|Close this page
Visit at St. Marianna University School of Medicine.
St. Marianna University
School of Medicine is located on top of a hill in Kawasaki, Japan. It
is one of three centres specialising in treating Behcet's Disease in the
capital region. BD patients are treated here in both in-patient and out-patient
facilities by some of the most prominent doctors in the field.
Dr. Oka came to greet us at the entrance, and lead us straight to the office, where Dr. Matsuda was waiting. We discussed the situation of a few BOW patients currently receiving advice from the two doctors, then went on into Behcet's in general, before being taken on a grand tour of the facilities.
Among the issues discussed
were misconceptions about Behcet's. The doctors wish to let us all know,
that in contrast to other autoimmune diseases, Behcet's does not normally
come accompanied with other diseases! So if you are diagnosed with BD
and Crohn's or Lupus or Sjorgren's or MS or anything else, you are likely
suffering from one but not the other. That is to say it is safe to assume
that all your symptoms come from the same disease, whichever that one
The issue of heredity was also mentioned. According to Dr. Matsuda and Dr. Oka, although there is probably an heredity disposition, something else must trigger the disease. They supported patients' feelings that stress was closely associated with the disease and flares, probably because of its relation to HSP (Heat Shock Protein) one of the major suspects now under investigation (see report of Annual Japanese Doctors and Scientists Conference).
It may be possible that different members of the same family would have different autoimmune diseases.
Another issue discussed
was that of the use of too much drugs in the western world. In Japan the
belief is that when a treatment does not work it should be replaced, rather
than supplemented, although in some cases two different drugs can be used
as complimentary to each other. When they heard of patients taking 26
different kinds of medicine a day they were quite shocked, as they were
quick to point out the drugs used for BD can be very harmful. Particularly
when used in high dosages over a long period of time, these medicines
can leave a lot of residue in the liver, causing more sickness. Moreover,
often the various drugs can interact, leading to undesirable effects.
Our tour was given to us by Dr. Oka, who started with the hospital, where we visited the out-patient and in-patient clinics of internal medicine. We were introduced to other doctors, some already famous, some young but promising, and had the honour to meet a Behcet's patient who was hospitalised at the time.
During the tour the various experts mentioned some interesting facts. Prof. Hotta (see report of Annual Japanese Doctors and Scientists Conference) found that patients can have lesions on their brain even when not presenting any CNS symptoms. He said it is also possible to present CNS symptoms but not have any lesions.
We also heard that
the first thing done with patients suffering from GI Behcet's is a change
of diet. Starting with a fast and moving on to what is called an elementary
diet, then keeping one or two out of three meals a day elementary, while
having "normal" food for the other meals. The first stage is done in order
to cleanse the GI tract, while the other is an attempt at balancing diet
and mental needs, as the doctors understand it is difficult to commit
to a strict diet on a long term basis.
We then proceeded to the School of Medicine, followed by the research institute, where the rat/mouse lab and radiology room are located. This is where mice and rats are created to specifications (see report of Annual Japanese Doctors and Scientists Conference) in order to try and figure out what causes Behcet's and how to treat it. Apparently, mice with HLA-B51 did not develop Behcet's under laboratory conditions!
This research facility was made possible thanks to Prof. Mizushima, now an MP, who invented and patented a medicine for treating joint inflammation. It is contained in microcapsules which lead the medicine straight to the area of inflammation, where it is then released slowly. The money from the patent helped build the centre in which so much more research is being done now.
I was given a wonderful booklet written recently by Dr. Matsuda et al, which contains a lot of old and new information about the disease, including detailed medical explanations, research reports and Q&A sections.
Dr. Matsuda and Dr. Oka have been helping BOW patients for a few months, and their contribution can not be expressed by words. We are grateful for their help and appreciate the time they take for answering questions, treating patients across the world, and of course this visit.
BOW wish to thank Dr. Matsuda and Dr. Oka for this wonderful and informative visit.