• Vertebra;
  • notochord;
  • development;
  • genotype;
  • fetal;
  • radiography;
  • histology

The aim of the present study was to compare, both radiographically and histologically, malformed vertebral lumbar corpora in trisomies 21, 18 and 13 with earlier reported normal corporal development in the axial lumbar region. Axial skeletons of human fetuses (GA 15–22 wk) derived from therapeutically induced abortion were investigated in connection with requested autopsy. The number of lumbar vertebral corpora examined for each genotype was as follows: 20 from trisomy 21, 10 from trisomy 18, and 10 from trisomy 13. After radiography in frontal, lateral and axial projections, the individual vertebral corpora were decalcified and horizontally embedded in paraffin. The blocks were serially sectioned and stained with toluidine blue and alcian blue/van Gieson. The radiographic characteristics of the vertebral corpora varied from an almost normal appearance of the corporal bone to complete clefting of the bony corpora. Histological examination showed accumulations of cartilage centrally, in some cases associated with amorphous material. Pronounced metachromatic differences were observed in the cartilaginous ground substance. The study showed identical phenotypic characteristics in the corpora from trisomy 21, trisomy 18, and trisomy 13. It is characteristic of all three genotypes that there are central anomalies, corresponding to the location of the notochord in normal corpora, and marked regional differences in metachromasia in the ground substance of the cartilage.