The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation $2.66 million to establish the Oklahoma Rheumatic Disease Research Cores Center. The grant, which will be awarded over a five-year period, will fund studies aimed at developing a better understanding of health problems characterized by pain in the muscles and joints.
The project will focus on systemic “autoimmune” rheumatic diseases, conditions in which the body mistakenly turns the weapons of its own immune system against itself. Those diseases, which include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, affect as many as 23.5 million Americans.
“In Oklahoma, we’ve developed core strengths in the genetics and immunology of rheumatic diseases like lupus,” said OMRF’s Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator on the grant. “By teaming geneticists and immunologists with molecular biologists, biostatisticians, computer scientists and clinicians, we’ll be positioned to make rapid progress in understanding what causes these conditions and how they progress.”
Among the pilot projects that will be funded by the grant in the first year are:
- the evaluation of a new candidate molecule for therapeutic targeting in lupus; and
- a study examining the risk factors for developing autoimmune disease in children.
Ongoing and future pilot projects will help support junior researchers, researchers from fields traditionally outside of rheumatic disease research, and scientists with novel findings that hold promise for advances in diagnosis or treatment. Other potential future pilot projects include an examination of the high rates of rheumatic disease in American Indian children and a study of the use of MRI to predict rheumatoid arthritis.
“This work will encompass a wide range of multi-disciplinary projects,” said James, who holds the Lou C. Kerr Chair in Biomedical Research at OMRF. “But they all share the central goal of making inroads against these poorly understood diseases.”
OMRF (omrf.org) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and developing more effective treatments for human disease. Chartered in 1946, its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease.