Congenital scoliosis in a newborn baby. Image: Jog et al, 2002, Postgrad. Med. J.

Congenital scoliosis is a condition in which the newborn spine is curved abnormally, with fused or abnormally shaped vertebrae. It is commonly associated with rib abnormalities. While the causes of congenital scoliosis are currently unknown, there is evidence from some clinical conditions that fetal movements may play a key role in development of the spine. Spine abnormalities have been reported in cases of fetal akinesia deformation sequence (FADS), where the fetus doesn’t move at all, and congenital scoliosis is much more common in babies with arthrogryposis (multiple joint shape abnormalities), a syndrome which is strongly linked to abnormal fetal movements.






In this research, we are investigating the link between fetal movements and development of the spine and ribs, using an model systems of abnormal fetal movements. Dr Aurelie Levillain is the lead postdoctoral researcher on the project, which is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Dr Rebecca Rolfe formerly worked on the project. The project is a collaboration with Prof James Iatridis in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.



Levillain A, Rolfe RA, Huang Y, Iatridis JC & Nowlan NC. “Short-term fetal immobility temporally and progressively affects chick spinal curvature and spinal anatomy, and rib development”. European Cells & Materials 2019 Vol. 37 (pp 23-41) (link to pdf)

graphical abstract Aurelie

Rolfe RABezer JHKim TZaidon AZ, Oyen ML, Iatridis JC, Nowlan NC, “Abnormal fetal muscle forces result in defects in spinal curvature and alterations in vertebral segmentation and shape”, 2017. Journal of Orthopaedic Research 35 (10), pp. 2135–2144. (link)