Cha Receives $950,000 NIH Award for Sjogren’s Syndrome Research

Dr. Seunghee Cha.

Seunghee Cha, D.D.S., Ph.D., a professor of oral and maxillofacial diagnostic sciences, received funding from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, or NIH NIDCR, for her research project, “Targeting P2 Receptors to Restore Salivary and Lacrimal Gland Function in Sjögren’s Syndrome.” Sjögren’s syndrome is a salivary gland disease that causes loss of saliva secretion.

The five-year, $954,857 award funds research that investigate the pathogenesis of Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune condition that mainly affects the salivary and lachrymal glands in patients. Chronic inflammation is common across many human autoimmune diseases and occurs when immune cells, or alarmins, persistently infiltrate diseased or damaged tissue. Among these alarmins is extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphate, or ATP, which induces inflammatory responses through: the activation of P2X7 receptors; activation of ATP-gated ion channels that induce interleukin-1β release; apoptosis; G protein-coupled P2Y2 receptor upregulation; and through cytokine release.

Working with a research team at the University of Missouri led by Gary Weisman, Ph.D., Cha will test the efficacy of P2 receptor antagonists. In addition, the roles of self-nucleic acids in innate immune activation are being investigated with grants from the Sjögren’s Foundation, Mitobridge Inc., and the NIH NIDCR and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.