Coincident development of sesamoid bones and clues to their evolution

Anat Rec. 1999 Oct 15;257(5):174-80. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0185(19991015)257:5<174::AID-AR6>3.0.CO;2-O.


Sesamoid bones form within tendons in regions that wrap around bony prominences. They are common in humans but variable in number. Sesamoid development is mediated epigenetically by local mechanical forces associated with skeletal geometry, posture, and muscular activity. In this article we review the literature on sesamoids and explore the question of genetic control of sesamoid development. Examination of radiographs of 112 people demonstrated that the relatively infrequent appearances of the fabella (in the lateral gastrocnemius tendon of the knee) and os peroneum (in the peroneus longus tendon of the foot) are related within individuals (P < 0.01). This finding suggests that the tendency to form sesamoids may be linked to intrinsic genetic factors. Evolutionary character analyses suggest that the formation of these sesamoids in humans may be a consequence of phylogeny. These observations indicate that variations of intrinsic factors may interact with extrinsic mechanobiological factors to influence sesamoid development and evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Foot / anatomy & histology
  • Foot / diagnostic imaging
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Knee / anatomy & histology
  • Knee / diagnostic imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteoarthritis / etiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Radiography
  • Sesamoid Bones* / diagnostic imaging
  • Sesamoid Bones* / embryology
  • Sesamoid Bones* / growth & development