OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) received a $2.6 million grant Tuesday from the National Institutes of Health that will lead to more studies on how mutations in a single gene connect to skin health.

“I think it’s very interesting and could be important,” said Dr. Lorin Olson with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

Dr. Olson is ready to get to work after receiving the grant.

“It’s super cool and exciting,” Olson said.

For roughly the past decade, his lab has studied factors that control how cells make collagen. That’s the cells that glue your organs together and make your skin and bones.

Where their study comes in is with a signal that controls the cells responsible for making collagen.

“There are rare human mutations that cause diseases,” Olson said.

In some humans, while rare, these signals can lead to two completely separate skin diseases. One signal leads to a disease called “overgrowth” the other signal leads to “accelerated aging” of tissue.

Which leaves Olson and his crew with one question.

“How do two different mutations in one gene cause very opposite outcomes in humans?” he said. “That tells us there’s something about this gene and the way it works that we don’t quite understand.”

The mutations making different signals to cause the two separate diseases is something Olson and other researchers seek to answer with this grant.

They plan to use mice in controlled settings to seek their answer.

Olson said the studies can lead to other knowledge as well.

“There’s something interesting that we should try to learn more about because it may have implications for cancer, wound healing, etc.” Olson said.

Other studies can be done on this same topic with the skeleton. However, Olson said their studies focus strictly on the skin.