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Bending the Curves

The role of urotensin peptide signals in spinal development - insight into development of curvatures

03 March 2023

Bending the Curves

Our backbone, or spine, is naturally curved, but painful deformations can develop – from scoliosis, where the spine twists to the side, to kyphosis and lordosis, identified by excessive curves in respectively the upper or lower parts of the spine. What causes these problems is poorly understood, but researchers working on zebrafish uncovered interesting processes involving molecules produced by neurons of the central nervous system, known as the urotensin peptides Urp1 and Urp2. Fish lacking both peptides, or their receptor Uts2r3, developed strong curves in the tail region of the spine, similar to lordosis (pictured, right, compared to typical zebrafish spines, left). Meanwhile, fish lacking only Urp1 or Urp2 developed milder curvatures, suggesting that these peptides can somewhat compensate for each other. Deformed spines developed in juvenile fish and worsened into adulthood, recalling spinal problems that begin in adolescence, so signalling through this urotensin pathway could be relevant to humans too.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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