Trust backs Leeds research into devastating disease

Researchers in Leeds are hoping for a breakthrough in the treatment of the devastating immune system disease Scleroderma, thanks to the support of a medical research charity.

Dr Francesco Del Galdo is leading research into devastating immune system disease, Scleroderma

Dr Francesco Del Galdo receives Kennedy Trust funding for Scleroderma research May 2018

Scleroderma is an inflammatory disease that leads to the scarring and thickening of the skin and internal organs.

Though rare, it can have a devastating effect on patients’ lives. Some suffer highly debilitating symptoms – their hands and fingers become permanently stiff and clenched, their muscles and internal organs are damaged, they can suffer shortness of breath, kidney failure and pulmonary hypertension. Once patients get to this stage, the condition is not reversible and long-term prognosis is very poor.

The new research programme has two main aims – to find tell-tale markers that will allow doctors to identify patients most at risk of developing the disease and to find the processes at work in those patients that have the potential to be blocked by drugs.

The work has been supported by a grant of £470,000 from The Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research and further support from the University. Established in 1965 by Mathilda Kennedy – the daughter of M&S founder Michael Marks – the Kennedy Trust provides financial support for research into rheumatic and related musculoskeletal, immunological and inflammatory diseases.

“We are really grateful for this support,” says Dr Francesco Del Galdo, who sees patients from across the region in his clinic at Chapel Allerton Hospital, part of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. “Right now, we don’t know what triggers the scarring process. If we can get a clearer understanding of this, we can then search for the molecules that might actually prevent the scarring.

“And if we can develop a test to identify patients at risk, we can concentrate on giving early treatments to those most urgently in need.”

Pierre Espinasse, General Manager of the Kennedy Trust, says: “We are very pleased to support Dr Del Galdo’s research into what is an important area of rheumatology and which could significantly advance treatment of early scleroderma.”

Based at Chapel Allerton, the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine and the NIHR Leeds Biomedical Research Centre are world-leading research groups dedicated to improving diagnosis, therapy, intervention and outcomes across the spectrum of rheumatic and musculoskeletal medicine.

Its work exemplifies ‘bench to bedside’ research, which is made possible by a close working relationship between the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the University.

The research continues a long-standing relationship between the University and the Marks family. Marks & Spencer was founded in the city in 1884; the company’s archive is now housed in the Michael Marks Building on the University campus.

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