Dr. Andrew Leask awarded EULAR Abstract Award

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dr. Andrew Leask, Physiology and Pharmacology, Schulich Dentistry, was honoured with one of six European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Abstract Awards in Basic Science at a recent meeting in Madrid, Spain.

This phenomenal accomplishment highlights the importance of Dr. Leask's research focused on fibrotic diseases that is caused by excessive and persistent formation of scar tissue. It affects those people living with a variety of different chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, diabetes, heart disease, lung fibrosis and scleroderma. There are no therapies on the market today that have been shown to stop or prevent fibrotic disease, which can result in organ failure and death for sufferers.

"Collectively 45 per cent of the deaths and health care costs in developed countries are caused by such diseases, and there is no cure. We want to understand how these diseases occur in the first place," stated Dr. Leask. "We do know that fibrosis is caused by the excessive production and remodeling of connective tissue by a certain cell type called a myofibroblast. The question we are asking is where did the myofibroblasts come from and how can we stop them from acting?"

Dr. Leask's abstract, entitled "A Novel Model of Systemic Sclerosis?: Loss of PTEN in Fibroblasts Results in Lung Fibrosis in a CCN2/CTGF-Dependent Fashion", focused on the lack of a tumor suppressor called PTEN, which the loss of is sufficient to generate myofibroblasts and fibrosis in mice.

"We also have uncovered a potential mechanism of how the loss of PTEN causes fibrosis, which appears to also work on other models of fibrosis as well," explained Dr. Leask. "Thus we think that targeting this mechanism might result in a therapy for fibrosis".

The EULAR Congress, which hosted more than 14,000 people offered a wide range of topics including clinical innovations, clinical translational and basic science. Meetings were organized by people with arthritis, health professionals, and the health care industry.

Now a major event in the calendar of world rheumatology, the annual EULAR congress is a significantly recognized platform to facilitate interactions between patients, medical doctors, scientists, health professionals and professionals representing the pharmaceutical industry.