One way investigators approach understanding scleroderma is to examine the disease at the cellular level. SRF-funded researcher Dr. Howard Chang and his group recently published a single-cell epigenetic analysis of fibrotic scleroderma skin in Nature Communications. By comparing data from cells present in scleroderma skin to data from cells present in normal skin, the group determined which of the cell populations was most increased in number in scleroderma skin.
The group looked for epigenetic changes in the cells. In other words, they looked at changes to the cells’ DNA that affect how each cell type uses its DNA and how this differs in scleroderma. This data will be used to understand which cells are involved in scleroderma and skin fibrosis, how those cells are regulated, and which cells or gene pathways might be targeted for therapy.