Isabella Rossellini is an Italian actress, filmmaker, author, philanthropist, and model. Rossellini is most known for her roles in movies such as Blue Velvet and Death Becomes Her. Born and raised in Rome, Santa Marinella, and Paris, at the age of 13, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. Isabella went through an 18 month ordeal of painful stretchings, body casts, and scoliosis surgery. Pieces of one of her shin bones were used during the operation to add support for the individual vertebrae without risking foreign body rejection issues. She then went through an extensive recovery from that surgery. Consequently, she has permanent incision scars on her back and shin.
Incidentally, Isabella’s daughter, Elettra Wiedemann, also was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was a child. Elettra, an American model, was made to wear a scoliosis brace twenty-three hours a day from the time she was twelve until she was seventeen. More than just a pretty face, Elettra has a BA in International Relations and is working on her Masters Biomedicine.
Scoliosis has been known to run in families. According to the University of Iowa Health Care department, “Hereditary and congenital irregularities have emerged as the most probable causes of scoliosis today.” While genetics is believed to play a role in scoliosis, more than 80 percent of scoliosis cases are deemed idiopathic, meaning the source of the condition is unknown. While genetics may play a role in scoliosis, there are still other sources that may contribute to the condition or exacerbate it, such as environmental factors.
In 2007, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children researchers identified the first gene – CHD7 – associated with idiopathic scoliosis. It was the result of a 10-year study, led by Carol Wise, Ph.D., conducted at the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay/Martha and Pat Beard Center for Excellence in Spine Research. In 2011, they identified two additional genes – CHL1 and DSCAM – that give new insight into idiopathic scoliosis.
Since 2009, the ScoliScore AIS Prognostic Test has been available as a genetic test, which analyzes the DNA of male and female patients diagnosed with Mild (10–25° Cobb angle) Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) who are between 9 to 13 years of age and who are self-reported as Caucasian (including patients of North American, South American, European, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, or South West Asian descent). The test shows the likelihood of spinal curve progression to distinguish between patients who are likely to progress to a severe curve, and those who might not. ScoliScore test helps doctors predict spinal curvature through one test, accomplishing what was previously only possible through years of observation.
These genetic discoveries will allow for increased research into what causes scoliosis and more specifically what may cause idiopathic scoliosis. Future research might lead to the discovery of more genetic factors associated with scoliosis. These strides in genetic research may lead to improved scoliosis prevention and scoliosis treatment and care methods for doctors and patients.