Rat calvarial osteoblasts were grown in porous chitosan sponges fabricated by freeze drying. The prepared chitosan sponges had a porous structure with a 100–200 μm pore diameter, which allowed cell proliferation. Cell density, alkaline phosphatase activity and calcium deposition were monitored for up to 56 d culture. Cell numbers were 4 × 106 (day 1), 11 × 106 (day 28) and 12 × 106 (day 56) per g sponge. Calcium depositions were 9 (day 1), 40 (day 28) and 48 (day 56) μg per sponge. Histological results corroborated that bone formation within the sponges had occurred. These results show that chitosan sponges can be used as effective scaffolding materials for tissue engineered bone formation in vitro.