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Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 13;7(1):3376. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03196-9.

Bone Fusion in Normal and Pathological Development is Constrained by the Network Architecture of the Human Skull.

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Department of Anatomy, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC, USA.
Structure & Motion Laboratory, Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK.
Departament d'Enginyeria Química, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43007, Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.
Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, 08010, Catalonia, Spain.
Departament d'Enginyeria Química, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, 43007, Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.
Theoretical Biology Research Group, Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain.


Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of cranial bones, affects the correct development of the skull producing morphological malformations in newborns. To assess the susceptibility of each craniofacial articulation to close prematurely, we used a network model of the skull to quantify the link reliability (an index based on stochastic block models and Bayesian inference) of each articulation. We show that, of the 93 human skull articulations at birth, the few articulations that are associated with non-syndromic craniosynostosis conditions have statistically significant lower reliability scores than the others. In a similar way, articulations that close during the normal postnatal development of the skull have also lower reliability scores than those articulations that persist through adult life. These results indicate a relationship between the architecture of the skull and the specific articulations that close during normal development as well as in pathological conditions. Our findings suggest that the topological arrangement of skull bones might act as a structural constraint, predisposing some articulations to closure, both in normal and pathological development, also affecting the long-term evolution of the skull.

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