$2.14 Million Grant Funds Sjögren’s Research



The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has awarded Umesh S. Deshmukh, PhD, of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) a 5-year, $2.14 million grant to investigate the origins and development of Sjögren’s syndrome.

“While there is currently no known cause for Sjögren’s, certain genes are shown to put individuals at an elevated risk,” said Deshmukh. “However, a triggering mechanism must be present, and I am looking at ways infectious biological agents might trigger the disease.”

According to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation, 4 million people in the United States suffer from the disease, and 9 out of 10 patients are women. It also often goes undiagnosed for several years. The OMRF’s research, then, could help develop better diagnostics and treatment.

Deshmukh and his team have been investigating how a certain group of autoantibodies that recognize multiple self-proteins cause salivary gland dysfunction and dry mouth. They also have been researching how oral infections influence autoimmunity.

With this grant, Deshmukh and his colleagues will experiment on mouse models and on a large collection of patient samples from the Oklahoma Sjögren’s Syndrome Center of Research Translation.

“This is truly a unique study, because it integrates mouse research with human clinical research,” said Deshmukh. “This is one reason for the excitement around the project, and it is only possible because of the resources available at OMRF.”

“Dr. Deshmukh is a rising star, and the extremely high ranking he received on this grant is proof of that fact,” said OMRF vice president of research Paul Kincade, PhD. “It’s clear that the research he’s conducting will provide necessary understanding to make progress with Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation and other debilitating conditions.”

“By investigating basic mechanisms for how Sjögren’s is triggered, we hope the discoveries will lead to therapies toward preventing dryness,” said Deshmukh. “It could also be used to develop new biomarkers, the substances that indicate the presence of disease, in humans.”

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