Are bones biodegradable? (7 applications of bones) 

In this article, the emphasis will be on the biodegradability of bones. Other covered topics would be: 

  • What are bones made of?
  • What are the types of bones?
  • What is the applicability of bones?
  • What are the diseases caused by bone defects and deficiency?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • How is waste classified based on biodegradability?
  • Are bones biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Are bones biodegradable?

Bones are biodegradable, however, it may take several years for bones to degrade. The span is in between 50-80 years. 

Bones are made of collagen (protein), hydroxyapatite (the mineral that stores calcium), tendons and ligaments. Bones may also contain water, organic content, and bone marrow. 

The role of bones in the human body is greatly expanded to support, anchorage, protection, deposits of calcium and minerals, hormone and blood cell generation. 

Owing to these functions, if there is any anomaly it may lead to a number of medical complications such as bone cancer, osteoporosis, rickets or myeloma. 

What are bones made of?

In order to better understand the biodegradability status of bones, it is essential to know the composition of bones. This way there will be a fervent grip on the issue at hand. 

Bones are responsible for giving structure and shape to the body. If there are no bones, there will be no strength and protection for the inner contents of the body. 

Bones can be assumed as the outer layer of connective tissues. There are said to be around 206 bones in the human body. 

As per the classification of bones, there are four types of bones in the body. These include: 

  • Long bone 
  • Flat bone
  • Short bone 
  • Irregular bone

This classification is done on the basis of the type, place and outer form of the bone. Bones may co-act with muscles and joints in performing the required functions such as support, mobility, and movement. 

The health and vitality of bones are very important because if the functions and utility of bones are damaged in any way, it may lead to many developmental defects. These defections and ailments will be scrutinised in the further sections of the article. 

As per the composition of bones, bones are made from connective tissues, calcium, and bone cells. The bone cells may be: 

  • Osteoblasts 
  • Osteocytes
  • Osteoclasts 

These are the types of bone cells involved in the bone-making process. These cells are related to different functions and applicability of bones. 

For example, osteocytes are involved in making sure that the mineral content of the bones remains intact. And osteoclasts are involved in the breakdown of old bone cells and tissues. 

What are the types of bones?

As stated earlier, there are 3-4 types of bones based on their shape and location. 

A long bone is of thin and elongated shape. Examples of long bones may be arms and legs. Short bones on the other hand are cubed and short-shaped. A common example of short bones can be ankles. 

Flat bones, as the name suggests, are bones that are flat in shape. They are neither long nor short, rather flat. Good examples of flat bones will be the skull and shoulders. 

Last in line, we have irregular bones. These bones are not of any particular shape and therefore are termed irregular bones. Examples of such bones will be the spine. 

Therefore, it can be summed that there are four types of bones that vary in their shapes and locality. The applications and usability of all these types are critical in the overall functioning of the body. 

This is because the overall structure of bones is like a grand connective tissue array. If there is an ailment in one region, the repercussions are sure to be reciprocated to other parts as well. 

Just as it is philosophically put in the Sufi frame, “Humanity is a fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important as the entire picture.” 

What is the applicability of bones? (7 applications of bones) 

A brief introduction to the various applications and usability of bones has already been given in the previous section. This section will deal with the applications and usability of bones in greater detail. 

The overall functions and utility of bones can be summed up in the following points: 

  • Blood cell formation 
  • Hormone production 
  • Mineral and growth factor storage
  • Anchorage 
  • Protection 
  • Support
  • Fats storage

The functions of bones are as diverse as the array network of bones. That is because bones are associated with many applications and uses. 

The primary application of bones is the provision of support and anchor. Bones are strong components of the body that are involved in the provision of support to the body and especially the fragile and sensitive organs, like our heart and kidneys. 

If there are no bones, then our organs are at a greater risk of damage which may result in exacerbated situations that can also prove to be even lethal. 

Bones also protect our brain, which basically is the reason you are reading this blog post. If the brain is damaged even on a small scale, the effects can be really grand on the body. 

The functions of bones are not just limited to protection, but also anchorage. That is because bones co-act with skeletal muscles to provide and serve the functions of anchorage. 

Bones may also act as reservoirs and deposits of essential elements such as calcium and phosphates. Bones may also store a form of fat that is called triglyceride. 

Other than support, anchorage, and reservoir qualities, bones are involved in the hormone and blood cell formation. This function is important because this leads to:

  • Regulation of insulin secretion
  • Energy production
  • Homeostasis 
  • Blood cell formation 

What are the diseases caused by bones?

Given the fervent applicability and uses of bones, it is imperative to know that if bones are damaged or affected in any way, it will lead to a number of complications. 

These may include:

  • Fracture
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rickets
  • Acromegaly 
  • Osteomyelitis 
  • Fibrous Dysplasia 
  • Myeloma 
  • Bone cancer

These are some of the medical conditions that arise from defects or damage to bones in the body. These conditions affect many parts and functions of the body and therefore, it is important that bones’ health and vitality is ensured by care, diet, and a healthy lifestyle. 

These conditions can be mild as well as severe. Mild conditions may include the loss of bone density or strength. As it is seen in the cases of osteoporosis. 

Severe anomalies of bones may include bone cancer or myeloma, which is cancer in the plasma cells of bone marrow. Extreme conditions like these may even result in the death of a person. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be explained as a process in which complex waste is broken down into simpler waste so that it may become a part of nature again. 

Biodegradability is important because if waste is not broken down, it will accumulate and will pollute our environment. 

These effects will also be reciprocated in life and human health. Therefore, it is incumbent to ensure that waste does not stay for long because it will lead to complications and obstructions. 

You may wonder what are the factors and agents responsible for the process of biodegradation. The most important agent for biodegradation is microbes. These microbes may include bacteria, fungi, algae, decomposers, protozoa, and yeast. 

Other than these microbes, there are external agents that also play an important role in the biodegradation process. These agents may be temperature, pressure, humidity, aeration, compaction, and sunlight. 

You may wonder how much time it takes for the process of biodegradation to complete. To understand the answer better, you need to know the various types of waste that are classified based on biodegradation. 

How is waste classified based on biodegradability?

Based on the concept of biodegradability, there are two types of waste. These are:

  • Biodegradable waste 
  • Non-biodegradable waste

Biodegradable waste is that waste which can readily biodegrade by the action of microbes. Such waste is usually sourced from nature and there is the minimal environmental impact of such waste. 

Non-biodegradable waste is the type of waste which is not readily degraded by the action of microbes. This is because the microbes are unable to degrade the structure of such waste which leads such material to last for a very long time. 

Coming back to the question of how much it is required for the process of biodegradability, the answer is that it varies on external conditions and the type of waste. 

For example, biodegradable waste may degrade in some days. Some waste may also take a couple of months to degrade. Common examples of biodegradable waste may be: 

  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables
  • Manure
  • Sewage
  • Compost
  • Animal dead skin
  • Animal bodies
  • Natural fibres
  • Natural fabrics like cotton or wool 

Non-biodegradable waste may require much more time. As per some studies, non-biodegradable waste may take up to a thousand years to degrade. 

This is primarily because non-biodegradable waste can not be broken down by the action of microbes. 

Common examples of non-biodegradable waste may be: 

  • Synthetic plastics 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Dyneema
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Synthetic polymers
  • Nuclear waste
  • Medical waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Electronic waste 

It is estimated that non-biodegradable waste may require many hundred years to degrade. In some cases, the time required may expand to a thousand years as well. 

Are bones biodegradable?

It has been seen from the above discussion that for a product or material to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural materials. 

If a product is synthetic, then chances are that microbes will be unable to break down their structures leading to waste generation and accumulation. 

Bones are present in the body, made from connective tissues, bone cells, and calcium deposits. Since all these are natural materials, bones are regarded as biodegradable. 

However, the biodegradation of bones is more time-consuming as compared to other biodegradable products. This is because of the composition of bones which is calcium and calcium phosphate. 

While normal biodegradable stuff may degrade in some days to a few weeks, bones take 50-80 years to degrade. Regardless of this, bones cause no harm to the environment as such, given the context of non-biodegradable materials. 

Conclusion

Bones are made of collagen (protein), hydroxyapatite (the mineral that stores calcium), tendons and ligaments. Bones may also contain water, organic content, and bone marrow. 

The role of bones in the human body is greatly expanded to support, anchorage, protection, deposits of calcium and minerals, hormone and blood cell generation. 

Owing to these functions, if there is any anomaly it may lead to a number of medical complications such as bone cancer or rickets. 

Bones are biodegradable, however, it may take several years for bones to degrade. The span maybe 50-80 years. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Are bones biodegradable?

Are bones alive or dead?

Bones are considered alive because they perform metabolic functions and give structure to the body.

How much time do bones take to degrade?

Bones may require 50-80 years to degrade. 

References

  • Currey, J. D. (2006). Bones: structure and mechanics. Princeton university press.
  • Freyschmidt, J., & Greyschmidt, G. (1999). SKIBO-Diseases: disorders affecting the skin and bones. Heidelberg: Springer.
  • Currey, J. D. (2014). The mechanical adaptations of bones(Vol. 870). Princeton University Press.

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