Texas A&M Biologists Could Make Preventing Fibrotic Diseases Possible

Published: Sep. 23, 2015 at 5:49 PM CDT
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Right now, patients across the world are undergoing a clinical trial to fight against certain Fibrotic diseases - hoping to combat their potentially deadly diagnoses.

The trial is a result of breakthrough findings by two Texas A&M Professors and News 3's Noelle Bellow sat down with them to hear more about their potentially life-saving discovery.

Dr. Richard Gomer said, "It's surprising and gratifying and exciting."

He and Dr. Darrell Pilling are not shying away from admitting that they simply stumbled upon this discovery.

"That's pretty much what science is, you keep your eyes open and every now and then somebody will stumble upon something," said Gomer. "We had been in the lab for about 4 days and realized we were finding something that's preventing the formation of the scar tissue cells."

When scar tissue cells begin to form on internal organs, it's called a Fibrotic Disease. There are 62 of them, and they are associated with chronic conditions that play a role in an estimated 45% of US deaths per year.

In 2002, Gomer and Pilling found a serum in human blood called Serum Amyloid P, and it seemed to stop the scar tissue growth process.

Dr. Pilling said, "We basically said hey we've got these cells that form Fibrotic Diseases, which can be very bad news, but there's something in the serum that is prohibiting that process, maybe we've got something!"

Gomer shows an image of a cell inside a lung, where there's a Fibrotic lesion, or scar tissue. He explained when untreated, "the scar tissue would just keep growing and growing."

But studies have shown when they give patients a drug that was developed at Texas A&M, the growth of scar tissue does not occur.

Following their breakthrough, in 2006 they formed Promedior, which did testing and manufacturing of the drug and eventually started a clinical trial.

Dr. Gomer said, "They tested it on about a dozen patients with pulmonary fibrosis and over a 2 month period those patients started getting better. "

The drug is now in phase two of trials, and is being tested on Pulminary and Bone Marrow Fibrosis patients across the country, and even some parts of Europe.

Dr. Pillner said, "Some days you just have to pinch yourself and you just go 'Holy Wow. We might have done something good for humanity."

That is a very real possibility. If phase 2 proves to be successful, the trials will go into phase 3. That will allow more patients to try the drug and help the FDA figure out if it is safe to sell to people and become a prescription.