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.