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1.  Erectile dysfunction is frequent in systemic sclerosis and associated with severe disease: a study of the EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research group 
Introduction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in men with systemic sclerosis (SSc) but the demographics, risk factors and treatment coverage for ED are not well known.
Method
This study was carried out prospectively in the multinational EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research database by amending the electronic data-entry system with the International Index of Erectile Function-5 and items related to ED risk factors and treatment. Centres participating in this EULAR Scleroderma Trial and Research substudy were asked to recruit patients consecutively.
Results
Of the 130 men studied, only 23 (17.7%) had a normal International Index of Erectile Function-5 score. Thirty-eight per cent of all participants had severe ED (International Index of Erectile Function-5 score ≤ 7). Men with ED were significantly older than subjects without ED (54.8 years vs. 43.3 years, P < 0.001) and more frequently had simultaneous non-SSc-related risk factors such as alcohol consumption. In 82% of SSc patients, the onset of ED was after the manifestation of the first non-Raynaud's symptom (median delay 4.1 years). ED was associated with severe cutaneous, muscular or renal involvement of SSc, elevated pulmonary pressures and restrictive lung disease. ED was treated in only 27.8% of men. The most common treatment was sildenafil, whose efficacy is not established in ED of SSc patients.
Conclusions
Severe ED is a common and early problem in men with SSc. Physicians should address modifiable risk factors actively. More research into the pathophysiology, longitudinal development, treatment and psychosocial impact of ED is needed.
doi:10.1186/ar3748
PMCID: PMC3392836  PMID: 22348608
2.  Renal Perfusion in Scleroderma Patients Assessed by Microbubble-Based Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound 
Objectives:
Renal damage is common in scleroderma. It can occur acutely or chronically. Renal reserve might already be impaired before it can be detected by laboratory findings. Microbubble-based contrast-enhanced ultrasound has been demonstrated to improve blood perfusion imaging in organs. Therefore, we conducted a study to assess renal perfusion in scleroderma patients utilizing this novel technique.
Materials and Methodology:
Microbubble-based contrast agent was infused and destroyed by using high mechanical index by Siemens Sequoia (curved array, 4.5 MHz). Replenishment was recorded for 8 seconds. Regions of interests (ROI) were analyzed in renal parenchyma, interlobular artery and renal pyramid with quantitative contrast software (CUSQ 1.4, Siemens Acuson, Mountain View, California). Time to maximal Enhancement (TmE), maximal enhancement (mE) and maximal enhancement relative to maximal enhancement of the interlobular artery (mE%A) were calculated for different ROIs.
Results:
There was a linear correlation between the time to maximal enhancement in the parenchyma and the glomerular filtration rate. However, the other parameters did not reveal significant differences between scleroderma patients and healthy controls.
Conclusion:
Renal perfusion of scleroderma patients including the glomerular filtration rate can be assessed using microbubble-based contrast media.
doi:10.2174/1874312901206010050
PMCID: PMC3367302  PMID: 22670165
Scleroderma; renal perfusion; contrast-enhanced ultrasound.
3.  Imbalance in distribution of functional autologous regulatory T cells in rheumatoid arthritis 
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases  2007;66(9):1151-1156.
Objectives
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) exert their anti‐inflammatory activity predominantly by cell contact‐dependent mechanisms. A study was undertaken to investigate the regulatory capacity of autologous peripheral blood Tregs in contact with synovial tissue cell cultures, and to evaluate their presence in peripheral blood, synovial tissue and synovial fluid of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods
44 patients with RA and 5 with osteoarthritis were included in the study. The frequency of interferon (IFN)γ‐secreting cells was quantified in synovial tissue cell cultures, CD3‐depleted synovial tissue cell cultures, synovial tissue cultures co‐cultured with autologous CD4+ and with CD4+CD25+ peripheral blood T cells by ELISPOT. Total CD3+, Th1 polarised and Tregs were quantified by real‐time PCR for CD3ε, T‐bet and FoxP3 mRNA, and by immunohistochemistry for FoxP3 protein.
Results
RA synovial tissue cell cultures exhibited spontaneous expression of IFNγ which was abrogated by depletion of CD3+ T cells and specifically reduced by co‐culture with autologous peripheral blood Treg. The presence of Treg in RA synovitis was indicated by FoxP3 mRNA expression and confirmed by immunohistochemistry. The amount of FoxP3 transcripts, however, was lower in the synovial membrane than in peripheral blood or synovial fluid. The T‐bet/FoxP3 ratio correlated with both a higher grade of synovial tissue lymphocyte infiltration and higher disease activity.
Conclusion
This study has shown, for the first time in human RA, the efficacy of autologous Tregs in reducing the inflammatory activity of synovial tissue cell cultures ex vivo, while in the synovium FoxP3+ Tregs of patients with RA are reduced compared with peripheral blood and synovial fluid. This local imbalance of Th1 and Treg may be responsible for repeated rheumatic flares and thus will be of interest as a target for future treatments.
doi:10.1136/ard.2006.068320
PMCID: PMC1955165  PMID: 17392348

Results 1-3 (3)