Translational Research: Bridging Basic Science and Patient Care

In the last decade, increasing understanding of the immune system and how it functions has fostered Marcus lab.jpgmajor advancements in how we characterize and treat autoimmune diseases in the clinic.  As progress is being made in research laboratories at UNC, the Thurston Arthritis Research Center has become a leader in bringing scientific advances directly to the clinic.  This “bench-to-bedside” approach is known as translational medicine.

In general, translational medicine seeks to bridge basic scientific discoveries made in the laboratory in the hopes of bringing new and improved treatment options to patients.  At the Thurston Arthritis Research Center, the principles of translational medicine fit perfectly into the center’s comprehensive approach of teaching, research, and clinical practice to improve the care of patients with autoimmune diseases.

Teresa K. Tarrant, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine is a Thurston investigator that embodies this mission.  Since joining the Thurston family in 2005, Dr. Tarrant has found great success treating patients with autoimmune diseases, performing bench research with translational medicine applications, and teaching our future doctors in the UNC School of Medicine.

Stephen lab 225.jpgDr. Tarrant heads a research team that seeks to understand the relationship between how white blood cells move abnormally in both inflammatory and immunodeficiency disorders.  Using biochemistry, molecular biology, and disease models, the work in her lab enhances our understanding of how the improper movement of immune cells in the body can lead to disease. Her current laboratory work focuses on a regulatory protein that may be important in the treatment of autoimmune disease.  In characterizing the regulators of this process, she hopes to identify new drug targets to treat patients who suffer from these illnesses.

Dr. Tarrant has embraced the principles of translational medicine through her work in the clinic, in the laboratory, and as a teacher.