Extent of spine deformity predicts lung growth and function in rabbit model of early onset scoliosis

J. Casey Olson, Ayuko Takahashi, Michael P. Glotzbecker, Brian D. Snyder, Selvakumar Subbian

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9 Scopus citations


Early onset deformity of the spine and chest wall (initiated <8 years of age) is associated with increased morbidity at adulthood relative to adolescent onset deformity of comparable severity. Presumably, inhibition of thoracic growth during late stage alveolarization leads to an irreversible loss of pulmonary growth and thoracic function; however the natural history of this disease from onset to adulthood has not been well characterized. In this study we establish a rabbit model of early onset scoliosis to establish the extent that thoracic deformity affects structural and functional respiratory development. Using a surgical right unilateral rib-tethering procedure, rib fusion with early onset scoliosis was induced in 10 young New Zealand white rabbits (3 weeks old). Progression of spine deformity, functional residual capacity, total lung capacity, and lung mass was tracked through longitudinal breath-hold computed tomography imaging up to skeletal maturity (28 weeks old). Additionally at maturity forced vital capacity and regional specific volume were calculated as functional measurements and histo-morphometry performed with the radial alveolar count as a measure of acinar complexity. Data from tethered rib rabbits were compared to age matched healthy control rabbits (N = 8). Results show unilateral rib-tethering created a progressive spinal deformity ranging from 30° to 120° curvature, the severity of which was strongly associated with pulmonary growth and functional outcomes. At maturity rabbits with deformity greater than the median (55°) had decreased body weight (89%), right (59%) and left (86%) lung mass, right (74%) and left (69%) radial alveolar count, right lung volume at total lung capacity (60%), and forced vital capacity (75%). Early treatment of spinal deformity in children may prevent pulmonary complications in adulthood and these results provide a basis for the prediction of pulmonary development from thoracic structure. This model may also have future use as a platform to evaluate treatment effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0136941
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 28 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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