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Kelli Allen, PhD, Is Among the Leading Researchers Involved in Innovative Studies of Pain Management Interventions for Members of the Military and Veterans

Members of the military and veterans are disproportionally affected by pain, and the government is searching for ways to help them deal with this widespread and growing problem. New research being conducted thanks to multiple grants recently awarded by DHHS, the Department of Defense, and the VA will help investigate the feasibility, safety and effectiveness for a number of non-drug approaches for pain management and related conditions. (More…)

Among the types of approaches being studied are mindfulness/meditation, movement interventions such as yoga and tai chi, massage, acupuncture, and cognitive behavior therapy.  Dr. Allen is part of a collaborative team that includes investigators at the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs in Durham, NC, as well as Duke University's School of Medicine, with a project aimed at improving access to appropriate non-pharmacological therapies for veterans with back pain. 

"Collectively, this research has the potential to help define which types of non-drug pain interventions can make the greatest difference for the millions of veterans and members of the military whose quality of life has been impacted by chronic pain,” said Dr. Allen, who is a Research Professor of Medicine and faculty member at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center.  Additional information about the research involved in this initiative is available via this news release.

Lupus Patients Have the Option to Administer the Medication Benlysta Themselves at Home, Thanks in Part to the Efforts of Dr. Saira Sheikh

Lupus patients who previously needed to visit an infusion center to receive the drug Benlysta, now have the option to administer the medicine themselves at home using a novel "auto-injector" device, thanks in part to the efforts of Dr. Saira Sheikh, who is a rheumatologist and allergist/immunologist at UNC, and who also directs the Lupus and Clinical trials programs at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center. (More...)

Dr. Sheikh was recently invited to share her expertise during an educational session at the live national broadcast of the launch of the subcutaneous Benlysta auto-injector, in which she discussed day-to-day challenges faced by lupus patients, therapeutic approaches in lupus, and the Benlysta auto-injector clinical trial. Dr Sheikh was Principal Investigator on the clinical trial and first author on the research paper ( outlining the patient experience with the auto-injector device.   

Dr. Scott Commins Discusses Alpha-Gal Meat Allergy in New Podcast

Dr. Scott Commins describes alpha-gal allergy, which scientists believe is triggered by a tick bite and can cause an allergic reaction to red meat. Dr. Commins talks about the symptoms of a reaction, how a person can be tested for the allergy, and changes in diet recommended for patients who have alpha-gal. (More...)

Dr. Scott Commins, a leading expert on this unusual allergy, is an Associate Professor of Medicine in UNC's Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, and a faculty member of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center. You can listen to his podcast by clicking this link:



Arthritis Foundation Spotlights Dr. Richard Loeser's Research Into the Potential Role of "Gut Bacteria" in Osteoarthritis

We know that different factors such as aging and injury can have an impact on whether or not a person develops osteoarthritis, as well as the progression of their disease. But could the composition of the bacteria in a person’s “gut” have an impact as well? (More...)

Innovative research being conducted by Richard Loeser, MD, and his team are exploring the differences in the collection of gut bacteria (sometimes referred to as the ‘microbiome’) of overweight and obese people who have osteoarthritis compared with those do not have the disease.  An article recently posted by the Arthritis Foundation provides additional information regarding this intriguing research.  Click this LINK to read the article.  

Dr. Joanne Jordan Receives American Medical Association’s (AMA) “Inspirational Physician” Award

Each year the AMA’s Women Physicians Section honors outstanding doctors who are recognized for having offered their time, wisdom and support to advance women with careers in medicine. Dr. Joanne Jordan was selected as a recipient of the 2017 “Inspirational Physician” Award, which serves as a platform to showcase the accomplishments of women physicians, and highlights advocacy needs related to professional concerns of women physicians and health issues affecting women patients.

"Dr. Jordan has been an invaluable mentor to trainees at many levels, including medical students, fellows, graduate students, and junior faculty in a variety of health-related fields,” said Dr. Amanda Nelson, who nominated Dr. Jordan.  "She is an ideal role model for women physicians, and could not be more deserving of this award."

Dr. Jordan is the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine at UNC, as well as Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development, and an adjunct professor of epidemiology.  

The UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center Receives $4M in NIH Funding to Continue Researching the Mechanisms Responsible for Cartilage Destruction in Osteoarthritis

Dr. Richard Loeser, a rheumatologist and investigator who heads the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, has been awarded grants totaling $4 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for two osteoarthritis projects.
The UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center Receives $4M in NIH Funding to Continue Researching the Mechanisms Responsible for Cartilage Destruction in Osteoarthritis click to enlarge Richard Loeser, Jr., MD, is director of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Herman and Louise Smith Distinguished Professor in the division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology

Dr. Richard Loeser, a rheumatologist and investigator who heads the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center, has been awarded grants totaling $4 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for two projects focused on improving our understanding of the basic mechanisms responsible for cartilage destruction in people with osteoarthritis.  These projects seek to discover new targets for therapies that will stop the production of inflammatory factors and enzymes that degrade cartilage in patients with osteoarthritis.  The awards will fund the continuation of this research for an additional five years.

Part of the research focuses on improving scientists’ understanding of the signals within cells responsible for activating these destructive processes.  The “Integrin Function in Cartilage” project explores how damage to the matrix surrounding cartilage cells (called chondrocytes) stimulates signals from cell receptors (called integrins), which then utilize reactive oxygen species (free radicals) to regulate the activity of the signalling pathways.  The project includes a collaboration with Dr. Cathy Carlson at the University of Minnesota. 

A related project, named “Oxidative Stress and the Development of Osteoarthritis,” considers how an increase in the reactive oxygen species within cartilage cells during the aging process can alter signals that control cartilage breakdown and chondrocyte survival.  This project includes a collaboration with investigators at Wake Forest School of Medicine, the University of Minnesota, and Rush Medical College. 

“Osteoarthritis is the number one cause of disability among older adults,” said Dr. Loeser, Herman and Louise Smith Distinguished Professor in the division of rheumatology, allergy and immunology.  “We are particularly pleased to have the opportunity to continue this research because at the current time we lack any treatment that can slow or stop the progression of this common condition that affects over 30 million Americans.”

WUNC Public Radio Interviews Dr. Scott Commins Regarding Poorly Understood "Alpha-gal" Meat Allergy

UNC is one of only several locations in the United States that is conducting clinical studies of a meat allergy some people develop after being bitten by a tick. Dr. Scott Commins, a researcher and leading expert on this unusual food allergy, was recently interviewed by WUNC Public Radio to help increase public awareness for an increasingly common health condition that too often goes undiagnosed.

To hear the interview and learn more about alpha-gal meat allergy, click this Link

Dr. Scott Commins Interviewed by USA Today Regarding Meat Allergy Believed to be Related to Tick Bites

Scientists are working hard to learn more about a little-known meat allergy that can appear suddenly among people with no previous history, and is believed to be related to tick bites. The allergy -- known as alpha-gal -- can sometimes go undiagnosed for months or even years, because it does not behave like other food allergies. UNC is one of a handful of institutions in the U.S. that are conducting clinical studies related to alpha-gal. Dr. Scott Commins, who is one of the first scientists to study this allergy was recently interviewed by USA Today. Read on to learn more...


To read Dr. Commins' interview and better understand alpha-gal meat allergy, use this link:

UNC Department of Medicine Announces Leadership Advancements and Transitions

Ronald Falk, MD, Chair of UNC’s Department of Medicine has announced that Beth L. Jonas, MD, will lead the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology. Leadership transitions for the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center have also been announced, made by Wesley Burks, MD, Executive Dean for UNC’s School of Medicine.

Ronald Falk, MD, Chair of UNC’s Department of Medicine has announced that Beth L. Jonas, MD, Director of UNC’s Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program will serve as Interim Chief for the Division.

“It gives me great pleasure to recognize that Dr. Beth Jonas, a consummate clinician educator with a passion for nurturing and developing physicians, will serve as interim chief for the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology,” said Dr. Falk. “Dr. Jonas has been intimately involved in the education of our fellows and medical residents and recognized for her role in developing our medical student curriculum. I know that she will serve the division well.” 

Dr. Jonas graduated medical school from State University of New York--Upstate Medical University, and came to UNC in 1998 as an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Orthopedics. In 2001, she became Director of the Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program. In 2011, she became an Associate Professor of Medicine and has been highly involved in teaching rheumatology to learners at all levels, from undergraduate medical students to rheumatology fellows. Dr. Jonas has clinical interests in the evaluation and management of patients with inflammatory arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and enteropathic arthritis. Effective July 1, 2017, Dr. Jonas will lead the division and its academic initiatives, overseeing the diagnostic and clinical care of its patients.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to work with all of my colleagues in the division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, where we will continue to provide excellent care to our patients with complex rheumatologic and immunologic diseases,” said Dr. Jonas. “And I remain committed to assuring that our division remains a great place to learn and practice the science and art of Rheumatology and Allergy/Immunology.”

Dr. Falk expressed his appreciation to Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH, Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine, for fostering the continued growth of her division and the Thurston Arthritis Research Center over the past decade, as she transitions to Vice-Dean in the Office of Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development where she has served as Executive Associate Dean for the past two years.

Leadership changes for the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center were announced by Dr. Wesley Burks, Executive Dean for the School of Medicine.

Richard F. Loeser, Jr., MD, Herman and Louise Smith Distinguished Professor of Medicine, has been named Director of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center.  Dr. Loeser was previously the Center’s Director of Basic and Translational Research. Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine, has been appointed Associate Director for the Center. She is currently the Center’s Director of Community and Outcomes Research.

“This is an exciting time to work with the very talented investigators in our Center,” said Dr. Loeser.  “Thanks to the depth and breadth of our group’s expertise, we are particularly well positioned to pursue innovative new treatments for patients with rheumatologic, allergic and immunologic diseases.” 

In her role as Associate Director of the Center, Dr. Callahan will continue to mentor researchers and expand the Center’s capabilities for studying the impact of disease on patients, communities, and policy, as well as disseminate evidence-based interventions to treat arthritis and other rheumatologic conditions.

Leigh Callahan, PhD, Conducts Radio Interview Regarding Arthritis Clinical Trial in N.C.

Medical research conducted in controlled environments has repeatedly proven that weight loss and exercise can offer significant benefits such as pain reduction for many people with osteoarthritis (OA), including knee OA. But researchers want to know more about how well these kinds of programs work (and can be optimized) in “real world,” community settings. Arthritis researcher Leigh Callahan, PhD, with the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center is leading a clinical trial in Johnston, Forsythe and Haywood Counties in NC. To learn more, click this (Link).

She recently participated in an interview on WTSB Radio, in which she discussed the WE-CAN (Weigh loss and Exercise for Communities with Arthritis in North Carolina) clinical trial, which is currently enrolling participants.

If you are interested in learning more about potentially enrolling in this study, call 919.989.8003 or visit this website. You can also learn more about the study by listening to Dr. Callahan's radio interview (Below).

Johnston Health Talk

Recorded May 2017 | Length: 17:00

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