There was potentially exciting news from Japan last month: researchers at Hiroshima University seem to have identified the gene that kick-starts the "genetic chain reaction" that eventually causes scoliosis.

As we've discussed previously on this blog, the causes of scoliosis are often unclear. However, according to a report from Asian Scientist, we are now one step closer to a solid answer: experiments on zebrafish have linked the development of scoliosis to an overactive gene called LBX1


It would seem that too much LBX1 activity can cause the spine to become misshapen as time progresses, resulting in scoliosis. This link is supported by the results of two different experiments:
  • #1 - Researchers injected a group of zebrafish embryos with extra LBX1 proteins. In these embryos, the cells that would eventually become the fish's backbone were notably wider than in embryos with normal LBX1 levels. The LBX1-boosted embryos that survived long enough to do so eventually developed misshapen bones in their backs, resulting in scoliosis.

  • #2 - A second group of fish were genetically modified to promote extra LBX1 activity in some cells over the course of their lifetimes. Unlike the other group of embryos, some of these fish developed healthy backbones at first, but the spines still began to display a scoliotic curve as they grew older and entered adulthood.
The results of these experiments mirror the development of scoliosis in human beings; the first group of fish are analogous to people who are born with scoliosis, while experiment #2 offers a potential explanation for idiopathic scoliosis, which typically develops during adolescence.

(Even more intriguingly, the Hiroshima researchers noticed that their female test subjects were more likely to develop scoliosis than their male counterparts. Science has yet to provide a concrete explanation as to why scoliosis is more prevalent in women than in men, but it's certainly interesting to learn that this phenomenon applies to zebrafish as well as to human beings.)

Naturally, it will take a lot more research before these findings can be used to treat scoliosis, but it is very exciting to see these strides being made. In the meantime, if you'd like to find out more about how scoliosis can be treated without the need for surgery, please visit our ScolioGold Therapy page or contact us to arrange an initial consultation at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic.