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Kristen Fay Gorman

PhD student Kristen Fay Gorman with one of hundreds of lab guppies exhibiting scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

Guppies shed light on scoliosis

April 2, 2009

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Simon Fraser University Biology professor Felix Breden and PhD student Kristen Fay Gorman have discovered the first animal model for studying idiopathic scoliosis of the spine.

Breden and Gorman are also the first researchers to disprove the widely held belief that scoliosis affects only humans.

The duo has discovered that the guppy, a colourful tropical fish, is the perfect model for studying a disease that plagues mostly girls.

Idiopathic (unknown causes) scoliosis typically manifests itself anytime in infancy through age 15. It can be as mild as a slight curvature of the spine, causing chronic back pain, or as severe as a debilitating deformity of the spine, requiring a brace or surgery.

On average about three to four percent of the global population has the disease. Affected girls are four times more likely than boys to develop a severe form of it. Scientists have known since the 1970s that the disease is an inherited genetic disorder. However, they have been unable to unravel which genes cause it, why it more often occurs in girls or what causes the extreme variability in its onset and progression.

"We’ve needed an animal model in which we can isolate the genes that cause scoliosis and test various hypotheses on how their mutation influences the disease’s severity, progression and risk factors," explains Gorman.

Gorman, a former nursing student, set out to determine whether curved back syndrome, a condition that Breden suspected was genetically inherited in guppies, could help her understand scoliosis. "Instead, we discovered that the guppy’s curved back syndrome could help us better understand the human condition," says Gorman. "Through inbreeding experiments we’ve proven that the syndrome is genetic like idiopathic scoliosis. The age of its onset, the variation in its progression and severity, its usual stabilization with sexual maturity and its greater prevalence in female fish parallel what happens in human scoliosis."

The orthopaedic community is endorsing Gorman’s and Breden’s research, which is receiving $275,000 US in funding from the National Institutes of Health.

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Jeanne D'Amours

Bonjour, j'ai plusieurs Guppys, oui ce sont la majorit des femmelles qui sont touches. J'aiachet il ya trois UN TRIO D'un leveur en ontario. 3 pour 40.00 $. (un blue red bi. un couleur tres rare,voir le site deltaguppy.com. J'avais dj acht de cette personne et les poisson tait parfait, mais cette fois a ma grande surpris un des femelle avait une lgre scoliose. Le males est mort plus tard . J'AVAIs UN TRS BEAU MALE achet che dans un anumalarei .J'Ai laisser les 2 femelles avec le male. C'EST la que le cauchemar commencer . MES NOUVEAUX ALEVINS ET SURTOUT LES PETITE FEMELLE AVAIT UNE SCOLIOSE.

Ce male donnait des alevin noramal avec d'autre femelle. Je fais beaucoup de recherches sur internet.

J'ai trop piti pour cest petite bete. je les ai gard quand meme.

Bonne chance. 275 000 c,est tres accetable pour une recherche comme la votre. Jeanne D'amours . Rimouski Qubec.

Jeanne-H D'amours

Bonjour, j'ai plusieurs Guppys, oui ce sont la majorit des femmelles qui sont touches. J'ai achet il y a trois UN TRIO d'un leveur en Ontario 3 pour 40.00 $. (un blue red bi un couleur rare, voir le site deltaguppy.com. J'avais dja achet de cette leveur reconnu et les poisson tait parfait, mais cette fois a ma grande surpris un des femelles avait une lgere scoliose. Le male est mort plus tard . J'avais un trs beau male achet chez Wall Mart.J'ai laisser les 2 femelles avec le male, c'est l que le cauchemar commencer . Mes nouveaux alevines et SURTOUT LES PETITES FEMELLES avaient une scoliose.

Ce male donnait des alevins normals avec d'autres femelles.

Je fais beaucoup de recherches sur internet.

J'ai trop piti pour ces petites betes.

Bonne chance. 275 000 c'est tres acceptable pour une recherche comme la votre. Jeanne D'amours . Rimouski Qubec.

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