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Promising new scleroderma research

New research could lead to more targeted treatments for sufferers of a rare but debilitating auto-immune disease, a PhD student studying in Adelaide says.

Sceroderma is characterised by the tightening and hardening of the skin, making it difficult for sufferers to perform day-to-day tasks.

It also attacks the connective tissues in the body and excess collagen build-up can damage internal organs.

Flinders University PhD student Karen Patterson's research into the disease has revealed there are five clusters within scleroderma.

They are identified by certain auto-antibodies, which are proteins that attack the body's healthy cells," she said.

"Ninety-five per cent of people who have scleroderma will have a particular antibody. Each antibody has a particular suite of symptoms."

Ms Patterson hoped that by grouping people together by antibody, it could pave the way for more targeted treatments. She applied her theory to the rest of the world. "I looked at, for example [The United] States, I looked at Europe, I looked at Asia and what happened, the prevalence rate ... how often the condition occurred, varied, but the symptoms stayed with the auto-antibody," she said.

There are approximately 5,000 people suffering from the disease in Australia.

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Source: ABC