The 2017 ABJS Nicolas Andry Award: Advancing Personalized Medicine for Clubfoot Through Translational Research
Clubfoot is one of the most common pediatric orthopaedic disorders. While the Ponseti method has revolutionized clubfoot treatment, it is not effective for all patients. When the Ponseti method does not correct the foot, patients are at risk for lifelong disability and may require more-extensive surgery.
(1) What genetic and morphologic abnormalities contribute to the development of clubfoot? (2) How can this information be used to devise personalized treatment paradigms for patients with clubfoot?
Human gene sequencing, molecular genetic engineering of mouse models of clubfoot, MRI of clubfoot, and development of new treatment methods all have been used by our group to understand the biological basis and improve therapy for this group of disorders.
We gained new insight into clubfoot pathogenesis from our discovery that mutations in the PITX1-TBX4-HOXC transcriptional pathway cause familial clubfoot and vertical talus in a small number of families, with the unique lower limb expression of these genes providing an explanation for the lack of upper extremity involvement in these disorders. MRI studies revealed corresponding morphologic abnormalities, including hypomorphic muscle, bone, and vasculature, that are not only associated with these gene mutations, but also are biomarkers for treatment-resistant clubfoot.
Based on an understanding of the underlying biology, we improved treatment methods for neglected and syndromic clubfoot, developed new treatment for congenital vertical talus based on the principles of the Ponseti method, and designed a new dynamic clubfoot brace to improve strength and compliance.