Scoliosis blood test developed in Montreal
Simple screen catches spine-deforming condition before it does its worst
By Peter Woodford
A revolutionary new blood test developed in Canada could help detect a spinal deformity called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), long before the appearance of debilitating symptoms. "Spinal deformities — scoliosis in particular — represent the most prevalent type of orthopedic deformities in children and adolescents," explains Dr Alain Moreau, a reseacher at Montreal's St Justine Hospital who led the team that developed this early detection test. "This condition leads to the formation of severe deformities of the spine, affecting mainly girls." He announced his discovery on June 6.
In AIS, a patient's spine curves to the side; at its mildest it may only be a nuisance causing clothes to fit oddly but at its worst it can be utterly crippling. In extreme cases patients can present with a 60-degree or greater curvature of the spine. With this abnormal curvature, back pain can be horrendous. This pain tends to be particularly acute during a patient's growth spurts. Somewhere between 1% and 6% of the population will develop scoliosis.
But is there any benefit in finding out ahead of time that a patient has an elevated risk of developing AIS? Absolutely, says Dr Moreau. "Early detection of scoliosis prior to clinical manifestation will identify children exhibiting a greater risk of developing a scoliosis curvature," he says. "Genetic counselling, nutrition and re-educative exercises could have an immediate significant impact."
The test is neither costly nor complicated. Here's how it works: "A simple blood collection of about two teaspoons will be performed to extract the lymphocytes, which will be frozen for subsequent serial testing," Dr Moreau explains. "It's relatively easy to administer and will be cost effective as a diagnostic tool for widespread physician usage."
The underlying causes of scoliosis remain by and large a mystery, but in developing the test Dr Moreau and his team discovered a link between AIS and low levels of melatonin, a hormone that is involved in regulating bone metabolism.
"The test measures the level of cAMP, a molecule acting as a secondary messenger inside the cell, in its function of increasing concentrations of melatonin," he says. "Incapacity of cells to reduce cAMP production in presence of varying melatonin concentration indicates a flaw in the transmission of melatonin signal at the cellular level."
The test has so far been used to detect scoliosis in animals and adult patients, but in theory it could be used to uncover the condition in young children as well. But when will it be ready for prime time? "We expect that the tests will be commercially available in 2008," predicts Dr Moreau.
Scoliosis blood test will become available. The first part of the test is taken only once and http://pico.sssup.it/files/allegati/2004_1469.pdf it detects if the nervous system processes Melatonin properly. If the nervous system isn’t functioning properly it is believed that the child has Scoliosis.
The second part of the test is taken several times a year. It is designed to detect a rise in Calmodulin levels. If the levels of this protein rise the risk of curve progression goes up significantly.
http://www.ebi.ac.uk/interpro/potm/2003_3/Table.htm Calmodulin does many different things.
Do scientists understand why http://www.spineuniverse.com/displayarticle.php/article378.html increasing levels of Calmodulin correlate with curve progression?