There is a new path to defeat systemic sclerosis, also called scleroderma because of the hardening of the skin of the patients (from Greek skleros, "hard", and derma, "skin"). This path involves the B-cell of the immune system, so far only considered "innocent spectators," as Catholic University rheumatologist Gianfranco Ferraccioli, among the authors of the important research, puts it. Also Silvia Bosello, Maria De Santis, Gina Lama, Cristina Span, Cristiana Angelucci, Barbara Tolusso e Gigliola Sica, director of the Institute of Histology and Embryology, all working for the Catholic University of Rome, have all actively taken part in this research, published on the last issue of Arthritis Therapy & Research.
"What makes our work truly original," says Ferraccioli, "is that it clarifies the characteristics of a disease, very complex as all autoimmune diseases, whose patients have often no possibility other than having to undergo a long immunosuppressive cytotoxic therapy or a medullary transplant. Furthermore, this pathology often involves more organs and is doomed to high chance of failure with conventional therapies".
Scleroderma is characterized by a fibrosis a thickening of tissues due to the accumulation of matrix proteins that are not re-absorbed. By progressively hardening tissues and making them less elastic, these proteins alter the function of the organs. If, for example, the lung is involved, oxygen exchanges in the alveoli become more difficult. If the heart is involved, it gets harder and pumps blood inefficiently. If the intestinal tract is involved, it is more difficult to void it. A very common effect is the thickening and hardening of the skin, which takes on a leather-like aspect.
"There are two different forms of this disease," explains Ferraccioli. "The first, and more frequent one, involves 80% of patients. This form is called limited, and has a slower and less aggressive progression. The second type, c
|Contact: Gianfranco Ferraccioli|
Catholic University of Rome