Finding the cause and ultimately,

finding a cure

For National Patient Participation Week in June here is one of the case studies SRUK has had input.

There are three main changes in the body that happen with systemic scleroderma:

  • Blood vessel abnormalities
  • Inflammation
  • Scar tissue formation

Normally when healthy skin is deprived of oxygen, proteins such as HIF and VEGF are produced by tissue cells to promote blood vessel formation. The new blood vessels formed are able to then provide the skin with oxygen through the blood supply. People who have Raynaud's Syndrome and/or scleroderma can't form the new blood vessels properly which means that the skin continues to be deprived of oxygen. This leads to painful complications like digital ulcers and in severe cases, internal organ problems.

In people who have scleroderma, clinician researchers often detect high levels of HIF and VEGF but it's thought that there is something wrong with the proteins. This is because during the early phase of scleroderma, large blood vessels seem to form but as the condition progresses new blood vessel formation can't be detected.

Dr Victoria Flower, who is based in Bath, is working to understand what causes HIF and VEGF to be abnormally produced during the early and late stages of scleroderma. If she can identify a protein or other molecule then that means we can potentially apply this as a therapy so that HIF and VEGF can be produced normally and form new blood vessels.

She is working people who have scleroderma and systemic scleroderma to take small skin biopsies that can then be cultured in the lab and used to test various therapeutics and interventions to see what's happening to HIF and VEGF

This is important work because it's not just working to find a therapy, it's also working to find the cause of scleroderma. This would not be possible without the involvement of people who have scleroderma and your donations which funds vital work like this.

  • Find out about taking part in clinical trials.
  • Information on the symptoms of scleroderma.
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