New Jersey Girl Saved by New Scoliosis Spit Test

By Roseanne Colletti
|  Friday, Nov 20, 2009  |  Updated 2:18 PM EDT
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The Scoliosis Spit Test

11-year old Alex Heifetz

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The Scoliosis Spit Test

11-year old Alex Heifetz' life was limited by scoliosis, until a medical breakthrough spared her from years of back braces and surgery.
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A revolutionary new genetic test can dramatically change the lives of children with Scoliosis. This debilitating curvature of the spine frequently lands a small percentage of kids in back braces for the bulk of their adolescence.

 

Alex Heifetz, an 11-year-old from Old Tappan, New Jersey thought she'd have to give up her dance and gymnastics lessons.
 
"I would have to wear the brace 23 hours a day," she lamented. Definitely not in the "cool" category for middle school ready-to-wear, and infinitely worrisome to her mom.
 
"I know how cruel kids can be and I would have trouble getting her to wear the thing," said Anna Heifetz.
 
The concerned parent decided to try a new diagnostic test offered by their spine specialist, Dr. Baron Lonner of NYU Medical Center.
 
But there no scary needles or machines: All Alex had to do was provide a saliva sample by spitting into a vial that was then shipped off for DNA testing. The subsequent analysis looked at 53 markers which indicate whether scoliosis will get worse or not. Prior to this doctors could only track the ailment, throw a kid in a brace and take a wait and see approach on the necessity of surgery.
 
"This gives us the ability to predict the outcome of Scoliosis for the first time ever," says Dr. Lonner.

Parents are given an immediate answer in what's called a "Scoliscore" allowing them to make a decision about treatment if any is warranted.

 
Alex received a score of 160 out of 200 -- a bad score that means she would need surgery as her condition worsened.
 
Her parents opted for immediate intervention in the form of a stapling procedure. Dr. Lonner stapled the young girl's spine straight.
 
"I'm happy," she said.
 
And why wouldn't she be, she's back at gym and dance class.

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