"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.

Scoliosis Research Results

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 >

Scoliosis Body Image Infographic

Scoliosis SOS Physical Therapists

We at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic are very proud to announce that we recently had our first piece of research published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The article, Current knowledge of scoliosis in physiotherapy students trained in the United Kingdom (Black et al, Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders 2017) was published online on the 27th September and can be read in full here.

What were we researching?

Put simply, we wanted to know how much UK physiotherapists know about scoliosis. In both Poland and the USA, it has been recognised that physiotherapy students have relatively little knowledge of idiopathic scoliosis, how it affects the human body, and how to factor a spinal curve into a patient's treatment regime; with that in mind, we wanted to measure UK students' familiarity with this condition.

To do this, we composed a 10-question survey and distributed it (via course leaders) to students at all UK universities that offer physiotherapy degrees. Questions on the survey included:

  • What is the definition of idiopathic scoliosis?
  • What causes idiopathic scoliosis?
  • When does idiopathic scoliosis commonly develop?
  • What percentage of scoliosis cases are idiopathic?
  • What physical activities are most/least beneficial for patients with scoliosis? (multiple choice question - options included yoga, swimming, martial arts, etc.)

In the end, a total of 206 students at 12 different institutions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland completed our survey, giving us a good sample size to analyse.

What were our findings?

Of the students who responded to our survey:

  • 79% successfully identified when idiopathic scoliosis commonly develops
  • 54% knew when bracing is recommended
  • 52% correctly identified that the causes of idiopathic scoliosis are not known
  • 24% recognised that scoliosis is idiopathic in approximately 80% of cases
  • 12% knew the criteria for diagnosing idiopathic scoliosis
  • 7% were able to recognise the best treatment approach through physical therapy

Overall, just 7% of students surveyed were able to answer more than half of the questionnaire correctly. Based on this, our conclusion was that there is a clear lack of scoliosis knowledge among UK physiotherapy students - a lack of knowledge that has the potential to impact patients who receive information and treatment from physiotherapists in this country.

Click here to view more scoliosis research, or visit our ScolioGold page to learn about the exercise-based scoliosis treatment we provide here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic.

Is Scoliosis Hereditary
 
A common question amongst scoliosis sufferers, as well as those who suspect that they may be displaying signs of developing the condition, is "Is scoliosis hereditary?".
 
As many of you will already be aware, most cases of scoliosis are defined as idiopathic, which means that the cause of the spinal curvature is unknown in the majority of patients. Despite this, research into the development of scoliosis has shown that there is a possible genetic link between family members, in cases where there is a family history of scoliosis.
 
Although it may not manifest itself as straightforwardly as other hereditary conditions, it is estimated that around 1 in 4 sufferers will have at least one other family member who also shows signs of scoliosis, and that first-degree relatives of scoliosis patients will have an 11 percent chance of developing the condition themselves. 
 
Although the examination of inheritance patterns has helped to determine that scoliosis is a genetic as well as hereditary condition, it remains unclear which genes are responsible for the curvature itself. It is fairly certain, however, the condition is more likely to affect female family members, due to the prominence of the condition in females over males. For this reason, many believe scoliosis is hereditary but there is still plenty of research that needs to be completed to prove this.
 
At Scoliosis SOS we have treated instances of hereditary scoliosis in the past, in cases such as that of Tina Barlow, who travelled from Florida to receive treatment with us. Just days before her decision to enrol on one of our treatment courses, Tina’s daughter was also diagnosed with scoliosis, which came as an unwelcome revelation to Tina, who had struggled to manage her condition from the age of twelve. Knowing that this would give her daughter a chance at preventing her condition from deteriorating, Tina decided that they would both travel to Scoliosis SOS in order to receive treatment, and we are happy to report that they are both now living pain-free. To read Tina and her daughter’s full story, click here.
 
Tina’s case is a great example of how non-surgical treatment can benefit family cases of scoliosis, as well as sufferers who are concerned about the future health of their children. Thanks to the integration of exercises which can be performed by the patients themselves, our ScolioGold treatment programme provides a lasting method of treatment that can be maintained by scoliosis sufferers, providing patients with the ability and knowledge to treat their symptoms.
 
We hope that has helped to answer the question of whether scoliosis is hereditary! If you have any questions about how we can help to treat family cases of scoliosis, or if you are a sufferer who is concerned that their child may require treatment for the condition, please feel free to get in touch via our contact page, to arrange a consultation.
A couple of months ago, we shared the news that researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan had identified the gene responsible for causing idiopathic scoliosis to develop in certain people. Their findings were based on experiments conducted on zebrafish (a popular choice for genetic research, since they are genetically similar to humans and mutations can be introduced and observed with ease); now, further zebrafish research has yielded another huge clue as to the origins of idiopathic scoliosis in human beings. 

Zebrafish skeleton with scoliosis
Fish skeleton image from www.princeton.edu

This time around, the findings came not from Japan but from North America. On the 10th of June 2016, Science published a report compiled by researchers from Princeton University (USA) and the University of Toronto (Canda) - here are the two key implications of their findings:
  • Idiopathic scoliosis may be linked to the flow of fluid through the spinal column. The researchers bred zebrafish with a genetic mutation that affected cilia development in the ependymal cells lining their spinal canals. Cilia are tiny bristle-like protuberances that help to move fluid through the spine, but the mutated zebrafish developed damaged cilia, which disrupted the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The fish with damaged cilia eventually developed idiopathic scoliosis, suggesting a strong link between CSF flow and spinal curvature.

  • The progression of scoliosis can be blocked. The researchers found that, by restoring cilia motility in the mutated zebrafish, they were able to prevent scoliosis from progressing. This was even true when the cilia were restored after the onset of scoliosis, suggesting that science may one day be able to provide a non-invasive, non-surgical means of stopping a curved spine from getting any worse.
This is clearly a big breakthrough - countless scoliosis sufferers have undergone surgery to combat their condition, but the results of this zebrafish study imply that there may eventually come a time when this is no longer necessary.

Of course, it may take many years to reach that stage. Genetic treatments take a long time to perfect, and it is currently not even known whether this research is translatable to humans who suffer from scoliosis. Still, if you suffer from scoliosis and you're looking for an alternative to surgery in the here and now, you may wish to investigate the non-surgical treatment methods that we utilise here at Scoliosis SOS.

Based in London, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic specialises in providing effective, exercise-based treatments for scoliosis sufferers who do not wish to undergo surgery. Contact us now to arrange an initial consultation and find out whether our internationally-renowned treatment courses could help you.