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Int J Rheumatol. 2011;2011:824972. doi: 10.1155/2011/824972. Epub 2011 Nov 20.

A system out of breath: how hypoxia possibly contributes to the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis.

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  • 1Department of Rheumatology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by vascular alterations and immunological disturbances and fibrosis, the order of which remains to be fully determined. Clinically, patients show clear signs of hypoxia in skin and internal organs. The low oxygen tension is potentially caused by a yet to be indentified circuitry involving the three features that typify SSc. In addition, once present, the hypoxia creates a vicious circle of ongoing pathology. In this paper, we provide an overview of the evidence that points towards the mechanisms causing hypoxia in SSc. In addition, data that suggest how hypoxia itself may orchestrate worsening of symptoms is presented. Altogether, it is clear that hypoxia is an important hallmark in SSc patients. By providing an overview of the mechanisms at play and the possible therapeutic avenues that have emerged, we hope to stimulate researchers to provide novel clues into the conundrum in SSc patients.

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