A well-functioning circulatory and lymphatic system is largely dependent on a healthy bone marrow function. The bone marrow is composed of soft tissues buried within the bones and is responsible for the production of new blood cells and lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells which help build the immune system. Several things can cause the bone marrow to function inefficiently and ineffectively, hence, resulting in a number of bone marrow disorders.
Certainly, a healthy bone marrow function is essential for optimum health and problems related to a malfunctioning bone marrow should be addressed immediately. Treatment is however designed individually based on the cause of the problem. If the functioning of the bone marrow is severely affected, a transplant could be needed to restore it back to its normal state.
Structure and Types of Bone Marrow
Learning about the structure and different types of bone marrow is a gateway towards a better understanding of bone marrow function. The bone marrow refers to the soft tissues largely found on the thighs, pelvis and breastbone and contain plenty of blood vessels and capillaries. These tissues support the undifferentiated or underdeveloped cells called stem cells which would later develop into a particular kind of blood cell. The bone marrow accounts for approximately 5% of the body weight of humans.
The bone marrow is classified into two, namely:
- Red marrow
This is also referred to as medulla ossium rubra which is primarily found in flat bones and ends of long bones. The red marrow is responsible for the production of red and white blood cells as well as platelets.
- Yellow marrow
This is medically termed medulla ossium flava which is composed of fat cells and found mostly on the middle part of long bones.
The bone marrow is naturally red at birth but is slowly converted to yellow with age. In times when severe blood loss occurs, the body converts yellow marrow into red marrow to fuel the production of new blood cells.
Function of Bone Marrow
The bone marrow function is an integral part in the circulatory and lymphatic system.
- Major blood cells production
Also referred to as haematopoiesis, this is the process wherein the major blood cells – red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC) and platelets, are formed. These blood cells divide constantly and are important components of the body’s circulatory system. They perform specific functions in delivering oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body, fighting infections and stimulating blood clotting to heal wounds and prevent severe blood loss.
- Major lymphoid tissue
The bone marrow is the major tissue of the lymphatic system which produces lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell which helps build the immune system. The lymphocytes work in suppressing illnesses by fighting foreign invaders and killing pathogens that cause diseases. They also aid in the distribution of nutrients to various cells of the body.
Causes of Malfunctioning Bone Marrow
Bone marrow function can be disrupted by a number of factors, the most common of which is the overproduction of white blood cells which primarily occurs in leukemia. Another problem involving the bone marrow is aplastic anemia wherein the amount of blood cells in the bone marrow generally decreases. Radiation therapy also disturbs the normal functioning of the bone marrow by killing the rapidly dividing cells therein. A properly functioning bone marrow can also be disturbed by some diseases that spread into the bone marrow and disturb the production and maturation of blood cells.
People with a problematic bone marrow usually have compromised immunity, dangerously low RBC count and constantly complain about headache, joint and bone pain. Suspecting individuals should see a doctor to have the condition diagnosed correctly. The doctor usually performs bone marrow aspiration to confirm the presence of a bone marrow disorder.
Common Bone Marrow Disorders
A healthy bone marrow function is indeed important for optimum health, and so if it starts to malfunction, certain disorders will result. Some of these are:
Anemia arises for a variety of reasons, but usually, it is a result of inadequate amounts of iron or erythropoietin – a chemical that stimulates the production of red blood cells. It could also be due to abnormally-shaped red blood cells. Chemical exposure, drug side effects and radiation may likewise lead to anemia.
This is a type of cancer that is characterized by abnormal WBC production and functioning. When the WBC is problematic, the body is no longer effective in fighting off infections.
Lymphomas is another type of cancer of the blood that is caused by the overproduction and multiplication of a particular kind of WBC called lymphocytes.
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome
This condition is brought forth by the insufficient number of blood cells produced in the bone marrow resulting in a general decrease in blood cells.
- Myeloproliferative Disorders
MPD is a condition caused by the excessive production of blood cells in the bone marrow which act abnormally at the same time.
Bone marrow disorders are treated accordingly, depending on the cause of the problem. A bone marrow transplant is recommended if proper bone marrow function is severely affected.