Systemic sclerosis (also referred to as “Scleroderma” and abbreviated as SSc) is an abnormal immune response of the body that leads to an overproduction of collagen. This overproduction of collagen and inflammation associated with SSc can negatively affect organs like the skin, lungs, digestive tract and kidneys. However, the most visible form of SSc is skin related. In this regard, patients with SSc present with reddish skin and visible blood vessels. Also, because these patients experience recurrent itching, the disease may lead to apparent scars.
From a therapeutic perspective, though a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs are available to treat the symptoms, there is currently no cure for patients with SSc. A recent paper by Dr. N. Krivoruchko, a researcher from the JSC National Scientific Medical Research Center in Astana, Kazakhstan presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual European Congress of Rheumatology held June 10-13, 2015 in Rome, suggests the possibility of using human stem cell transplantation (HSCT) to treat the disease. The authors report that Scleroderma patients treated with HSCT showed significant improvement in serological markers over the course of 12 months of treatment.
In the study conducted by Dr. Krivoruchko, a group of 23 women with an average age of 42.9 were selected to participate in the study. The women had skin or other organs affected by SSc with an average disease duration of 8.52 years. Presence of SSc in these patients was monitored by various standard medical diagnostic methods. Afterwards, the patients were treated with HSCT at 0, 3, 6 and 12 months. The results showed an improvement in reduction of collagen by about 16% at 3 months, 29% at 6 months and 42% at 12 months when compared to 100% at baseline. The results were corroborated by serology tests, which showed substantial improvements after HSCT treatment. The results indicate reduction in inflammation as well as stabilization of lung function and decrease in signs of pulmonary hypertension when given HSCT.
In conclusion, the human stem cell transplantation (HSCT) method suggested by Krivoruchko appears to be a promising treatment of systemic sclerosis disease. The results of this study demonstrate substantial improvement over the course of 12 months treatment. However, the researchers agree that additional studies are needed to determine if long term treatment (beyond 12 months) will lead to further improvements.