OMRF receives $2.8 million grantPublished: Wednesday, August 29, 2018 By: Journal Record Staff Source: The Journal Record
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Bob Axtell, Ph.D., has received a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study a rare autoimmune disease called neuromyelitis optica, or NMO.
The grant, awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will provide Axtell with $2.8 million to study NMO and investigate its similarities to other autoimmune diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis. Another primary focus will be to study why medications for multiple sclerosis, namely interferon beta, actually make NMO symptoms worse.
NMO, like all autoimmune diseases, occurs when the immune system attacks its own healthy tissues as if they were harmful invaders. In NMO, the body primarily attacks the optic nerves and spinal cord, resulting in inflammation that can cause severe pain and vision loss. In severe instances, NMO can invade regions of the brain or the brain stem.
“NMO was initially considered a subset of multiple sclerosis and is so similar to MS that it often gets misdiagnosed,” Axtell, a scientist in OMRF’s Arthritis and Clinical Immunology Research Program, wrote in a prepared statement. “This can be devastating for patients. One of the main things we’re trying to understand is how interferon increases disease in NMO.”
The grant is funded through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.