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Eight Quarter Report – May 2019

Eighth Quarter Report – May 2019


This Project is a hypothesis-generating study for the control of lung damage in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and both lung and skin damage in systemic scleroderma (SSc) patients either with or without interstitial lung disease (ILD). Enrolment of SSc patients with and without ILD to provide blood and skin tissue samples was completed during the first quarter at the end of August 2017 with samples stored in The Scleroderma Biobank at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.  Enrolment of patients with IPF and normal controls was completed by mid-November 2017.   Skin-fibroblast extraction and growth from skin samples (from all but the IPF patients from whom no skin samples were taken due to ethical reasons as their skin is not affected) were completed and stored in the Biobank before the Christmas 2017 break.  With some extra efforts by laboratory staff, extraction of miRNA from all five tissue types was completed by mid-April 2018 but miRNA extraction was not sufficient in the fifth tissue for whole genome sequencing (WGS) without additional processing by the laboratory and so this was placed on indefinite hold due to cost. A sixth tissue remains stored in the Biobank because its miRNA can be amplified for miRNA WGS but at additional cost.


After receiving frozen tissue-samples from the laboratory at St. Paul’s Hospital on 16 May 2018, the British Columbia Genome Sciences Centre (BCGSC) provided miRNA sequencing data on 92 samples on 26 July 2018, another 92 samples on 7 Aug 2018, and the last 92 samples on 2 Jan 2019.  All 276 samples comprise 3 tissue-types, with some duplicates, from 11 limited SSc-ILD patients, 12 diffuse SSc-ILD patients, 9 patients with limited SSc only, 5 patients with diffuse SSc only, 19 patients with IPF, and 16 control participants. Quality control assessments on the last 92 samples were completed on 17 Feb 2019, at which point the Project was eight months behind schedule.  As of 21 May 2019, the list of novel miRNA’s in the 3 tissue-types has yet to be received from BCGSC so the Project is eleven months behind schedule and counting.  Nevertheless, March 2019 saw the start, in earnest, of comprehensive statistical analysis of the miRNA WGS data inclusive of seeking to generate hypotheses for the role of known miRNA’s in lung and skin damage (and in particular, calcium deposits in the skin). While the details of the results cannot be presented until completion of independent review by other scientists, the results have been judged so successful by the scientific research team that recruitment of a second cohort of patients and controls has already begun in order to verify the results that have been found thus far.  We look forward to seeing how the novel miRNA’s fit into the picture and are eager to receive this data.  Results will be made available the SABC membership and general public as soon as they emerge from the scientific-review process.


University researchers involved in this project are Drs. James Dunne, Chris Ryerson, and Pearce Wilcox of The University of British Columbia and Dr. Kevin Keen of both The University of British Columbia and The University of Northern British Columbia. Rounding out the Leadership Team are Ms. Rosanne Queen and Mr. Robert Buzza for the Scleroderma Association of BC.