Pathogenesis of Idiopathic Scoliosis: Experimental Study in Rats

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Study Design.

A radiographic examination of pinealectomized rats to observe the development of scoliosis and halt the condition by administration of melatonin.


To discover whether pinealectomy has the same effect in mammals as shown in the chicken, and to determine whether the bipedal condition is important for development of scoliosis.

Summary of Background Data.

Pinealectomizing chickens shortly after hatching consistently resulted in scoliosis closely resembling human idiopathic scoliosis. It has not been determined whether this phenomenon is restricted solely to chickens, or if this experimental model is applicable to other animals, especially those more closely related to humans.


A sham operation in five bipedal rats served as the control in this study. Pinealectomy was performed in 10 quadrupedal rats, pinealectomy in 20 bipedal rats, and pinealectomy with implantation of melatonin pellet in 10 bipedal rats. Spinal radiographs were used to measure the degree of scoliosis at 3 months after surgery.


Scoliosis developed only in pinealectomized bipedal rats and not in quadrupedal rats. It developed in none of the sham operation group and in only 1 of 10 pinealectomized bipedal rats with melatonin treatment.


Melatonin deficiency secondary to pinealectomy alone does not produce scoliosis if the quadrupedal condition is maintained. The bipedal condition, such as that in chickens or humans, plays an important role in the development of scoliosis. The findings suggest a critical influence of a postural mechanism for the development of scoliosis.

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