Short-term foetal immobility temporally and progressively affects chick spinal curvature and anatomy and rib development

A. Levillain, R. A. Rolfe, Y. Huang, J. C. Iatridis, N. C. Nowlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Congenital spine deformities may be influenced by movements in utero, but the effects of foetal immobility on spine and rib development remain unclear. The purpose of the present study was to determine (1) critical time-periods when rigid paralysis caused the most severe disruption in spine and rib development and (2) how the effects of an early, short-term immobilisation were propagated to the different features of spine and rib development. Chick embryos were immobilised once per single embryonic day (E) between E3 and E6 and harvested at E9. To assess the ontogenetic effects following single-day immobilisation, other embryos were immobilised at E4 and harvested daily between E5 and E9. Spinal curvature, vertebral shape and segmentation and rib development were analysed by optical projection tomography and histology. The results demonstrated that periods critical for movement varied for different aspects of spine and rib development. Single-day immobilisation at E3 or E4 resulted in the most pronounced spinal curvature abnormalities, multiple wedged vertebrae and segmentation defects, while single-day immobilisation at E5 led to the most severe rib abnormalities. Assessment of ontogenetic effects following single-day immobilisation at E4 revealed that vertebral segmentation defects were subsequent to earlier vertebral body shape and spinal curvature abnormalities, while rib formation (although delayed) was independent from thoracic vertebral shape or curvature changes. A day-long immobilisation in chicks severely affected spine and rib development, highlighting the importance of abnormal foetal movements at specific time-points and motivating targeted prenatal monitoring for early diagnosis of congenital scoliosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Cells and Materials
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Congenital scoliosis
  • Congenital spine deformities
  • Embryo
  • Foetal movementbiomechanics
  • Paralysis
  • Vertebrae


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