Neurol Genet., Feb 2020

Heritability of cervical spinal cord structure.


Solstrand Dahlberg L, Viessmann O, Linnman C

Abstract

Objective:

Measures of spinal cord structure can be a useful phenotype to track disease severity and development; this observational study measures the hereditability of cervical spinal cord anatomy and its correlates in healthy human beings.

Methods:

Twin data from the Human Connectome Project were analyzed with semiautomated spinal cord segmentation, evaluating test-retest reliability and broad-sense heritability with an AE model. Relationships between spinal cord metrics, general physical measures, regional brain structural measures, and motor function were assessed.

Results:

We found that the spinal cord C2 cross-sectional area (CSA), left-right width (LRW), and anterior-posterior width (APW) are highly heritable (85%-91%). All measures were highly correlated with the brain volume, and CSA only was positively correlated with thalamic volumes (p = 0.005) but negatively correlated with the occipital cortex area (p = 0.001). LRW was correlated with the participant's height (p = 0.00027). The subjects' sex significantly influenced these metrics. Analyses of a test-retest data set confirmed validity of the approach.

Conclusions:

This study provides the evidence of genetic influence on spinal cord structure. MRI metrics of cervical spinal cord anatomy are robust and not easily influenced by nonpathological environmental factors, providing a useful metric for monitoring normal development and progression of neurodegenerative disorders affecting the spinal cord, including-but not limited to-spinal cord injury and MS.

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