Stories tagged bones


Whe You are a Baby You have More Bones Than When You Are An Adult....What Do You Think??


Catfish skull
Catfish skull
Every month we pull an object out of the Science Museum of Minnesota's collections and put it on display here at the museum and let you write your own label for the object. This month's we found a catfish skull and it looks particularly cool to my eyes. It's spiky and and kinda looks like it has a mohawk.

What do you think about this unique fish? Head on over to the object of the month and try your hand at writing a label.


One of my responsibilities at the Science Museum is to collect the paper questions visitors submit to our featured Scientists on the Spot. Sometimes the questions don’t quite mesh with the featured scientist’s background, but are good questions anyway, or are entertaining, or fun, and I thought this would be a good forum to answer some of the questions that would otherwise go unanswered. So, here we go!

Q: How many people are there in the world?

A: According to the World Population Clock from the United States Census Bureau, as of 3:30pm on June 2, 2006 there are approximately 6,519,746,485 people in the world. This number is constantly increasing, so for the most current number, you should visit the link above.

Q: How many bones are there in the human body?

A: The adult human skeleton has 206 bones, but they don't all start out as single bones. Even long bones (like your femur) start out with the epiphyses separate from the main shaft, and these unify with time. There are 800 centers of ossification in the skeleton that unite with age, and as such, the number of bony elements in a subadult can vary greatly.

Q: What is a spider monkey?

A: From the Wikipedia entry on spider monkeys:

Spider monkeys are New World monkeys of the family Atelidae, subfamily Atelinae. Found in tropical forests from southern Mexico to Brazil, spider monkeys belong to the genus Ateles; the closely related woolly spider monkeys, are in the genus Brachyteles.

Here’s a picture of one kind of spider monkey.
Spider Monkey: Image courtesy dgphilli.

Q: How long does it take to digest gum?

A: My parents always told me not to swallow my gum because it would take seven years for it to be digested. That’s just not true. Chewing gum has five basic ingredients - sweeteners, corn syrup, softeners, flavors and gum base. The first four ingredients are soluble, meaning they dissolve in your mouth as you chew or in your stomach when you swallow. Gum base doesn't dissolve – it just passes through us with the rest of our waste a day or two after you swallow it.

Q: How old do you have to be to donate blood or anything else? Can you be under 18?

A: Well, if you are deceased and a minor the decision to donate you organs is made by your parents or legal guardians. Licensed drivers can make a personal commitment to organ and tissue donation by indicating their wish to donate on their driver's license application. This lets families and emergency personnel know your wishes. Donation information is available in all driver's license bureaus in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. In these states, if you indicate your wish to become a donor on your driver's license, it is legally binding. Parental authorization is required for individuals under the age of 18.

To give blood for the Red Cross, you must be at least 17 years old. For more information visit the American Red Cross blood donation site.

Q: What are nails made of?

A: I am going to assume the question is regarding finger or toe nails. Fingernails and toenails are made of a protein called keratin. Keratin is the major protein component of hair, wool, nails, horns, hoofs, and the quills of feathers.

Q: Do you like bubble gum?

A: Not really. My favorite gum when I was a kid was Big League Chew. Now I prefer Swedish Fish.

That’s all for now. Do you have any odds and ends questions you’d like us to try to answer? Leave them for us – we’ll try our best to answer them for you.


Biomedical engineers at Vanderbilt University have demonstrated that they can grow healthy new bone in one part of the body and use it to repair damaged bone at a different location.

Orthopedic surgeons currently treat serious bone breaks by removing small pieces of bone from a patient's rib or hip and fusing them to the broken area. Although this procedure works well in the long run, bone removal is extremely painful and subject to complications. If the new bone repair method is approved in clinical studies, bioengineers will be able to grow bone for all kinds of repairs. For patients with serious diseases, they might even be able to grow replacement bone at an early stage and freeze it for later use.

Bioengineers conducted their bone growth research on mature rabbits, animals with bones very similar to humans. They created zones on the rabbit bone called "in vivo bioreactors," which filled with healthy bone six weeks later. Here's how it works: an outer layer called the periosteum covers long bones in our body. This layer is a bit like scotch tape, with a tough outer layer but cells underneath that can transform into different types of skeletal tissue. Researchers created the "in vivo" zones in rabbit bone by making tiny holes in the periosteum and filling them with saline water. Then they added a gel containing calcium, a trigger for bone growth. Within six weeks, the zones filled with new bones indistinguishable from the original.

"We have shown that we can grow predictable volumes of bone on demand," said V. Prasad Shastri, a biomedical engineer at Vanderbilt University who led the study. "And we did so by persuading the body to do what it already knows how to do."

The next step? Large animal studies and trials to determine if the procedure will work in humans.