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|Osteoblasts (blue) rimming a bony spicule (pink - on diagonal of image). H&E stain.|
Osteoblasts (from the Greek words for "bone" and "germ" or embryonic) are mononucleate cells that are responsible for bone formation; in essence, osteoblasts are specialized fibroblasts that in addition to fibroblastic products, express bone sialoprotein and osteocalcin.
Osteoblasts produce a matrix of osteoid, which is composed mainly of Type I collagen. Osteoblasts are also responsible for mineralization of this matrix. Zinc, copper and sodium are some of the minerals required in this process. Bone is a dynamic tissue that is constantly being reshaped by osteoblasts, which are in charge of production of matrix and mineral, and osteoclasts, which break down the tissue. The number of osteoblasts tends to decrease with age, affecting the balance of formation and resorption in the bone tissue, and potentially leading to osteoporosis.
Osteoblasts arise from osteoprogenitor cells located in the deeper layer of periosteum and the bone marrow. Osteoprogenitors are immature progenitor cells that express the master regulatory transcription factor Cbfa1/Runx2.
Osteoprogenitors are induced to differentiate under the influence of growth factors, in particular the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Aside from BMPs, other growth factors including fibroblast growth factor (FGF), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) may promote the division of osteoprogenitors and potentially increase osteogenesis.BMP4 and FGF2 have been experimentally shown to increase osteoblast differentiation.
Once osteoprogenitors start to differentiate into osteoblasts, they begin to express a range of genetic markers including Osterix, Col1, BSP, M-CSF, ALP, osteocalcin, osteopontin, and osteonectin. Although the term osteoblast implies an immature cell type, osteoblasts are in fact the mature bone cells entirely responsible for generating bone tissue in animals and humans.
Morphology and histological staining 
Hematoxylin and eosin staining, or H&E staining, reveals that the cytoplasm of osteoblasts is basophilic due to the presence of a large amount of rough endoplasmic reticulum. The nucleus is spherical and large. An active osteoblast is characterized morphologically by a prominent Golgi apparatus that appears histologically as a clear zone adjacent to the nucleus. Active osteoblasts synthesize, and stain positively for, Type-I collagen and alkaline phosphatase.
Osteoblasts and osteocytes 
Osteoblasts that become trapped in the bone matrix and remain isolated in lacunae become osteocytes. They cease to generate osteoid and mineralized matrix, and instead act in a paracrine manner on active osteoblasts. They are believed to respond to mechanosensory stimuli.
See also 
- Salentijn, L. Biology of Mineralized Tissues: Cartilage and Bone, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine post-graduate dental lecture series, 2007
- D’ippolito, Gianluca; Schiller, Paul C.; Ricordi, Camillo; Roos, Bernard A.; Howard, Guy A. (1999). "Age-Related Osteogenic Potential of Mesenchymal Stromal Stem Cells from Human Vertebral Bone Marrow". Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 14 (7): 1115–1122. doi:10.1359/jbmr.1918.104.22.1685. PMID 10404011.
- Agata, H; Asahina, I; Yamazaki, Y; Uchida, M; Shinohara, Y; Honda, MJ; Kagami, H; Ueda, M (2007). "Effective bone engineering with periosteum-derived cells.". Journal of dental research 86 (1): 79–83. doi:10.1177/154405910708600113. PMID 17189468.
- Lee, T. J.; Jang, J.; Kang, S.; Jin, M.; Shin, H.; Kim, D. W.; Kim, B. S. (2013). "Enhancement of osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation of human embryonic stem cells by mesodermal lineage induction with BMP-4 and FGF2 treatment". Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 430 (2): 793–797. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.11.067. PMID 23206696.
- Ringe, J; Leinhase, I; Stich, S; Loch, A; Neumann, K; Haisch, A; Häupl, T; Manz, R et al. (2008). "Human mastoid periosteum-derived stem cells: promising candidates for skeletal tissue engineering.". Journal of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine 2 (2-3): 136–46. doi:10.1002/term.75. PMID 18383554.
- Szulc, P; Garnero, P; Marchand, F; Duboeuf, F; Delmas, PD (2005). "Biochemical markers of bone formation reflect endosteal bone loss in elderly men--MINOS study.". Bone 36 (1): 13–21. doi:10.1016/j.bone.2004.09.004. PMID 15663998.
- Ehrlich, P. J.; Lanyon, L. E. (2002). "Mechanical Strain and Bone Cell Function: A Review". Osteoporosis International 13 (9): 688–700. doi:10.1007/s001980200095. PMID 12195532.
- You, J.; Yellowley, C. E.; Donahue, H. J.; Zhang, Y.; Chen, Q.; Jacobs, C. R. (2000). "Substrate Deformation Levels Associated With Routine Physical Activity Are Less Stimulatory to Bone Cells Relative to Loading-Induced Oscillatory Fluid Flow". Journal of Biomechanical Engineering 122 (4): 387–394. doi:10.1115/1.1287161. PMID 11036562.
Further reading 
- Netter, Frank H. (1987). Musculoskeletal system: anatomy, physiology, and metabolic disorders. Summit, New Jersey: Ciba-Geigy Corporation ISBN 0-914168-88-6.