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Exploring the potential of cholesterol-lowering drugs for patients with systemic sclerosis

Systemic sclerosis (SSc), also known as scleroderma, is an uncommon and confounding disease characterized by excessive fibrous tissue formation and vascular abnormalities. Primarily affecting the small arties, SSc decreases blood flow to the body's extremities. This can lead to Raynaud's phenomenon, a condition that causes the hands and feet to feel extremely cold and numb; ulcers on the fingers and toes; and gangrene. SSc can also restrict blood flow to internal organs, resulting in lung, kidney, and heart damage. While its cause and cure have yet to be found, SSc is generally viewed and treated as an autoimmune inflammatory disorder.

Researchers in Japan recently proposed a different theory: the root of SSc may be defective vasculogenesis, the process of forming new blood vessels by producing new cells in the blood vessel lining. In the June 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis), Dr. Masataka Kuwana and colleagues at the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo share the results of an experiment to affirm their hypothesis and test a novel treatment strategy. Their objective: to determine the effectiveness of one of the most popular and potent cholesterol-lowering drugs atorvastatin, marketed under the brand name Lipitor for increasing blood flow and improving the symptoms of SSc.

The study focused on 14 women, between ages 36 and 75, with a confirmed diagnosis of SSc. Disease duration ranged from 13 months to 21 years. All the patients were treated with 10 milligrams of atorvastatin per day for 12 weeks; all but one participated in a follow up 4 weeks after. At the time of entry, all the patients had active Raynaud's phenomenon, and 2 had digital ulcers. For the study's duration, all patients continued their routine course of treatment, from low-dose aspirin to low-dose prednisolone.

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Contact: Amy Molnar
amolnar@wiley.com
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
25-May-2006


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