and proportionally larger to allow the head of a fetus to pass. Men tend to have slightly thicker and longer limbs and digit bones (phalanges), while women tend to have narrower rib cages, smaller teeth, less angular mandibles, less pronounced cranial features such as the brow ridges and external occipital protuberance (the small bump at the back of the skull), and the carrying angle of the forearm is more pronounced in females. Females also tend to have more rounded shoulder blades.


There are many disorders of the skeleton. One of the most common is osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a disease of bone, which leads to an increased risk of fracture. In osteoporosis, the bone mineral density (BMD) is reduced, bone microarchitecture is disrupted, and the amount and variety of non-collagenous proteins in bone is altered. Osteoporosis is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in women as a bone mineral density 2.5 standard deviations below peak bone mass (20-year-old sex-matched healthy person average) as measured by DXA; the term "established osteoporosis" includes the presence of a fragility fracture. Osteoporosis is most common in women after the menopause, when it is called postmenopausal osteoporosis, but may develop in men and premenopausal women in the presence of particular hormonal disorders and other chronic diseases or as a result of smoking and medications, specifically glucocorticoids, when the disease is craned steroid- or glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis (SIOP or GIOP).

Osteoporosis can be prevented with lifestyle advice and medication, and preventing falls in people with known or suspected osteoporosis is an established way to prevent fractures. Osteoporosis can also be prevented with having a good source of calcium and vitamin D. Osteoporosis can be treated with bisphosphonates and various other medical treatments.