Scleroderma research is providing better treatment options for symptoms and is improving the quality of life for patients. Current areas of focus include the use of a hormone produced in pregnancy and finding a gene associated with the disease in Choctaw Native Americans. As scleroderma research continues to advance, scientists and doctors are able to learn more about the development of the disease and its underlying mechanisms.
No one can say for sure when -- or if -- a scleroderma cure will be found. But scleroderma research is providing better treatment options for symptoms and it is improving the quality of life for people with scleroderma. In the past two decades, scleroderma research has also provided new clues to understanding the disease, which is an important step toward prevention or a cure.
In recent years, scleroderma research has led to a better understanding of scleroderma and treatment options, which include:
- The use of a hormone produced in pregnancy to soften skin lesions. Early studies suggest that relaxin, a hormone that helps a woman's body stretch to meet the demands of a growing pregnancy and delivery, may soften the connective tissues of women with scleroderma. The hormone is believed to work by blocking fibrosis, or the development of fibrous tissue between the body's cells.
- Finding a gene associated with scleroderma in Oklahoma Choctaw Native Americans. Scientists believe the gene, which codes for a protein called fibrillin-1, may put people at risk for the disease.
- The use of the drug iloprost for pulmonary hypertension. This drug has increased the quality of life and life expectancy for people with this dangerous form of lung damage.
- The increased use of ACE inhibitors for scleroderma-related kidney problems. For the past two decades, ACE inhibitors have greatly reduced the risk of kidney failure in people with scleroderma. Now there is evidence that the use of ACE inhibitors can actually heal the kidneys of people on dialysis for scleroderma-related kidney failure. As many as half of all people who continue ACE inhibitors while on dialysis may be able to go off dialysis in 12 to 18 months.