Bone marrow is the flexible tissue found in the hollow interior of bones. In adults, marrow in large bones produces new blood cells. It constitutes 4% of total body weight, i.e. approximately 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs.) in adults.
There are two types of bone marrow: red marrow (consisting mainly of myeloid tissue) and yellow marrow (consisting mainly of fat cells). Red blood cells, platelets and most white blood cells arise in red marrow; some white blood cells develop in yellow marrow.
Both types of bone marrow contain numerous blood vessels and capillaries.
At birth, all bone marrow is red. With age, more and more of it is converted to the yellow type. About half of the bone marrow is red. Red marrow is found mainly in the flat bones, such as the hip bone, breast bone, skull, ribs, vertebrae and shoulder blades, and in the cancellous ("spongy") material at the proximal ends of the long bones femur and humerus. Yellow marrow is found in the hollow interior of the middle portion of long bones.
In cases of severe blood loss, the body can convert yellow marrow back to red marrow in order to increase blood cell production.
Still, the stroma is indirectly involved in hematopoiesis, since it provides the hematopoietic microenvironment that facilitates hematopoiesis by the parenchymal cells. For instance, they generate colony stimulating factors, affecting hematopoiesis.
Cells that constitute the bone marrow stroma are:
Hematopoietic stem cells may also cross the bone marrow barrier, and may thus be harvested from blood.
To diagnose diseases involving the bone marrow, a bone marrow aspiration is sometimes performed. This typically involves using a hollow needle to acquire a sample of red bone marrow from the crest of the ilium under general or local anesthesia. The average number of cells in a leg bone is about 440,000,000,000.
Exposure to radiation or chemotherapy will kill many of the rapidly dividing cells of the bone marrow and will therefore result in a depressed immune system. Many of the symptoms of radiation sickness are due to damage to the bone marrow cells.
Bone marrow examination is the pathologic analysis of samples of bone marrow obtained by bone marrow biopsy and bone marrow aspiration. Bone marrow examination is used in the diagnosis of a number of conditions, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, anemia, and pancytopenia. The bone marrow produces the cellular elements of the blood, including platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. While much information can be gleaned by testing the blood itself (drawn from a vein by phlebotomy), it is sometimes necessary to examine the source of the blood cells in the bone marrow to obtain more information on hematopoiesis; this is the role of bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
It is possible to take hematopoietic stem cells from one person and then infuse them into another person (Allogenic) or into the same person at a later time (Autologous). If donor and recipient are compatible, these infused cells will then travel to the bone marrow and initiate blood cell production.
Transplantation from one person to another is performed in severe cases of disease of the bone marrow. The patient's marrow is first killed off with drugs or radiation, and then the new stem cells are introduced.
Before radiation therapy or chemotherapy in cases of cancer, some of the patient's hematopoietic stem cells are sometimes harvested and later infused back when the therapy is finished to restore the immune system.
It may also be taken from the sternum. The tibia may seem a good source, since it is very superficial. However, except in children, this bone marrow doesn't contain any substantial amount of red bone marrow, but rather only yellow bone marrow.
In newborns, stem cells may be retrieved from the umbilical cord.
One fan of this delicacy is noted Chef/Author Anthony Bourdain, who has stated that, if he were on death row, his last meal would consist of bone marrow. He considers the delicacy to be his number-one comfort food.
Bone marrow is also considered to be the highlight of the Italian dish ossobuco (braised veal shanks).
Bone marrow is a source of protein and high in monounsaturated fats. These fats are known to decrease LDL cholesterol levels resulting in a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, prompting some to make bone marrow a dietary staple. The actual health effects of the addition of bone marrow to the diet remain unclear.