Study design: This study involved weekly radiographic examination of pinealectomized rats, hamsters, and chickens to observe the development of scoliosis.
Objectives: To determine whether pinealectomy produces scoliosis in animals more closely related phylogenetically to humans than to chickens, namely rats and hamsters, which are representative of mammals.
Summary of background data: Pinealectomy in 3-day-old chickens has consistently resulted in the development of scoliosis with many characteristics similar to those seen in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. It has not been determined whether this phenomenon is restricted solely to chickens or is applicable to other animals, especially those more closely related to humans.
Methods: The pineal gland was removed from young rats, hamsters, and chickens. All animals underwent radiography weekly to detect the development of any scoliosis. Weight and length measurements were also taken weekly, and serum melatonin levels were determined at the time the animals were killed.
Results: Scoliosis was not observed in either the rats or the hamsters. In contrast, scoliosis developed in 10 of 21 chickens. Serum melatonin levels in all pinealectomized animals were zero.
Conclusions: In contrast to the chickens, pinealectomy does not seem to cause scoliosis in either young rats or hamsters. The reasons for this discrepancy may include differences in the physiology and spinal morphology of the rat and hamster in comparison with the chicken. In the pinealectomized chickens, the results also suggest that future scoliosis development might be indicated by a significant increase in size when they are compared with pinealectomized chickens that do not develop scoliosis. Such differences in growth rates also distinguish patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.