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Scleroderma Association of BC Research Project

March 2020 Update

SABC funds and co-leads a research study that began recruiting scleroderma patients with and without interstitial lung disease (ILD) in July 2017.  Blood samples have also been taken from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) only and both blood and skin samples have been taken from control participants. This research program is creating a firm foundation for intensive research to control lung and skin damage in patients with scleroderma and lung damage in patients with IPF, with the expectation of receiving future support from private donations and, hopefully, research funding agencies.

Research Study Progress

Nov 2017      Collection of blood and skin tissue samples completed and stored in The Scleroderma Biobank at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver

Dec 2017       Skin tissue growth completed

Apr 2018        Extraction of micro-RNA (miRNA) from tissue types

May 2018      Frozen tissue samples from three tissue types transferred to the BC Genome Sciences Centre for sequencing

Jul 2018         miRNA sequence data downloaded for one-third of the samples and quality control (QC) checks started by the scientific team members

Nov 2018       Completion of QC assessment for first two-thirds of the samples

Feb 2019        Completion of QC assessment for last third of the samples and QC examination for pilot study of fourth tissue

May 2019      Completion of differential expression analysis of known miRNA sequences in blood and skin

Aug 2019       Completion of differential expression analysis of known and unknown miRNA sequences in blood, skin, and cultured skin-fibroblasts

Oct 2019        Invention disclosure to UBC, UNBC, and PCH for known miRNA

Dec 2019       Approval from University-Industry Liaison Office to publish results for known miRNA’s in medical literature and encouragement to pursue patent protection for novel miRNA’s

Jan 2020        Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) lab analysis for biochemical pathway predicted by known-miRNA sequencing

Feb 2020        Bioinformatic verification of PCR lab analysis

Mar 2020      Recruitment and sample preparation for verification cohort of miRNA-sequencing and PCR analyses—placed on hold due to Covid-19—biostatistical analysis of existing miRNA and clinical data is continuing

This proof-of-concept study is to discover miRNA sequences and their impact on biochemical processes at the cellular level with the goal of targeted therapeutic interventions to correct the disturbed cycle of regeneration in heart, lung, and skin tissues in scleroderma and lung tissue in IPF.  This study is important for the approximately 15,604 Canadians with scleroderma and the approximately 7,045 Canadians with IPF (as confirmed by CT, biopsy, or bronchoscopy). Discovering which miRNA sequences are too low or too high and correcting these imbalances could lead to effective treatment of skin damage in patients with scleroderma and treatment of lung damage in patients with IPF only and in patients with both scleroderma and ILD.

SABC has been behind this project for the last four years. Your donations do make a difference in contributing to research of these two orphan diseases that otherwise would not even be considered by funding agencies.

 

The research team brings together experts in respirology, rheumatology, bioinformatics, and genetical statistics.  The team is led by SABC President Rosanne Queen, SABC past President Bob Buzza, Drs. James Dunne and Kevin Keen.  Drs. Robert Holt, Chris Ryerson and Pearce Wilcox round out the scientific research team.  Both Rosanne and Bob participate on the team to keep SABC and its members informed of the progress of this research project and continue to ensure the interests of patients and their supporters are at the forefront.

 

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