The Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research (FSR) has invested $1 million in its new Clinical and Research Fellowship Program. It also gave travel awards to the first authors of the top four abstracts submitted for presentation at the annual conference of the Americas Association of Sarcoidosis and Other Granulomatous Disorders (AASOG), held April 13-14 in Chicago.
The four young investigators were presented awards of $500 each through an FSR-sponsored trainee travel stipend program. They presented their work at a special “Featured Abstracts” session at the conference.
One of the travel awards went to Van Lee, PhD, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, whose presentation was titled, “IL-13-regulated M2 Polarization during Granuloma Formation in an In Vitro Human Sarcoidosis Model.”
Lee is investigating the mechanisms of sarcoidosis granuloma formation by looking specifically at the effects of macrophage polarization — a process by which macrophages (a type of immune cell) express different functional programs in response to environmental signals.
“I am currently working in Dr. Elliott Crouser’s lab with T-32 support to investigate the mechanisms of sarcoidosis granuloma formation by focusing on the effects of macrophage polarization,” Lee said in an FSR press release.
Nicholas Arger, MD, another award recipient, gave a presentation titled “High T-bet expression in peripheral T helper cells correlates with pulmonary function change in sarcoidosis.” Arger is a pulmonologist and a researcher at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).
His research is focused on immune T-cells and their role in sarcoidosis. Arger is studying transcription factors (they influence the expression of genes) that are present in patients with active vs. inactive disease.
At the meeting, Arger focused on a transcription factor called T-bet, which he found to be highly — and almost exclusively — expressed in T-cells of patients with active sarcoidosis.
According to Arger, T-cells that test positive for T-bet could be a potential blood biomarker for active inflammation in sarcoidosis patients.
Angela Mitchell, PhD, at the University of Colorado, presented a study titled “T-Cell Receptor Usage and Antigen Discovery in Löfgren’s Syndrome.” She was also one of the four recipients of the travel awards.
Löfgren’s syndrome is an acute form of sarcoidosis. Mitchell’s presentation focused on identifying a specific receptor on immune T-cells that accumulates in the lungs of these patients. The researcher is now investigating which molecules are recognized by these T-cell receptors.
“My work brings the field one step closer to determining the cause of sarcoidosis and further advances our understanding of the pathogenesis of this disease,” Mitchell said.
“The AASOG annual meeting allows for those of us in the sarcoidosis field to collectively move the research and clinical aspects forward so as to obtain a better understanding of the cause, the pathogenesis, and the treatment of the disease,” she added. “The disease itself has been known to clinicians for over 100 years, but the causative agent is still unknown.”
The final award recipient, Felipe Kazmirczak, MD, at the University of Minnesota, presented a study titled “Improved Risk Stratification of Patients with Suspected Cardiac Sarcoidosis Using Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging.”
The presentation focused on the use of cardiac MRI as a way to improve the classification of patients at risk for cardiac sarcoidosis.
The AASOG meeting is the only conference dedicated to the scientific understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of sarcoidosis and related disorders that takes place in the Americas.
The goal of the annual meeting is to present and discuss the latest research in the epidemiology of sarcoidosis and other granulomatous disorders; the immunology, gene expression and microbiome of granuloma formation and progression; and the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac sarcoidosis and other extra-pulmonary sarcoidosis conditions.