Research
Leading Edge Research

Research continues to advance an understanding of better ways to treat symptoms, prevent organ damage, and improve the quality of life for people with scleroderma until a cure is discovered.

In the past two decades, scientists at universities and medical centers throughout Canada, the United States and other parts of the world have conducted research into the immune system, genetics, cell and molecular biology. This research has helped reveal insights into the possible causes of scleroderma, improvements to existing treatment modalities and the creation of entirely new treatment approaches.

In addition to leading-edge research currently funded by the Scleroderma Society of Ontario, the following current studies, led by prominent scientific and medical experts, describe exciting new research in the area of scleroderma.

NEW APPROACH TO NEW THERAPIES RESEARCH
By Dr. Jean-LuC SenéCaL, MD, FrCPC

Animal models are essential for a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying human scleroderma (Scl) and  to speed up the discovery of new treatments.

However, none of the current models reproduces all of the pathophysiological features of human Scl, i.e. autoimmunity, inflammation, vascular involvement and fibrosis. As a consequence, attempts to translate potential treatment advances from current models to patients have been disappointing.

The research team spearheaded by Dr. Marika Sarfati, MD, PhD, and myself, is developing a new model of Scl. In a nut shell, we immunologically induce Scl in mice. With the financial support of Scleroderma Ontario (SSO), Scleroderma Canada (SSC) and Sclérodermie Québec (SSQ), we have made major progress in the development of this new model, that reproduces all four cardinal features of human Scl. Once the model is fully validated, we will treat the mice using novel therapeutic approaches to determine whether Scl can be stopped, reversed and even prevented. If this works, it will provide a very strong scientific rationale for therapeutic trials in patients with Scl.
We express our deep gratitude to the members of SSO, SSC and SSQ for their generous support.
Dr. Jean-Luc Senécal, MD, FRCPC, is Professor of Medicine and Scleroderma Research Chair, University of Montreal School of Medicine and Director, Laboratory for Research in Autoimmunity, Research Center of Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal.

PROGRAM PROVIDES MULTIDISCIPLINARY CARE
By Dr. SinDhu JohnSon, MD, PhD, FrCPC

The Toronto  Scleroderma  Program is a health-care network comprised of three academic hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto. The Program provides multidisciplinary care, medical education and research in the scleroderma spectrum of diseases including systemic sclerosis, eosinophilic fasciitis, raynaud’s phenomenon, mixed connective tissue disease and morphea. It is actively engaged in both translational and clinical research with the goals of improving understanding of the disease, finding better treatments, and improving patient’s lives. The Program’s team investigates:

• development of classification criteria for scleroderma subsets
• use of autologous stem cells for healing scleroderma ulcers
• improving survival after lung transplant
• use of novel medications for treatment of scleroderma shell, we immunologically induce Scl in mice.

With the financial support of Scleroderma Ontario (SSO), Scleroderma Canada (SSC) and Sclérodermie Québec (SSQ), we have made major progress in the development of this new model, that reproduces all four cardinal features of human Scl. Once the model is fully validated, we will treat the mice using novel therapeutic approaches to determine whether Scl can be stopped, reversedand even prevented. If this works, it will provide a very strong scientific rationale for therapeutic trials in patients with Scl.  The Toronto Scleroderma Program works closely with the University health Network Pulmonary hypertension Program, Interstitial lung Disease Clinic and the Toronto.

Scleroderma: A Program to Study Outcomes and Experiences Important to Patients
-Thombs, B. (Principal Investigator)

Improved Diagnositic Criteria for Systemic Sclerosis
-Pope, J. E. (Principal Investigator)

The Genome-Wide Association Scan Study in Systemic Sclerosis
-Mayes, M.(Principal Investigator)

Development and Validation of a Patient-Assessed Disease Activity Index in Systemic Sclerosis
-Hudson, M.(Principal Investigator)

Oral Health Study
-Gornitsky, M. (Principal Investigator)

Treatment With Rapamycin Prevents Fibrosis in Tight-Skin and Bleomycin-Induced Mouse Models of Systemic Sclerosis
-Yoshizaki, A. (Principal Investigator)

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