Assistant Professor Monica Brown of UTHSC Receives $150,000 Grant Award from National Scleroderma Foundation

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A $150,000 grant from the Scleroderma Foundation will allow Dr. Monica Brown and her research team to explore treatment options for the disease. They are using a natural form of vitamin D in their trials.
A $150,000 grant from the Scleroderma Foundation will allow Dr. Monica Brown and her research team to explore treatment options for the disease. They are using a natural form of vitamin D in their trials.

Monica Brown, DO, and her team are researching the effects of a natural form of Vitamin D on scleroderma. Scleroderma is a disease characterized by hardening of the skin and organs due to collagen overproduction and a lack of enzymes to break collagen down.

One of the reasons too much collagen is produced has to do with Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-b), a protein that is produced naturally by our immune system. It helps cells grow and develop into specialized cells. In scleroderma, TGF-b causes cells to make an excessive amount of collagen, which results in fibrosis (hardening of skin and organs).

Dr. Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $150,000 award from the Scleroderma Foundation. The award will support a project titled, “17,20(OH)2pD Mediates Antifibriotic Effects in Murine Models of Sclerosis.”

People who have this disease suffer with heart, lung and kidney problems, just to name a few. Because of the degree of fibrosis in this disease, medications have not been able to slow the disease’s progression or to reverse the fibrosis once it has started. Dr. Brown and her research team are using a natural form of vitamin D (17, 20 (OH)2pD) to treat and prevent scleroderma. They have discovered that natural Vitamin D is able to decrease collagen produced by the skin. It is also able to decrease the effect of TGF-b on collagen production. These findings could lead to successful disease treatment.

“We are very grateful to the Scleroderma Foundation, which has kindly provided funding for our research,” said Dr. Brown. “We are very excited and look forward to working along with the foundation to help further understand the cause of scleroderma and to find treatments for this devastating disease.”

The Scleroderma Foundation is the national organization for people with scleroderma, their families and friends. It was formed Jan. 1, 1998, by a merger between the United Scleroderma Foundation and the Scleroderma Federation. The Scleroderma Foundation is headquartered in the metro Boston area in Danvers, Massachusetts. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the interests of people living with scleroderma. The foundation has a network of 23 chapters and 168 support groups committed to carrying out the three-fold mission of support, education and research. The Scleroderma Foundation funds an average of $1 million in new grants each year to find the cause and cure for scleroderma. For more information, visit www.scleroderma.org.