Not long ago, Sergio Jimenez received a thank-you note from a patient whose son was graduating from college. What made the card so special was that 22 years ago, the father had come to Jimenez at the Scleroderma Center of Philadelphia with his pregnant wife and a diagnosis of severe scleroderma, with a prognosis of only two months to live. Jimenez treated the man with a penicillin-type drug therapy he’d pioneered. Similar stories fill the files of this 35-year-old center devoted exclusively to scleroderma, a deadly autoimmune disease that causes tissues to harden like cement, so that organs can’t function. The patient roster reads like a United Nations roll call; citizens of China, Peru, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Pakistan, Iran and every part of the U.S. come here to be treated; to participate in clinical drug trials not available elsewhere; and to be seen by the team assembled by Jimenez, who has three decades of experience as a clinician, researcher and educator. His discoveries include the findings that male sexual dysfunction can be a presenting symptom of scleroderma, that certain fetal cells in the circulation system of the mother can initiate the disease, that a class of drugs called interferons can have a potent effect in lessening the formation of scar tissue, and that a type of intravenous pulse therapy he developed can prevent complications of the disease (833 Chestnut Street, suite 740, 800-JEFF-NOW, jeffersonhospital.org/rheumatology).
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