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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1994 Aug;76(8):1193-206.

The potential role of the elastic fiber system in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, Houston, Texas 77030.


To assess its possible role in the etiology of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, the elastic fiber system of the ligamentum flavum was examined in twenty-three patients who had scoliosis and in five age-matched individuals who did not. Elastic fibers are composed of two components: the amorphous core of elastin and microfibrils, of which fibrillin is the primary element. Fresh-frozen histological specimens of ligamentum flavum removed at the time of an operation were examined by Verhoeff staining for elastic fibers and by immunohistochemical staining with use of a monoclonal antibody to fibrillin. Additionally, cultures of fibroblast cells from the ligamentum flavum were used to study the biosynthesis and secretion of fibrillin and its incorporation into the extracellular matrix in vitro. The specimens from one patient did not provide sufficient material for the histological studies; however, fibroblasts were harvested from this specimen. In five (23 percent) of the remaining twenty-two specimens from patients who had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, Verhoeff staining of elastic fibers showed a marked decrease in fiber density (the number of fibers per unit area) and a non-uniform distribution of fibers throughout the ligament. Eighteen specimens (82 percent) exhibited abnormalities on immunohistochemical staining, including a marked disarrangement of the fibers and a difference in the density of staining, when compared with the control specimens from individuals who did not have adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Studies of the biosynthesis and secretion of fibrillin and its incorporation into the extracellular matrix in vitro demonstrated that fibroblasts from four (17 percent) of the twenty-three specimens produced normal amounts of fibrillin and secreted it from the cell, but the fibrillin failed to bind to other macromolecules, to form a sedimentable complex, and to incorporate into the extracellular matrix. Collectively, the results suggest the potential role of the elastic fiber system as a component in the pathogenesis of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in some individuals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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