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Yellow Bone Marrow

Discover the fascinating role of yellow bone marrow in our bodies and how it contributes to our overall health and well-being.

USMLE Guide: Yellow Bone Marrow


Yellow bone marrow is an important component of the skeletal system that plays a crucial role in the production of blood cells. This informative guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of yellow bone marrow for medical students preparing for the USMLE exam.


Yellow bone marrow refers to the fatty tissue found in the central cavities of long bones, such as the femur and tibia. It is called "yellow" due to its rich content of adipocytes, which give it a yellowish appearance.


Yellow bone marrow serves several essential functions within the body, including:

  1. Fat Storage: Adipocytes in yellow bone marrow store triglycerides as an energy reserve.
  2. Hematopoiesis Regulation: While red bone marrow is primarily responsible for hematopoiesis (blood cell formation), yellow marrow can convert back to red marrow in certain conditions, such as severe anemia or chronic hypoxia.


Yellow bone marrow consists of three main components:

  1. Adipocytes: These large, spherical cells are packed with lipid droplets, giving the marrow its yellow appearance.
  2. Stromal Cells: These cells provide structural support and produce growth factors necessary for hematopoiesis.
  3. Blood Vessels: Capillaries supply oxygen and nutrients to the marrow, aiding in various metabolic processes.


During prenatal development, nearly all bone marrow is red, actively involved in hematopoiesis. However, as individuals age, yellow marrow gradually replaces red marrow in most long bones. By adulthood, only certain bones, such as the sternum, pelvis, ribs, and vertebrae, retain red marrow.

Clinical Significance

Understanding yellow bone marrow is crucial in the context of clinical medicine. Here are some important points to remember:

  • Yellow bone marrow is generally considered inactive in terms of hematopoiesis.
  • In cases of severe blood loss or increased demand for blood cell production, yellow marrow can convert back to red marrow to compensate.
  • Certain diseases, such as aplastic anemia or metastatic cancer, can invade and replace yellow marrow, leading to decreased hematopoiesis.


Yellow bone marrow, although primarily a site for fat storage, plays a significant role in hematopoiesis regulation under certain circumstances. Understanding its functions, histology, and clinical significance is important for medical students preparing for the USMLE exam.

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