Scoliosis is “a progressive condition causing the spine to curve or twist into a ‘C’ or ‘S’ shape.” Over the years many treatments have been used. For babies and toddlers, a plaster cast or plastic brace may be used to prevent the situation from getting worse. For adolescents, a back brace may be worn or possibly surgery may been required. Adults require treatments “to relieve pain, such as painkillers, spinal injections and, very occasionally, surgery.”
With an estimated 3M children in the U.S. having scoliosis and in many cases having to wear the brace, it can be challenging and result in low self-esteem.
And while these treatments have been in place for decades, 8 in every 10 cases is being tagged “idiopathic scoliosis” because the cause is unknown.
As Scottish Rite for Children Molecular Genetics and Basic Research Director Dr. Carol Wise explained, “Idiopathic scoliosis has been recognized as a problem for children around the world for centuries, and yet its causes have eluded understanding.”
In 2016 the National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded a $7.5M grant for North Texas’ own Scottish Rite for Children and UT Southwestern Medical Center “to research the underlying causes of idiopathic scoliosis.”
Thanks to “a unique, multidisciplinary approach, genetics research is getting to the fundamental causes of this condition that will lead to less invasive therapies and prevention.”
To support this research, the NIH has provided an additional $6.6M grant for a five-year, “multi-site program titled ‘Developmental Mechanisms of Idiopathic Scoliosis’ to understand the biological causes of idiopathic scoliosis in order to develop future treatments.”
The grant will provide for Scottish Rite to lead the program and work with UT Southwestern and investigators Lila Solnica-Krezel, Ph.D., at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Nadav Ahituv, Ph,D., at the University of California, San Francisco.
According to Carol, “This support will allow our collaborative team to validate new scoliosis models we have developed and to work toward alternative treatments. As well, information developed by this program will be shared with other researchers and the public.”
* Graphic/photo provided by Scottish Rite for Children