OCT plays important part in new quantitative imaging biomarker for scleroderma

Scientists at the Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine at the University of Leeds in England, using an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner, have developed the first quantitative imaging biomarker for skin involvement in scleroderma (a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and one or more internal organs).

Related: OCT technique for assessing scleroderma wins Abbot Innovation Award

To develop their quantitative model, the research team—led by Francesco Del Galdo, MD, Ph.D.—performed 458 OCT scans on 21 scleroderma patients (1 morphea and 22 healthy controls), comparing the results with clinical assessment and histology.

The OCT scanner the research team used (Michelson Diagnostics' VivoSight) enabled noninvasive imaging 1–2 mm beneath the surface of the skin with unprecedented detail. It also allowed them to evaluate images captured of the dermal-epidermal junction and dermis using specially designed image processing algorithms. The significant correlation of the optical density with skin thickness and the excellent inter and intraobserver reliability of the technique suggests that an OCT-based algorithm is an accurate and reliable tool to quantify skin involvement in scleroderma.

"Our study is the first in the field proposing a quantitative imaging biomarker of skin fibrosis in scleroderma," explains Giuseppina Abignano, MD, lead author of the study. "We are currently undertaking a longitudinal study to test the sensitivity of the OCT-based algorithm. These studies will tell us whether we can use OCT to determine changes in skin fibrosis over time and therefore use it as outcome measure in clinical trials and in clinical management. This is a very important step toward improving the prognosis for people who suffer from this devastating disease."

The research team's results appear in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases; for more information, please visit http://ard.bmj.com/content/early/2013/02/19/annrheumdis-2012-202682.

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