Causing painful curves in the spine, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) affects around three percent of teenagers worldwide, and in severe cases may continue into adulthood. The exact causes of this handicapping condition are still unclear, but a zebrafish model is beginning to yield answers. Zebrafish with mutation in the ptk7 gene display the same twisted spines typical of AIS, as seen in the skeletal reconstructions on the right, from the side and back, compared to those of the healthy specimen on the left. Scientists traced the origin of the defects in these fish to malfunctioning cilia, tiny hair-like structures whose beating movements enable the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) during development. Even after the onset of scoliosis, restoring cilia function and fluid flow in these fish halted the progress of spinal deformity, raising hopes that therapies based on the same principle could be developed to alleviate symptoms in humans too.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.