The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation a five-year, $3.3 million grant to study diseases of the joints and connective tissues.
Dr. Judith James, the project's lead researcher, said the grant will allow scientists to build on existing studies in rheumatic disease, and to support and fund new pilot projects.
“Rheumatic diseases, including lupus, arthritis and Sjögren's syndrome, severely diminish the quality and length of life in patients,” James said. “This grant allows us to expand our efforts to better understand these diseases and find new ways to fight them.”
The grant will partially support the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation's new biorepository, which preserves more than 1 million patient samples taken over the last 30 years. James said the grant has allowed researchers to attract more patients and healthy controls to enroll in studies and provide samples, as well as to support a database of coded sample information, which is linked to historical samples.
Investigators can maximize the use of these samples and information to help better understand disease processes and develop novel ways to find patients at highest risk for developing a rheumatic disease, she said. It will also be useful for scientists seeking to identify pathways which could be targeted for novel treatments for patients.
A portion of the funding will also make resources available to researchers who wouldn't otherwise have access, she said.
The grant will also provide for seminars at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation with junior investigators who will discuss rheumatic disease research.
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