Locke earns grant to advance sarcoidosis research

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Researchers look at a computer screen in their lab
Locke (far left) and his research team viewing a 3D fluorescent image of their patient immune cell model.

Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Landon Locke and College of Medicine Professor Elliott Crouser, MD, have been awarded one of six Ann Theodore Foundation and Milken Institute Breakthrough Sarcoidosis Initiative (ATF-BSI) Grants for their research on sarcoidosis, a severe and sometimes life-threatening inflammatory disorder.

Sarcoidosis can impact virtually any organ within the body, though most often the lungs. The disease disproportionally affects African American women with respect to frequency and mortality, and currently there is no cure for it.

Locke’s lab seeks to better understand this rare lung disease, which results in the abnormal aggregation of immune cells throughout the body, leading to a range of challenging symptoms, including fatigue, respiratory difficulties, joint discomfort and inflammation of the eyes.

For more than 160 years, researchers have recognized that sarcoidosis induces the formation of immune cell clusters known as granulomas. However, due to the lack of accurate disease models, researchers’ understanding of how these granulomas form, persist over time, and contribute to tissue damage remains unclear.

Locke stands with his lab. From left to right: Sabahattin Bicer, Sarah Seman, Landon Locke, Jonah Mitchell
Locke with his research team. From left to right: Sabahattin Bicer, Sarah Seman, Locke and Jonah Mitchell

To address this gap, Locke and Crouser established a laboratory model that involves obtaining immune cells from sarcoidosis patients via a simple blood draw. This model enables the team of researchers to study, visualize and analyze the factors contributing to this abnormal behavior, with the aim of identifying crucial insights that can pave the way for much-needed targeted therapies to interrupt and alleviate the disease process.

With their new two-year ATF-BSI award, Locke and his team are excited to further the collective understanding of the disease using their validated model.

The Ann Theodore Foundation Breakthrough Sarcoidosis Initiative (ATF-BSI) is a competitive grants program focused on understanding the underlying biology of sarcoidosis, an immune dysregulation condition. The ATF-BSI is one of the largest investments in sarcoidosis basic science and has the potential to accelerate the speed at which new discoveries and therapies are made.

from the Department of Biomedical Engineering

Categories: ResearchAwards