Scleroderma News just published a story about a new research paper in Clinical Rheumatology that shows a link between abnormal whole blood viscosity (WBV) and pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH): Scleroderma News: Abnormal WBV and PAH Linked.  The story summarizes the findings of the paper and ends with this:

“The team thinks the results provide further evidence that changes in blood proprieties can contribute to the progression of SSc, and the development of associated complications.  Therefore, the use of alternative blood treatment strategies, such as therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE), could help improve the outcome of this patient population, the researchers suggested.”

A similar research paper was published in 2017 showing a link between elevated whole blood viscosity and digital ulcers in SSc patients: (Link Between Elevated WBV and Digital Ulcers

Here is why this is interesting and potentially relevant for many of you.  As noted in the Research section of this website (Systemic Sclerosis Pathogenesis – Is Blood Rheology the Key?), about 20 published research papers have documented abnormally elevated whole blood viscosity in SSc patients.  When looked at in detail, it appears that the main reason for this is abnormally clumped red blood cells.  In our comprehensive review of therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) for the treatment of systemic sclerosis published last year in the Journal of Scleroderma and Related Research (Review: TPE for the Treatment of SSc), we noted that a short series of weekly TPE treatments completely eliminates red blood cell clumping and normalizes overall whole blood viscosity as well.  This is typically accompanied by improvements in Raynaud’s and digital ulcers and interestingly, the effects of just four weekly TPE treatments lasts for several months before blood viscosity and red blood cell clumping return to pre-TPE levels.  Our recent post (Therapeutic Plasma Exchange: An Oil Change For Your Body?” explains how this appears to work.

For any of you who are discussing TPE with your doctors, especially if have PAH or are at risk for developing PAH, you might want to share a link to this new research paper with them: WBV in SSc: a Potential Biomarker of PAH?.