May 6, 2021

Prof. Keita Ito receives ERC Advanced grant

Congratulations to Keita Ito (TU/e) and for receiving an ERC Advanced grant with the project “Understanding the perfect storm that causes scoliosis”.

Together with colleagues of UMC Utrecht, Keita 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.


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a 3D deformity of the spine affecting previously healthy children, substantially reducing their quality of life and creating a life-long burden of disease. Although it has been indentified since the time of Hippocrates (400 BC), we have not been able to rationally develop effective

treatments and provide a cure for these children suffering from AIS because its cause and mechanism of disease are still unknown. We believe that AIS is caused by a perfect storm of anatomical, biomechanical and mechanobiological processes in the intervertebral disc. My recently awarded ERC-AdG grant, ScoliStorm, will allow us to create a paradigm shift in AIS research by exploring this disease mechanism whereby predictive triggers are identified that can be used for prevention and early treatment.

In the project, we will study human subjects non-invasively through disease initiation and progression, creating for the first time a comprehensive dataset of healthy and scoliotic human spines that can be used for early detection and treatment of juvenile spine conditions. We will create safe non-radiographic accurate imaging of the osseous spine, available in most hospitals, which can become the standard for diagnosis and monitoring of osseous injury and disease in juveniles. We will develop high-throughput creation and use of subject specific in silico models, allowing simulation of organ and tissue function such that morphological imaging data can provide functional analysis of the patient for diagnosis and treatment. Mechanisms affecting tissue adaptation

will be mapped and show that normal processes by their coincidence can create an aberrant response and disease, providing an explanation applicable for other multifactorial diseases.

Thus, a unique dedicated and complete multidisciplinary process, combining 1) bioengineering analysis, exploiting imaging, in silico modeling, in vitro and ex vivo approaches in humans, and 2) clinical medicine, will be created. Many of these tools will also be beneficial for investigating treatment methodologies including regenerative medicine, not just in the spine but also for musculoskeletal treatment in general.

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