Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shameless family promotion: My brother

On December 8, Professor René Castelein will receive a prize from the French Cotrel Spinal Research Foundation for his scientific research on idiopathic scoliosis.This deformity of the spine occurs in children during puberty. Castelein is head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht. The prize is a research grant of 25,000 euro and is part of the Cotrel Foundation’s program to stimulate new types of treatment for idiopathic scoliosis. Castelein will receive the prize also on behalf of researcher Jan Willem Kouwenhoven and the whole of his research group. Idiopathic scoliosis is a severe spinal curvature that occurs in children during growth spurts for which the cause is unknown. In general, this disorder occurs in healthy children, more often in girls, who develop an unhealthy curvature of the spine during their adolescent growth spurt within a short space of time. This can lead, not only to back problems, but also to problems in the heart and lungs. The curves in the spinal column nearly always take on the same characteristic form, direction and rotation. From the group that Castelein studied, it was clear that healthy people also have the same kind of rotation but to a much lesser degree. This is why the deformity has a similar shape in all patients. Ultimately, the research will lead to treatment of the scoliosis in an early stage of the deformity. It is possible that the degree to which current radical treatment is performed can be reduced. The treatment now used involves a child wearing a corset during the growth years or undergoing extensive surgery to the spinal column whereby the spine is fixed in position to titanium rods with bolts and screws. The prize will be presented in the Palais de l’Institut Francais in Paris where a representative of the Dutch Embassy will be present.

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