HOUSTON - (September 17, 1997) - The University of Texas-Houston has been awarded $2.5 million by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to establish a Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) in scleroderma, a chronic, often fatal connective tissue disease. Headquartered in the UT-Houston Medical School division of rheumatology and clinical immunogenetics, the center will conduct a wide range of investigations into the disease for which there is no known effective treatment or means of prevention.
The award spans four years from September 1997. It will support both clinical and basic investigations aimed at determining the genetic and environmental factors that affect susceptibility to scleroderma, so named because of the hardening of the skin and scarring of internal organs which afflict sufferers. By establishing a SCOR in scleroderma, the NIH is enabling scientists and physicians to attack the problem on a broad front, offering hope to the approximately 500,000 Americans diagnosed with the disease.
The center's director and principal investigator is Frank C. Arnett, M.D., professor and director of the division of rheumatology and clinical immunogenetics. He heads a multidisciplinary team of experts drawn from UT-Houston Health Science Center, UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, UT Medical Branch at Galveston, and the UT Medical School at San Antonio. Studies will focus on three project areas: identifying the genetic factors underlying scleroderma; elucidation of the mechanisms of collagen regulation, leading to the skin tightening; and a large survey of epidemiologic and genetic factors that may determine, or help physicians predict, disease outcomes in several different ethnic groups.
While potentially devastating, scleroderma is relatively uncommon making
it difficult to conduct genetic studies in affected families. In the course of
more than 10 years of investigations, members of the UT-H
Contact: Janice Elkins
713 500 3033
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston