The John Varga Lab (ScleroLab) investigates systemic sclerosis (SSc), a progressive rheumatic disease that damages the skin, lungs, blood vessels, and other organs, and is associated with substantial mortality. The hallmarks of SSc are autoimmunity, vascular damage and dysrepair, metabolic changes, and fibrosis leading to organ failure. Synchronous fibrosis in multiple organs is a defining unique feature of SSc distinguishing it from other rheumatic and autoimmune conditions. Basic and translational research in the ScleroLab is seamlessly integrated with clinical research including observational studies, drug discovery, biomarker identification, and human clinical trials in the Michigan Medicine Scleroderma Program, one of the nation’s preeminent scleroderma programs.
By analyzing tissue biopsies, cells, blood, RNA, and genetic material from SSc patients and healthy controls, we identify molecular changes associated with specific disease phenotypes. We deploy already existing drugs or novel compounds to determine their impact on disease processes in preclinical in vivo and ex vivo models, as well as in early-stage human clinical trials. We partner with a large team of intramural and extramural academic and industry collaborators. The five hallmarks of our research are:
- Disease focus
- Integration at a systems-level
- Application of advanced discovery technologies
- Rapid translation of findings to the clinic
This comprehensive research pipeline distinguishes our lab and positions the Michigan Medicine Scleroderma Program to be a global leader in advancing the understanding and treatment for this devastating disease.