“Traditionally, scoliosis has been considered to be a disease affecting bone, cartilage, or neuromuscular activities. We were surprised to find an immune response associated with idiopathic scoliosis.”
Idiopathic scoliosis is a condition that affects people all over the world, yet the underlying cause is still unknown. Researchers have made great progress in recent years, however – we’ve explained previously on this blog that zebrafish can be very useful when researching scoliosis and other congenital defects that occur in humans, and scientists at The Hospital for Sick Children have been examining zebrafish to try to identify factors that contribute to the onset of idiopathic scoliosis.
While looking for abnormal genes or genetic pathways that could be responsible for idiopathic scoliosis, the researchers instead noticed that immune cells liked to inflammatory conditions had accumulated around the area where the spinal curvature occurred. Using genetic tools, they found that stimulating pro-inflammatory signals in the spines of zebrafish could induce idiopathic scoliosis.
Interestingly, the team were also able to demonstrate that blocking these signals using NAC (an over-the-counter supplement that has anti-inflammatory properties) reduced the severity of scoliosis in the zebrafish. If these findings can be applied successfully to humans, then these Toronto-based scientists may have discovered a treatment that is less invasive than some of the treatments currently available to people with scoliosis.
Image source: advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/12/eaav1781
The research team are now planning to explore the genetic causes of idiopathic scoliosis in human patients and attempt to determine whether inflammatory signals like those found in the zebrafish can be identified and proven to accelerate the onset or progression of spinal curvature.
Read the Research Article > How We Treat Scoliosis >