Exosomal Lipid Biomarkers of Oligodendrocyte Pathology to Predict Scoliosis in Children with Cerebral Palsy

Author(s): Nune Darbinian, Emily C. Sparks, Armine Darbinyan, Nana Merabova, Tamara Tatevosian-Geller, Katie Calaku, Sarah Bachman, Huaqing Zhao, Shohreh Amini, Laura Goetzl, Solomon P. Samuel, Amer Samdani, Michael E. Selzer


Cerebral Palsy (CP), the most common cause of disability in children, is phenotypically heterogeneous. Approximately 20% of cases develop severe scoliosis. A pathological hallmark of CP is periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which is due to dysmyelination, suggesting the possibility of a lipidomic abnormality. Risk factors for CP include perinatal hypoxia, prematurity, multiple gestation, ischemia, infection, and maternal alcohol consumption. There is evidence for low serum levels of omega-3 (ω-3) fatty acids in CP patients, and separately in idiopathic scoliosis. Many effects of free fatty acids (FFAs) are mediated via specific G protein-coupled free fatty acid receptors (FFARs), which play essential roles as nutritional and signaling molecules. FFAs, including ω-3, and their receptors are involved in the development and metabolism of oligodendrocytes (OLs), and are critical to myelination. Thus, the cases of CP that will develop severe scoliosis might be those in which there is a deficiency of ω-3, FFARs, or other lipidomic abnormality that is detectable early in the plasma. If so, we might be able to predict scoliosis and prevent it with dietary supplementation.


Blood samples were collected from four groups of patients at the Philadelphia Shriners Children’s Hospital (SCH-P): 1) patients with CP; 2) severe scoliosis (>40o); 3) CP plus scoliosis; and 4) non-impaired controls stratified by age (2-18 yrs), gender, and race/ethnicity, under an IRB-approved protocol. Serum proteins and RNA were purified, and OLderived exosomes (OL-Es) isolated, using myelin basic protein (MBP) as a late OL marker. Protein was used for the detection of MBP and FFAR by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), and by flow cytometry. RNA was assayed by digital droplet polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) for OL markers and FFAR expression.


FFAR and MBP proteins were downregulated in each of the three patient groups compared to controls, and this difference was greatest in both patients with CP plus scoliosis.


Altogether, MBP and FFAR levels were reduced in OLEs from both children with CP plus scoliosis. The lipid abnormalities specific to CP with scoliosis were concentrated in OLs. Our data might i) suggest therapeutic targets to reduce dysmyelination and scoliosis in CP, ii) predict which children are at risk for developing scoliosis, iii) lead to therapeutic trials of fatty acids for CP and other dysmyelinating neurological disorders.

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