Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoman
Scientists at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation will expand their studies of Sjögren’s syndrome after securing a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
The foundation’s Darise Farris, Ph.D., will serve as the principal investigator on the five-year grant. The project will focus on comparing certain immune cells in patients with Sjögren’s to those of healthy controls. In Sjögren’s, immune cells attack moisture producing glands, leading to painful dryness and decreased ability to produce tears or saliva. Common symptoms include severe dry eyes and dry mouth, as well as fatigue, arthritis and memory problems.Farris is focused on identifying the proteins that cause the abnormal autoimmune response in the glands that produce tears and saliva.
“We know that Sjögren’s selectively attacks these glands, but nobody understands why those glands are targeted,” Farris said in a statement. “By studying the differences in people with and without Sjögren’s, we hope to determine why the disease attacks the salivary glands like it’s an infection.
“We think inflammation is causing some symptoms, but we also want to know what is causing such chronic inflammation,” Farris said. If successful, the work could lead to new therapeutic targets for the disease, which may affect as many as 4 million Americans. There is no known cure and current treatments only address symptoms, not the root cause. The new grant represents the continuation of work that Farris began with foundation colleague Kathy Sivils, Ph.D.