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Thomas Jefferson University Awarded NIH Grant to Study Fibrotic Skin Disease Caused by MRI Contrast Agents


Researchers at the Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine were awarded almost $384,000 by the National Institutes of Health to investigate the mechanisms involved in the development of a serious and sometimes fatal disease, known as Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis, a rare skin disorder linked to Gadolinium-based contrast agents used in magnetic resonance (MRI and MRA) studies.

The team, led by Sergio A. Jimenez, MD, Professor in the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, Co-Director of the Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine, and Director of the Jefferson Scleroderma Center, aim to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind the initiation of the disorder in order to develop possible new treatments.

They will investigate the role of specialized cells known as macrophages and their cell surface receptors known as Toll-like receptors in Gadolinium-based contrast agent induced skin fibrosis.

"Using mouse models, we can specifically induce the disease to better examine the pathways responsible for the development of the severe and progressive fibrosis of skin and internal organs, and hopefully find weaknesses to exploit," said Dr. Jimenez. "The results could help us identify promising molecular targets for the development of new therapies for this as well as other fibrotic disorders, including Scleroderma."

Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis is a rare and serious disorder that involves progressive fibrosis of skin, joints, and numerous internal organs. It is induced by exposure of patients with renal failure to gadolinium-based contrast agents employed for magnetic resonance studies.

This research grant was awarded by the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the NIH (Award Number R21AR061680).

The Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine is dedicated to the study of the etiology and progression of diseases, with particular focus on acquired and genetic aberrations associated with the extracellular matrix of connective tissues. The Institute maintains active collaboration with other Centers of Excellence of the University, such as the Kimmel Cancer Center and the internationally-renowned Jefferson Center for International Dermatology.

The Jefferson Scleroderma Center is the only facility in the Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey and Northern Delaware area devoted exclusively to the diagnosis and treatment of Scleroderma and related disorders and to conducting state of the art research studies on the cause and mechanisms of tissue injury in this disease. The Center has been recognized in the clinical field as one of the most outstanding centers for scleroderma patients and has been recognized as a Center of Excellence (Philadelphia Magazine March 6, 2008). In the research arena, the Center has achieved worldwide recognition and has published more than 200 peer reviewed papers related to Scleroderma in the scientific literature.

For more information, contact: Steve Graff, Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals, 833 Chestnut Street, Suite 1140, Philadelphia, PA 19107, (215) 955-5291, (215) 955-5008 fax, or email