OMRF scientist Lori Garman, Ph.D., has been selected as one of two national recipients of the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research Fellowship Program Award.
The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research is the leading nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to the rare autoimmune condition. This award is tailored to support the transition process for scientists and doctors early in their careers studying and treating the condition.
Sarcoidosis is a disease where cells in the immune system that cause inflammation can overreact and cluster together to form tiny lumps called granulomas. If too many of these granulomas form in a single organ, this can cause the organ to malfunction or even fail. These granulomas can form in the eyes, liver, skin and brain and most often are found in the lungs.
The two-year, $250,000 grant will help pay for Garman’s salary, laboratory supplies, equipment and fund a portion of her research. This fellowship is mentored by OMRF scientist Courtney Montgomery, Ph.D., who said that this program is an excellent way to bring talented investigators into the field of sarcoidosis research.
“Having worked in sarcoidosis research for over a decade and witnessed the progress we are making, it is critical to future success to bring new, bright scientists into the field,” said Montgomery. “Lori is indeed such a scientist, and I am happy to be her mentor as she transitions her career in this way.”
Garman’s research centers on the complicated genetic basis of the disease, specifically how genetic and environmental factors affect immune cells that might predispose individuals to sarcoidosis.
To do this, Garman will look at specific genes to see how they react with certain environmental factors, including specific infections and viruses, which may interact and contribute to the formation of sarcoidosis.
“Immune cells in a healthy person are controlled, so they don’t interact too much with your own body,” Garman said. “But genes in sarcoidosis patients may be less suppressed, allowing the immune system to react against itself in damaging ways. I am looking at how this process contributes to sarcoidosis, because we are still trying to nail down the specific causes of this complex disease.”
Garman will study these interactions on a cell-by-cell basis at 5,000 cells per individual to determine how these genes are expressed and how these cells factor into the disease.
Garman was also instrumental in the November launch of OMRF’s new Sarcoidosis Research Unit, which was created to collect sample donations from patients to work toward a better understanding of the underlying biology of the condition.
“I am incredibly grateful for this award. It provides an amazing opportunity for me to do meaningful research that can have a positive impact for people suffering from this condition,” she said.