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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

New Data From Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project Shows Lifetime Risk Of Symptomatic Osteoarthritis in Hands is Approximately 40%

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hand is a common condition that causes serious limitations in the daily activities of millions of Americans. The scientific community has statistics on the lifetime risk of developing symptomatic OA of the knee and hip. And now, thanks to the work of leading researchers, it is has data illuminating the risk of symptomatic hand OA. To learn more, click this (Link).
New Data From Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project Shows Lifetime Risk Of Symptomatic Osteoarthritis in Hands is Approximately 40% click to enlarge Kelli Allen, PhD., was one of the researchers who published new findings related to osteoarthritis of the hand.

UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC) physicians Amanda Nelson, MDKelli Allen, PhD, and Joanne Jordan, MD, MPH, were among the researchers who published the findings from data generated by an ongoing population-based study that TARC has managed for over 25 years, known as the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project.     

The findings were presented in the April, 2017 issue of the medical journal Arthritis and Rheumatology. You may read the study findings via this link.  

Articles about the study have been published in number of trade publications including Rheumatology Advisor.

The study was supported by the CDC and NIH.  


Thurston Researchers Present New Scientific Findings at the 2017 Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) World Congress

When the leading osteoarthritis (OA) thought leaders from across the globe recently gathered in Las Vegas, NV, experts from the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center were there to share insights gleaned from important new research. While speaking in venues ranging from plenary sessions to poster presentations, Thurston scientists shared finding on topics ranging from how knee shape affects OA, to studies of the genetic influences on the development of OA.
Thurston Researchers Present New Scientific Findings at the 2017 Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) World Congress click to enlarge Dr. Amanda Nelson presented at the plenary session of the 2017 Osteoarthritis Research Society International World Congress

Rheumatologist and researcher Amanda E. Nelson, MD, MSCR, was invited as one of seven OA experts to present to over 1,000 attendees at a plenary session on the most important clinical findings published in the past year.  Her summary, resulting from a systematic review of the literature published since the previous OARSI meeting, focused on key topic areas such as the incidence and prevalence of OA, advances in OA treatments, the role of obesity in OA, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS); this work will be published as an article in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage later this year.  Dr. Nelson also gave an oral presentation on her work on knee shape and OA risk.

Also making an 'invited presentation' at this year’s meeting was Richard Loeser, MD, who discussed key research findings related to the role of reactive oxygen species in osteoarthritis.  Dr. Loeser previously received the OARSI Basic Science Research award for his work on basic mechanisms driving cartilage destruction in OA and the role of aging.   

A brief summary of presentations made this year by UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center experts included:

Oral presentations:

Amanda E. Nelson, MD, MSCR.  Baseline Knee Shape Discriminates Cases Of Incident Knee Radiographic OA From Controls: A Case-Control Study Using Novel Methodology From The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project

Richard Loeser, MD.  Redox Regulation of Cell Signaling in Chondrocytes

Veronica Ulici, PhD.  Osteoarthritis Induced Destabilization Of The Medial Meniscus (DMM) Is Reduced In Germ-Free Mice

Poster presentations:

Brian Diekman, PhD.  Chondrocyte-Specific Loss Of The Branched Actin Mediator ARP2/3 Results In Growth Plate Fusion And Proteoglycan Loss In Articular Cartilage

John Collins, PhD.  Differential Peroxiredoxin Hyperoxidation Regulates Map Kinase Signaling In Human Articular Chondrocytes

Becki Cleveland, PhD.  Knee and Hip OA As Risk Factors For The Development of CVD and Diabetes In A Community-Based Longitudinal Study  

Portia Flowers, PhD.  Racial Differences In Performance-Based Function And Potential Explanatory Factors Among Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis

Rheumatologist Beth Jonas, MD, Answers Listeners' Questions About Arthritis on National Public Radio's "The People's Pharmacy"

The topic of arthritis is more complicated than it might seem, with over 100 form of this sometimes debilitating disease affecting people of all ages. To help shed light on the subject, leading rheumatologist Beth Jonas, MD, recently joined Joe and Terry Graedon to answer listener's questions on The Peoples' Pharmacy. For a link to this episode of The People's Pharmacy click here.
Rheumatologist Beth Jonas, MD, Answers Listeners' Questions About Arthritis on National Public Radio's "The People's Pharmacy" click to enlarge Beth Jonas, MD, (right) answers listeners' questions on The People's Pharmacy.

Use this link to download the People's Pharmacy episode on arthritis, featuring rheumatologist Beth Jonas, MD.  

Dr. Edwin Kim Hosts a "Food Allergies 101" Facebook Live Event

Allergist Edwin Kim, MD, recently hosted a video interview on Facebook Live to educate viewers on many topics related to food allergies. The lively and dynamic event invited people to write in their allergy related questions, which were answered by Dr. Kim. For a link to the video click here.
Dr. Edwin Kim Hosts a "Food Allergies 101" Facebook Live Event click to enlarge Dr. Edwin Kim (far right) answers emails from people with allergies via Facebook Live.

Use this link to view the video:  FacebookLive








Celebrating Excellence in Providing Care – Drs. Rivadeneira, Jerath, and Yount Receive Patient Satisfaction Award

Three researchers who are physicians with the UNC Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, as well as staff members of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC) have been recognized for outstanding patient care. Dr. Alfredo Rivadeneira, Dr. Maya Jerath and Dr. Bill Yount are recipients of the 2017 UNC Health Care and UNC Faculty Physicians Award for “Carolina Care Excellence.”

A recent UNC survey asked patients if they would recommend their provider’s office to their family and friends.  More than 95% of the responding patients of these physicians indicated “Yes, definitely!,” which places the doctors in the top quartile nationally.  In addition, Drs. Rivadeneira, Jerath and Yount are multi-year recipients of this award.   

“Our team could not have won this award without the quality care provided by our outstanding front desk staff as well as our skilled and empathetic nursing staff,” said Dr. Bill Yount, who has received the award for three consecutive years.

Congratulations to the team for creating an exceptional experience for patients, and for being exemplary in delivering high quality care combined with expertise and compassion.   

Learn more about the UNC Allergy and Immunology Clinic, the UNC Rheumatology Clinic and UNC Rheumatology Lupus clinic

*Event Rescheduled* Alpha-Gal (Red Meat Allergy) Symposium Previously Planned for April 18th Being Rescheduled For Later Date

Important Update: We have recently heard from numerous physicians who expressed an interest in learning more about alpha-gal food allergy. To provide the greatest value to attendees we are reformatting and rescheduling our patient symposium for a later date. We plan to open the patient symposium to physicians who would like to learn more about alpha-gal. In addition to hearing from patients about their experiences, we will provide education on diagnosing and treating this allergy, as well as presenting important new research findings and data for attendees. The symposium will also enable healthcare professionals to earn continuing medical education (CME) credits. More information will be forthcoming. Anyone registered for the previously planned event date will be issued a refund.
*Event Rescheduled*  Alpha-Gal (Red Meat Allergy) Symposium Previously Planned for April 18th Being Rescheduled For Later Date click to enlarge The symposium allows attendees to interact with and hear from two of the leading alpha-gal experts in the country, as well as other patients who have the allergy to red meat.

An under-recognized allergy named “alpha-gal” can cause some people who are affected to experience serious allergic reactions when they consume food or products containing meat such as beef and pork.  It is believed that the allergy sometimes develops in individuals following a tick bite.  UNC is one of a few locations in the U.S. conducting clinical research on alpha-gal, and two of its physician-researchers – Maya Jerath, MD, PhD; and Scott Commins, MD, PhD – are among the leading alpha-gal experts in the country.  Anyone interested in learning more about alpha-gal from these experts, as well as meeting others who have the allergy, are invited to attend an educational alpha-gal symposium.  Attendance requires advance registration.   

Note: The event is being reformatted and rescheduled to a later date. 

Study shows that high bone mineral density scores are associated with lower risk of painful hip osteoarthritis (OA)

Despite the growing base of data from arthritis research, there remains a lack of adequate scientific information regarding the relationship between bone mineral density and hip osteoarthritis (OA). A new study shows that while higher bone mineral density may lower the risk of painful hip OA among middle-aged and older adults followed for a median of 6.5 years, having “intermediate” (vs. “low” or “high”) bone mineral density may increase the risk of OA – including OA accompanied by symptoms – in knees. Overall, these results suggest that having high bone mineral density does not increase the risk of hip or knee OA, and may reduce the risk of painful hip OA.

The research relied, in part, on data obtained from study participants in the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project (JoCoOA), which is based in NC and is one of the largest and longest-lasting OA studies in the U.S.  JoCoOA director and principal investigator Joanne Jordan, MD, MPH, was one of the study authors for the bone mineral density research. 


The study findings were recently published in Arthritis Care & Research.  Read more about the study via This Link.

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