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Research

The University of Michigan Scleroderma Program is first and foremost a research enterprise. Even in our clinical care, we seek to develop information that can be applied generally to ALL patients with scleroderma.

The research program actively works in several interconnected areas:

Quality of Life Research

These are projects that address specific symptoms and features of scleroderma. Examples might include studies of novel treatments for Raynaud phenomenon or studies of the effectiveness of occupational therapy to preserve hand function. Assessment of potential treatments for lung disease is an ongoing focus.

Outcome Measures

This is a dynamic field in scleroderma. Put simply, if one wishes to know whether or not a new treatment is effective, measuring its effects in an appropriate and accurate fashion is critical. Some features in scleroderma, for example – skin thickening – are known to improve spontaneously. Other issues, for example – lung scarring – often remain unchanged even with no specific treatments. The University of Michigan Scleroderma Program has active research in how to measure hand function, skin thickening and various aspects of heart and lung disease. University of Michigan faculty also lead several large national and international projects focused on natural history of disease and the utility of different measures of disease activity and severity.

Interventional Research

The person with scleroderma deserves nothing but the best in clinical research. We know if one treatment is truly better than another, or if a treatment is better than doing nothing at all. We seek approaches that are truly “disease modifying” – arrest or reverse important features of the disease process or that have important effects on patient function, quality of life and survival.

Basic and Translational Research

Truly effective treatments or even cure will require exact understanding of the biology of the scleroderma disease process. The University of Michigan is an extraordinary research institution. Numerous projects of direct relevance to enhancing our understanding of scleroderma are in progress or in planning. Areas of research include sophisticated studies of the mechanisms of blood vessel injury; research into the biology of lung scarring; investigations of the role of immune system and inflammatory cells as mediators of tissue injury. Good science leads to better care. “Bench to bedside” with pace and excellence!

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