OMRF has received a five-year $7.8 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
The funds will be used to create the Oklahoma Sjögren’s Syndrome Center of Research Translation. That center will focus on developing new ways to diagnose and treat Sjögren’s, an autoimmune disease thought to affect as many as 4 million Americans.
In Sjögren’s, a person’s immune system attacks the body’s moisture-producing glands, damaging the ability to produce saliva or tears. Common symptoms of the syndrome include dry eyes and dry mouth. The disease can also affect other organs and cause a variety of additional symptoms such as fatigue, arthritis and memory problems.
The funds will be used for three primary research projects:
- Kathy Moser, Ph.D. will use state-of-the-art DNA scanning technology to pinpoint the genes associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Darise Farris, Ph.D., will study how interfering with the regulation of T cells in the immune system leads to the development of Sjögren’s.
- Hal Scofield, M.D., will characterize how B cells in the salivary glands play a role in disrupting moisture-producing mechanisms.
Moser is heading up the center, which will expand on current Sjögren’s research with an emphasis on creating new treatments and diagnostic tools for the disease. All projects will be supported by sophisticated data analyses led by OMRF scientist Courtney Montgomery, Ph.D.
“OMRF is already a world leader in Sjögren’s research, and this grant allows us to continue important work on finding the causes and potential treatments for the disease,” said Moser, who serves as primary investigator on the grant and director of OMRF’s Sjögren’s Research Clinic. “We’ll be using new technology to make inroads on questions that have been asked about this disease for decades.”
It takes an average of 10 years for patients with Sjögren’s syndrome to be diagnosed because of a lack of awareness and good diagnostic tests for the disease, said Moser. “The better we understand Sjögren’s, the better we can diagnose it and the faster we can start treating patients.”