When the immune system loses the ability to distinguish between dangerous interlopers—like viruses, bacteria and fungi—and its own cells, the body’s defense mechanisms become weapons of self-destruction. The resulting barrage of friendly fire can cause more than 80 different diseases. Chief among them is lupus, and OMRF has emerged a world leader in the study and treatment of this life-threatening illness.

OMRF scientists are part of an international consortium that has identified 13 genes specifically associated with the disease. The massive research project, which involves 150 scientists and nearly 7,000 research volunteers, has opened new frontiers in the quest to unmask the genetic culprits behind the disease.

Meanwhile, Dr. Judith James has made a series of key findings that point to a common cold virus as a potential environmental trigger for lupus. Her work now is moving toward developing a vaccine that could one day prevent the onset of the virus—and lupus.

In OMRF’s rheumatology clinic, physician-scientists provide sick Oklahomans with access to experimental lupus treatments not yet widely available. If any of these novel therapeutics proves effective, OMRF will have played a key role in delivering the first new lupus drug to patients in nearly a half-century.