Major EU grant for groundbreaking research into scoliosis
The European Union is investing a total of 2,75 million euros in groundbreaking health-related research. The ERC Advanced grant will fund biomedical and clinical research to better prevent and treat scoliosis.
Understanding the perfect storm that causes scoliosis
Scoliosis (or adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), as its most common form is known) is a deformity of the spine that affects 2 to 3 per cent of the population. The disease mainly affects girls, who undergo earlier and more rapid growth than boys. It substantially reduces their quality of life and creates a life-long burden of disease. Although AIS has been known since the time of the ancient Greeks and despite centuries of dedicated research, no distinct cause has been identified.
“Some diseases have a single major cause, like Covid-19 or cystic fibrosis. However, many diseases are a product of many factors”, explains professor Keita Ito leader of the research project. “We think that scoliosis or spine deformity in adolescence is such a disease, where a perfect storm brews during the rapid early growth spurt in girls.”
Together with colleagues Ito hopes to create a paradigm shift in the field of scoliosis research, that will not only uncover the complex anatomical, biomechanical and mechanobiological causes of AIS, but also identify predictive triggers that can be used for prevention and early treatment.
The research will combine bioengineering analysis (including imaging, in silico modeling, in vitro and ex vivo approaches in humans), and clinical medicine. One of the outcomes of the research will be a safe non-radiographic method to image the spine, which can become the new standard to monitor osseous injury and disease in juveniles in most hospitals.
“With this generous award from the EU, we hopefully can provide a solution for this cruel disease, which causes disfiguration, mostly in otherwise healthy girls, during a crucial stage in their lives”, says Ito.
Since 2011, Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht and Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e) have formed a strategic alliance. This strengthens the existing links in research, education and knowledge valorisation. In alliance with TU/e, Utrecht University appointed Prof. Keita Ito as Professor of Mechanobiology in Orthopaedic Regenerative Medicine at University Medical Center Utrecht.
The European Research Council was set up by the European Union in 2007 and is the most important European funding organization for groundbreaking research. Advanced ERC grants are aimed at well-established top researchers, who have a recent high-level research track-record and profile which identifies them as leaders in their respective field. Grants can amount to 2.5 million euros per grant (or 3.5 million in exceptional cases).