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New scoliosis research could lead to earlier treatments

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Posted at 8:45 AM, Feb 15, 2023

New research on how scoliosis forms in the womb could lead to new treatments outside of surgery.

Scoliosis is when there is a curve in the spine. It affects as many as 9 million people in the U.S. Females are eight times more likely to progress to a curve that needs treatment.

Sierra Lowery was one of those young women who learned she had scoliosis in high school. Lowery was active in several sports and ended up having surgery to treat her curvature.Lowery is now blogging about her recovery journey.

The primary age of onset is 10 to 15 years old, but scoliosis can develop as early as in the womb.

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine professor Ertuğrul Özbudak and a research team of students recently investigated a key component of how the spinal column forms early on in life. Using animals and computer-generated models, they were able to mimic the process in which a mutation affects the vertebrae from being evenly divided and causes scoliosis. Then they were able to use drugs already available to correct that mutation.

“Maybe there will be a really secure way of doing this, even maybe perhaps in pregnancy,” Özbudak said.

Their findings were published in the medical journal, Nature.

Özbudak admits they need to study more components of the spinal formation process before new treatments or drugs could be developed.

Another possibility for treating the mutation could be human stem cell replacement.

“Things that we were thinking was science fiction 20 years ago are now doable.” Özbudak said.