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Concept: Vertebral column


There is currently no evidence that the intervertebral discs (IVDs) can respond positively to exercise in humans. Some authors have argued that IVD metabolism in humans is too slow to respond anabolically to exercise within the human lifespan. Here we show that chronic running exercise in men and women is associated with better IVD composition (hydration and proteoglycan content) and with IVD hypertrophy. Via quantitative assessment of physical activity we further find that accelerations at fast walking and slow running (2 m/s), but not high-impact tasks, lower intensity walking or static positions, correlated to positive IVD characteristics. These findings represent the first evidence in humans that exercise can be beneficial for the IVD and provide support for the notion that specific exercise protocols may improve IVD material properties in the spine. We anticipate that our findings will be a starting point to better define exercise protocols and physical activity profiles for IVD anabolism in humans.

Concepts: Metabolism, Exercise, Vertebral column, Physical quantities, Intervertebral disc, Stretching, Anabolism, Catabolism


Recent studies suggest there is a relationship between intervertebral disc herniation and vertebral shape. The nature of this relationship is unclear, however. Humans are more commonly afflicted with spinal disease than are non-human primates and one suggested explanation for this is the stress placed on the spine by bipedalism. With this in mind, we carried out a study of human, chimpanzee, and orangutan vertebrae to examine the links between vertebral shape, locomotion, and Schmorl’s nodes, which are bony indicators of vertical intervertebral disc herniation. We tested the hypothesis that vertical disc herniation preferentially affects individuals with vertebrae that are towards the ancestral end of the range of shape variation within Homo sapiens and therefore are less well adapted for bipedalism.

Concepts: Human, Spinal disc herniation, Vertebral column, Primate, Hominidae, Chimpanzee, Intervertebral disc, Human evolution


BACKGROUND: This study investigated the incidence, imaging characteristics and mechanical factors in scoliotic patients with pectus excavatum. METHODS: A total of 142 scoliostic patients with pectus excavatum were evaluated prior to operation. The evaluation included a complete physical exam, phenotype and severity of the pectus excavatum, incidence and severity of scoliosis, and analysis of radiological images, including calculation of the Haller index. RESULTS: Twenty five out of 142 patients (17.61%) with pectus excavatum had scoliosis with a Cobb angle >10 degrees, and in 80.00% of the cases the spinal column was bent to the right. Seventeen patients had bent-to-the-right spines that involved the 6th to 10 th thoracic vertebrae. We found that 23 out of 25 patients with a Cobb angle more than 10 [degree sign] were teenagers and adults. The incidence of scoliosis was only 6.06% in the children under 11 years whereas it was 21.79% in the teenage group. CONCLUSIONS: Mechanical forces appear to play a role in the coexistence of pectus excavatum and scoliosis. There is a relationship between age, severity (Haller index), asymmetry and scoliosis. The heart and mediastinum play a role in providing an outward force to the left of the sternum which may be an important reason for the coexistence of pectus excavatum and scoliosis, but the correlation needs further proof.

Concepts: Vertebral column, Pectus excavatum, Haller index, Chest, Degree, Sternum, Scoliosis


Fishes have adapted a number of different behaviors to move out of the water, but none have been described as being able to walk on land with a tetrapod-like gait. Here we show that the blind cavefish Cryptotora thamicola walks and climbs waterfalls with a salamander-like diagonal-couplets lateral sequence gait and has evolved a robust pelvic girdle that shares morphological features associated with terrestrial vertebrates. In all other fishes, the pelvic bones are suspended in a muscular sling or loosely attached to the pectoral girdle anteriorly. In contrast, the pelvic girdle of Cryptotora is a large, broad puboischiadic plate that is joined to the iliac process of a hypertrophied sacral rib; fusion of these bones in tetrapods creates an acetabulum. The vertebral column in the sacral area has large anterior and posterior zygapophyses, transverse processes, and broad neural spines, all of which are associated with terrestrial organisms. The diagonal-couplet lateral sequence gait was accomplished by rotation of the pectoral and pelvic girdles creating a standing wave of the axial body. These findings are significant because they represent the first example of behavioural and morphological adaptation in an extant fish that converges on the tetrapodal walking behaviour and morphology.

Concepts: Vertebral column, Pelvis, Human anatomy, Acetabulum, Walking, Pubis, Sacrum, Ilium


Increased excavation of dinosaurs from China over the last two decades has enriched the record of Asian titanosauriform sauropods. However, the relationships of these sauropods remain contentious, and hinges on a few well-preserved taxa, such as Euhelopus zdanskyi. Here we describe a new sauropod, Yongjinglong datangi gen. nov. et sp. nov., from the Lower Cretaceous Hekou Group in the Lanzhou Basin of Gansu Province, northwestern China. Yongjinglong datangi is characterized by the following unique combination of characters, including seven autapomorphies: long-crowned, spoon-shaped premaxillary tooth; axially elongate parapophyses on the cervical vertebra; very deep lateral pneumatic foramina on the lateral surfaces of the cervical and cranial dorsal vertebral centra; low, unbifurcated neural spine fused with the postzygapophyses to form a cranially-pointing, triangular plate in a middle dorsal vertebra; an “XI”-shaped configuration of the laminae on the arches of the middle dorsal vertebrae; a very long scapular blade with straight cranial and caudal edges; and a tall, deep groove on the lateral surface of the distal shaft of the radius. The new specimen shares several features with other sauropods: a pronounced M. triceps longus tubercle on the scapula and ventrolaterally elongated parapophyses in its cervical vertebra as in Euhelopodidae. Based on phylogenetic analyses Yongjinglong datangi is highly derived within Titanosauria, which suggests either a remarkable convergence with more basal titanosauriform sauropods in the Early Cretaceous or a retention of plesiomorphic features that were lost in other titanosaurians. The morphology and remarkable length of the scapulocoracoid reveal an unusual relationship between the shoulder and the middle trunk: the scapulocoracoid spans over half of the length of the trunk. The medial, notch-shaped coracoid foramen and the partially fused scapulocoracoid synostosis suggest that the specimen is a subadult individual. This specimen sheds new light on the diversity of Early Cretaceous Titanosauriformes in China.

Concepts: Vertebral column, Vertebra, Cretaceous, Cervical vertebrae, Sauropoda, Dinosaur, Titanosaur, Euhelopus


Spinal immobilisation during extrication of patients in road traffic collisions is routinely used despite the lack of evidence for this practice. In a previous proof of concept study (n=1), we recorded up to four times more cervical spine movement during extrication using conventional techniques than self-controlled extrication.

Concepts: Lumbar vertebrae, Vertebral column, Cervical vertebrae, Thoracic vertebrae, Road transport, Road accidents, Car safety


Degenerative changes are commonly found in spine imaging but often occur in pain-free individuals as well as those with back pain. We sought to estimate the prevalence, by age, of common degenerative spine conditions by performing a systematic review studying the prevalence of spine degeneration on imaging in asymptomatic individuals.

Concepts: Systematic review, Vertebral column, Degenerative disc disease, Chronic pain


It has been suggested that deep squats could cause an increased injury risk of the lumbar spine and the knee joints. Avoiding deep flexion has been recommended to minimize the magnitude of knee-joint forces. Unfortunately this suggestion has not taken the influence of the wrapping effect, functional adaptations and soft tissue contact between the back of thigh and calf into account. The aim of this literature review is to assess whether squats with less knee flexion (half/quarter squats) are safer on the musculoskeletal system than deep squats. A search of relevant scientific publications was conducted between March 2011 and January 2013 using PubMed. Over 164 articles were included in the review. There are no realistic estimations of knee-joint forces for knee-flexion angles beyond 50° in the deep squat. Based on biomechanical calculations and measurements of cadaver knee joints, the highest retropatellar compressive forces and stresses can be seen at 90°. With increasing flexion, the wrapping effect contributes to an enhanced load distribution and enhanced force transfer with lower retropatellar compressive forces. Additionally, with further flexion of the knee joint a cranial displacement of facet contact areas with continuous enlargement of the retropatellar articulating surface occurs. Both lead to lower retropatellar compressive stresses. Menisci and cartilage, ligaments and bones are susceptible to anabolic metabolic processes and functional structural adaptations in response to increased activity and mechanical influences. Concerns about degenerative changes of the tendofemoral complex and the apparent higher risk for chondromalacia, osteoarthritis, and osteochondritis in deep squats are unfounded. With the same load configuration as in the deep squat, half and quarter squat training with comparatively supra-maximal loads will favour degenerative changes in the knee joints and spinal joints in the long term. Provided that technique is learned accurately under expert supervision and with progressive training loads, the deep squat presents an effective training exercise for protection against injuries and strengthening of the lower extremity. Contrary to commonly voiced concern, deep squats do not contribute increased risk of injury to passive tissues.

Concepts: Vertebral column, Cartilage, Osteoarthritis, Knee, Joint, Flexion, Extension, Semimembranosus muscle


The head and anterior trunk region of most actinopterygian fishes is stiffened as, uniquely within vertebrates, the pectoral girdles have a direct and often strong connection through the posttemporal to the posterior region of the skull. Members of the mesopelagic fish family Stomiidae have their pectoral girdle separated from the skull. This connection is lost in several teleost groups, but the stomiids have an additional evolutionary novelty-a flexible connection between the occiput and the first vertebra, where only the notochord persists. Several studies suggested that stomiids engulf significantly large prey items and conjectured about the functional role of the anterior part of the vertebral column; however, there has been no precise anatomical description of this complex. Here we describe a unique configuration comprising the occiput and the notochordal sheath in Aristostomias, Eustomias, Malacosteus, Pachystomias, and Photostomias that represents a true functional head joint in teleosts and discuss its potential phylogenetic implications. In these genera, the chordal sheath is folded inward ventrally beneath its connection to the basioccipital and embraces the occipital condyle when in a resting position. In the resting position (wherein the head is not manipulatively elevated), this condyle is completely embraced by the ventral fold of the notochord. A manual manipulative elevation of the head in cleared and stained specimens unfolds the ventral sheath of the notochord. As a consequence, the cranium can be pulled up and back significantly farther than in all other teleost taxa that lack such a functional head joint and thereby can reach mouth gapes up to 120°.

Concepts: Vertebral column, Skull, Vertebra, Vertebrate, Anatomical terms of location, Chordate, Actinopterygii, Tetrapod


The scapula functions as a bridge between the shoulder complex and the cervical spine and plays a very important role in providing both mobility and stability of the neck/shoulder region. The association between abnormal scapular positions and motions and glenohumeral joint pathology has been well established in the literature, whereas studies investigating the relationship between neck pain and scapular dysfunction have only recently begun to emerge. Although several authors have emphasised the relevance of restoring normal scapular kinematics through exercise and manual therapy techniques, overall scapular rehabilitation guidelines decent for both patients with shoulder pain as well as patients with neck problems are lacking. The purpose of this paper is to provide a science-based clinical reasoning algorithm with practical guidelines for the rehabilitation of scapular dyskinesis in patients with chronic complaints in the upper quadrant.

Concepts: Vertebral column, Shoulder, Cervical vertebrae, Glenohumeral joint, Scapula, Acromion