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Boning Up

A type of blood vessel called type H lead directional bone growth

27 April 2019

Boning Up

To construct a building from scratch, you might first build a basic shell or scaffold, then replace that with the permanent structure. Building new bone is similar. An intermediate cartilage structure is established first, only to be converted to solid bone subsequently. This process is supported by a dense network of blood vessels, but exactly how they help is unclear. A new study has found that a particular type of these vessels, known as type H (yellow in the bone section pictured, with vessels stained green and red), help replace the cartilage when it’s time. Specifically, the vessels steer bone growth direction, and endothelial cells lining them lead the cartilage breakdown. Excessive cartilage damage is a hallmark of arthritis, and improving bone repair would benefit countless injured patients, so the next step is asking whether we can control and harness this important function of blood vessels.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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