Scoliosis – Treatment and Epigenetics

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The recent scoliosis genetic testing break-through has opened up an entirely new debate on whether the actual genetic risk for the condition can be reduced by the reduction of environmental factors that contribute to the cause and progression of the curvature. This is possible due to the recent (and ever growing) understanding of epigenetics.

So what in the heck are “epigenetics”…..I didn’t know either until recently, but here is the concept in a nutshell.

1. The human body has trillions of cells, each of which as a nucleus (command center). In each nucleus, DNA is tightly coiled around proteins called “histones” that serve as a support structures for the genes

2. Gene contain the codes for cells to produce various proteins and Darwin tells us that it takes many generations to “rewrite” this basic genetic code.

3. Various chemicals called “epigenetic marks” sit atop genes and offer basic instructions to them (basically they serve as an on or off switch)

4. All cell types contain the exact same DNA. Epigenetic markers silence certain gene sequences and active others. If the marks don’t work properly, cancer or cell death is possible.

5. (This is the really cool part) Stressors like a fatty diet can activate epigenetic markers, modifying histones, or adding methyl groups to DNA strands. These changes can turn genes on and off and/or may affect what gets passed down to your offspring.

6. If you over-stimulate gene for a certain condition (Scoliosis for example), you kids can inherit these over-activated sequences. That could mean a lifetime of battling unfavorable gene expression.

This means you don’t have to be a victim of your genetics AND environmental factors can ultimately change both factors in this condition (genetic and environmental factors), but that isn’t the biggest point to this post…


Further proof that even mild/moderate AIS curvatures need to be treated with a program that reduces/eliminates the environmental factors that cause scoliosis treatment.

In fact they even purposed an equation to explain the phenomenon: Genetics (G)+ Epigenetics (EpiG) + Environmental factors (E) = Phenotype (P) (the curve shape and size)

Basically the epigenetics theory is based on environmental factors being able to influence the “on/off” switch to pre-programmed genetic factors. So if her rehab is changing the environmental factors…well, it’s possible. This is why it is critically important that we shift our focus towards treatment strategies that focus on the environmental factors that contribute to the development of scoliosis of the spine and not focus on treating Cobb angles.

There was a recent article on how patients were able to lower their genetic risk for developing prostate cancer by manipulation of environmental factors. The same could probably be true for AIS.