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Reviewed February 2011
What is spondylothoracic dysostosis?
Spondylothoracic dysostosis is a condition characterized by the malformation of the bones of the spine and ribs. The bones of the spine (vertebrae) do not develop properly, which causes them to be misshapen and abnormally joined together (fused). The ribs are also fused at the part nearest the spine (posteriorly), which gives the rib cage its characteristic fan-like or "crab" appearance in x-rays. Affected individuals have short, rigid necks and short midsections because of the bone malformations. As a result, people with spondylothoracic dysostosis have short bodies but normal length arms and legs, called short-trunk dwarfism.
The spine and rib abnormalities cause other signs and symptoms of spondylothoracic dysostosis. Infants with this condition are born with a small chest that cannot expand adequately, often leading to life-threatening breathing problems. As the lungs expand, the narrow chest forces the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest cavity (the diaphragm) down and the abdomen is pushed out. The increased pressure in the abdomen can cause a soft out-pouching around the lower abdomen (inguinal hernia) or belly-button (umbilical hernia).
Spondylothoracic dysostosis is sometimes called spondylocostal dysostosis, a similar condition with abnormalities of the spine and ribs. The two conditions have been grouped in the past, and both are referred to as Jarcho-Levin syndrome; however, they are now considered distinct conditions.
Read more about spondylocostal dysostosis.
How common is spondylothoracic dysostosis?
Spondylothoracic dysostosis affects about one in 200,000 people worldwide. However, it is much more common in people of Puerto Rican ancestry, affecting approximately one in 12,000 people.
What genes are related to spondylothoracic dysostosis?
The MESP2 gene provides instructions for a protein that plays a critical role in the development of vertebrae. Specifically, it is involved in separating vertebrae from one another during early development, a process called somite segmentation. Mutations in the MESP2 gene prevent the production of any protein or lead to the production of an abnormally short, nonfunctional protein. When the MESP2 protein is nonfunctional or absent, somite segmentation does not occur properly, which results in the malformation and fusion of the bones of the spine and ribs seen in spondylothoracic dysostosis.
Read more about the MESP2 gene.
How do people inherit spondylothoracic dysostosis?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of spondylothoracic dysostosis?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of spondylothoracic dysostosis and may include treatment providers.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about spondylothoracic dysostosis?
You may find the following resources about spondylothoracic dysostosis helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for spondylothoracic dysostosis?
What if I still have specific questions about spondylothoracic dysostosis?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding spondylothoracic dysostosis?
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (6 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.