Sunday, June 3, 2012

Exciting News in the Fight Against Scleroderma

                                                        March 10, 1941 to October 16, 2006
                                              Rachelle (Shelly) Hollander in an undated photo

 It has been quite a while since I last published a post about scleroderma, however, this week I received an e-mail from the Scleroderma Foundation, and the news that they shared with me is so promising that I had to share it with all of you.  According to the foundation, a team of researchers, lead by a member of their Board of Directors, have been able to identify a peptide that is able to block fibrosis of the skin and the lungs.  This is wonderful news, especially considering that the number one cause of death of patients with scleroderma is lung fibrosis.  Dr. Carol A. Feghali-Bostwick who lead this research team emphasizes the fact that finding a way to stop the fibrosis will have a huge impact on the quality of life of these patients, as well as decrease the rate of mortality from this disease. 

The researchers were investigating agents that promote fibrosis when they accidentally discovered this peptide, called E4, which is a stretch of amino acids that represent a small piece of protein that halted fibrosis in mice.  This peptide was then tested in the laboratory on human samples to see if it would stop fibrosis on human skin.  The results demonstrated that the peptide was successful at reducing fibrosis in the human skin. This suggests that there is a high probability that E4 can be effective in humans with fibrosis. This is very exciting news, because identifying a molecule that can halt fibrosis in both the skin and the lungs will bring us closer to discovering a treatment for it.  As of this date, the only treatment for lung fibrosis is a lung transplant.  In fact, according to the foundation, tissue fibrosis is a contributing factor in 45% of all deaths in developed countries.  The discovery of a a peptide that can stop this condition may have a far-reaching effect, including the discovery of treatments for other diseases that can lead to tissue fibrosis.

“This should be a call-to-action as to why more dollars for scleroderma research is essential,” said Joseph P. Camerino, Ph.D., chair of the Foundation’s Board of Director."  “This new data highlights the rapid progress being made in scleroderma research,” said John Varga, M.D., director of the Scleroderma Program and professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and also chair of the Scleroderma Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board. “These are exciting findings, but we need to remember that the new compound is not the cure. Rather, it is a piece to the puzzle that will eventually lead us to find the cure.”

This new finding is very exciting, but at the same time it saddens me greatly.  I wish that my mother, Rachelle (Shelly) Hollander had lived long enough to see this.  To have been given at least the hope for a treatment, if not a cure.  To have been able to have had a better quality of life while living with the disease.  It is too late for my mom, however, I know that she would be happy to know that through education, awareness, and support great strides are being made in the field of research on scleroderma, and that hopefully one day no one will have to live with this "unfamiliar" killer.

For more information, the Scleroderma Foundation suggests you visit the 
Science Translational Medicine website at http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/4/136/136ra71.

I would like to thank the foundation for the information published in this post.  The Scleroderma Foundation's website is www.scleroderma.org.
 



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