New blood test may diagnose scleroderma

Date: Thu 24th August 2017

A new blood test has been developed that it is hoped will be used to diagnose scleroderma in the future. The test uses a protein fragment that can induce scarring that is found on cells in the blood of people with scleroderma. Initial results suggest that the blood test detects scleroderma-specific autoantibodies and may identify people with active disease regardless of whether it is present in the systemic form, which can affect organs, or the localised form, which affects the skin.

PDGFRα is a receptor protein found on the outside of various types of cells that binds to other proteins known as growth factors, stimulating cellular growth and specialisation in healthy people. Protein fragments from PDGFRα that are recognised by the immune system of people with scleroderma but not those without the disease were studied to identify which fragments would be the most useful in determining disease presence and activity. The test that the researchers developed from one protein fragment was able to differentiate between people with active and inactive disease.

Following these positive initial results, the researchers plan to determine whether the test can be used in the early diagnosis of scleroderma. To do this, they will screen large groups of people affected by or suspected of having scleroderma. They believe that the group of people involved in the very early diagnosis of systemic sclerosis (VEDOSS) study will be ideal for this assessment.

Moroncini G, Mozzicafreddo M, Cuccioloni M, et al. Development of a novel epitope-based diagnostic assay for systemic sclerosis. EULAR 2017; Madrid: Abstract OP0031