Israeli Researchers Find Potential Answer to Deadly Autoimmune Disease
New findings open a novel direction for developing future treatment against an incurable and devastating disorder.
Researchers at three Israeli institutions have demonstrated that supporting cells called fibroblasts, previously seen as uniform background players, are vital against some diseases. A subset of these cells may be part of the cause of scleroderma – a rare autoimmune disease that affects the skin. This was revealed in the study, which was published on Wednesday, April 6, in Cell (a peer-reviewed journal).
In the Weizmann Institute, Hadassah, and Rambam collaboration, scientists collected skin samples from nearly 100 scleroderma patients and from a control group of more than 50 healthy volunteers, in the largest study of this kind ever done to investigate the disorder.
“Scleroderma is one of the most frustrating disorders to treat – we can alleviate some of the patient’s symptoms, but usually we cannot significantly affect the cause of the disease, block its progression or reverse its course,” said Prof. Chamutal Gur, a senior physician in the Rheumatology Department at Hadassah University Medical Center, who was drawn to lead the study for both professional and personal reasons: two of her cousins suffer from the disease.
Scleroderma (from the Greek skleros, meaning “hard,” and derma, meaning “skin”) is identified by the formation of an abnormally hard, inflexible layer of skin on the arms, legs, and face.
Its manifestations vary greatly among patients. In about a third of the cases, the disease, which mainly strikes women aged 30 to 50, advances rapidly and spreads beyond the extremities, causing life-threatening damage to internal organs. Immune-regulating drugs that normally bring relief to people with autoimmune diseases are less effective in scleroderma, which has a higher mortality rate than other rheumatic disorders. (JPost / VFI News)
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