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OKLAHOMA CITY – A scientist with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation has received a more than $3 million federal grant to continue research into a rare immune disease.

The 4-year $3.2 million grant, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute will help OMRF researcher Courtney Montgomery, Ph.D., and her team determine the roles of specific immune cells associated with the disease – sarcoidosis.

OMRF says sarcoidosis is “a poorly understood disease where cells in the immune system that cause inflammation overreact and cluster together to form tiny lumps called granulomas. These granulomas can form in the eyes, liver, skin and brain and most often are found in the lungs. If too many form in a single organ, they can cause the organ to malfunction or even fail.”

Researchers say the disease can affect anyone, but disproportionately affects African Americans; reported as high as 39 in 100,000 among African Americans, versus five in 100,000 for Caucasians.

“Over the past several years, our team has led the charge to define the role of genetics in sarcoidosis,” said Montgomery. “However, there are still many unknowns at work in this complicated disease, and this funding will help us explore possible solutions to these unanswered questions.”

The disease can be deadly, taking the life of actor-comedian Bernie Mac back in 2008, and there is no cure.

“Our goal is to enroll 200 patients and match them with the same number of healthy controls—those without a sarcoidosis diagnosis,” said Montgomery. “Through this work, we hope to better characterize what exactly is going wrong in the body and discover what triggers the disease.”

For more information, call Sarcoidosis Research Unit at (405)271-2504 or toll-free at 800-605-7447 or email