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Lambert, Francois M.; Malinvaud, David; Glaunes, Joan; Bergot, Catherine; Straka, Hans ORCID: 0000-0003-2874-0441; Vidal, Pierre-Paul (2009): Vestibular Asymmetry as the Cause of Idiopathic Scoliosis: A Possible Answer from Xenopus. In: Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 29, No. 40: pp. 12477-12483
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Human idiopathic scoliosis is characterized by severe deformations of the spine and skeleton. The occurrence of vestibular-related deficits in these patients is well established but it is unclear whether a vestibular pathology is the common cause for the scoliotic syndrome and the gaze/posture deficits or if the latter behavioral deficits are a consequence of the scoliotic deformations. A possible vestibular origin was tested in the frog Xenopus laevis by unilateral removal of the labyrinthine endorgans at larval stages. After metamorphosis into young adult frogs, X-ray images and three-dimensional reconstructed micro-computer tomographic scans of the skeleton showed deformations similar to those of scoliotic patients. The skeletal distortions consisted of a curvature of the spine in the frontal and sagittal plane, a transverse rotation along the body axis and substantial deformations of all vertebrae. In terrestrial vertebrates, the initial postural syndrome after unilateral labyrinthectomy recovers over time and requires body weight-supporting limb proprioceptive information. In an aquatic environment, however, this information is absent. Hence, the lesion-induced asymmetric activity in descending spinal pathways and the resulting asymmetric muscular tonus persists. As a consequence the mostly cartilaginous skeleton of the frog tadpoles progressively deforms. Lack of limb proprioceptive signals in an aquatic environment is thus the element, which links the Xenopus model with human scoliosis because a comparable situation occurs during gestation in utero. A permanently imbalanced activity in descending locomotor/posture control pathways might be the common origin for the observed structural and behavioral deficits in humans as in the different animal models of scoliosis.