Siblings and Scoliosis: The Genetic Correlation
By: National Scoliosis Center
FAIRFAX, Va. and BALTIMORE, Feb. 9, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Experts agree that numerous factors can contribute to the onset of scoliosis. While some cases are classified as syndromic (secondary to a neuromuscular or neurological disease) or congenital (due to malformation or separation of the vertebrae), 80% of cases are deemed idiopathic. A diagnosis of idiopathic scoliosis indicates that the spinal curvature occurs spontaneously with no known cause. Although the specific causes are unknown, scientific studies and history reveal that the condition tends to be familial, with a definite genetic component.
Idiopathic scoliosis is particularly well suited for genetic study since it is most frequently discovered in childhood. Due to these early diagnoses, scientists can study data from several members of a family over a sufficient period of time to gain insight into inheritance (Wise, 2008). Several of these studies indicate that there is a higher incidence of spinal curvature in relatives of a scoliosis patient than in the general population (Zhu, 2015). In fact, the Scoliosis Research Society reports that approximately 30% of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients have some family history of the condition (Scoliosis Research Society, 2020).
Familial forms of idiopathic scoliosis were described as early as 1922, but recent studies of 1st-degree relatives, including those of twins, reveal even stronger evidence of genetic contributions to the condition. Some of the most exciting research, however, points to the genetic connection in particular aspects of curvature, especially curve severity (Wise, 2008). Doctors can use this information to predict curve shape, severity, and the potential risk for progression.
Understanding research on these specific genetic correlations will greatly benefit families with a history of scoliosis.
“Early detection is crucial to managing spinal curves and successfully avoiding invasive surgery,” said Luke Stikeleather, President, and Founder of the National Scoliosis Center. “For this reason, families with knowledge of family history are encouraged to be diligent in looking out for signs of the condition. In addition, seeking professionals properly trained in screening, monitoring, and diagnosing scoliosis will help to ensure options for non-operative treatments will be available.”
Scientists expect that future studies into the genetic factors involved in the onset of scoliosis will continue to validate current findings on familial forms of the condition. This promising research will enable families with a history of scoliosis to push for the earliest possible diagnosis for their children. In turn, doctors will be able to use this valuable information to help them make the least invasive treatment options available to their young patients.