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These cells produce the bone matrix and are prevalent at the advancing surfaces of developing bone. They are cuboid cells which may have numerous extensions of the plasma membrane. These extensions form contacts with neighboring osteoblasts and osteocytes. They arrange themselves in a single layer of cells at the developing or remodeling edge of bone and deposit the organic matrix or osteoid that they later mineralize. When not active in bone formation they may revert to osteoprogenitor cells or transform to osteocytes.
Osteoblast comes from the Greek osteon meaning bone and blastos meaning a bud or germ. The term blast denotes growth or development of something. The term was coined by the anatomist Gegenbauer to describe the bone forming cells.