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osteoblast

Snapshots of Life: Inside a Bone Remodeling Project

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Osteoclast cells

Caption: Osteoclast cells (red) carve a path through a knee joint (purple and white), enabling a blood vessel to supply the cells (yellow) needed to build new bone.
Credit: Paul R. Odgren, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Bones are one of our body’s never-ending remodeling projects. Specialized cells, called osteoclasts, are constantly attaching to old bone and breaking it down, using acids to dissolve the calcium. In the wake of this demolition, bone-building cells, called osteoblasts, move in and deposit new minerals to patch and remodel the bone, maintaining its strength and durability.

Normally, these two types of cells strike a delicate balance between bone destruction and formation. But if this balance goes awry, it can lead to trouble. With osteoporosis, for example, bone removal exceeds formation, yielding progressively weaker bones that are prone to fracture.