The UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center’s Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC)

A dynamic hub for innovative research into the causes, implications, and most effective interventions related to osteoarthritis.

MCRC Wheel
One objective of the MCRC is to help identify best practices for communities to reduce the impact of osteoarthritis.
Chronic diseases are not just problems for individuals…they are also public health problems with far reaching implications for society.  And when it comes to chronic diseases, one of the most significant is osteoarthritis (OA) – a leading cause of disability among older adults.1 

More than 30 million Americans are affected by osteoarthritis.  According to the US Bone and Joint Initiative, 33% of reported lost work days for medical conditions was due to arthritis-related conditions.  Medical expenditures attributed to OA cost over $62 billion each year between 2008-2011.2  Unfortunately, this already serious public health issue is expected to steadily worsen with the increasing size of our aging population as well as the increasing population of overweight individuals.

To mitigate the public health impact of osteoarthritis, in 2013 the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded a $5.6 million grant to the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center in order to create an innovative Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC).

Led by Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, Director; and Richard F. Loeser, Jr., MD, Associate Director, the MCRC is focused on three core objectives: 

1)   Understanding the primary causes associated with the development of OA and its impact on people with the disease.
2)   Identifying crucial best practices that can be adopted by communities throughout the U.S. in order to help prevent the occurrence and progression of OA symptoms, including disability.
3)   Transforming the nature of the already leading OA research within the University of North Carolina to make it a dynamic hub for innovation and collaboration focused on reducing the incidence and impact of OA throughout the US.

Utilizing an integrated approach...

MCRC Hub
The MCRC serves as a nexus for multidisciplinary collaboration related to osteoarthritis research.
These are ambitious objectives, but as the most comprehensive OA research center in the US, the MCRC particularly is well suited to continue aggressively pursuing the following four action-oriented goals: 

  • Conduct rigorous interdisciplinary OA translational (laboratory-based) research as well as clinical research encompassing epidemiologic, biomechanical and social/behavioral approaches. 
  • Better understand the role of factors such as ‘partner or significant-other support’ in relation to OA patients’ physical activity levels.  Also, study biomarkers and biomechanics associated with injury-related OA to gain important new insights regarding this disease.
  • Provide additional training for investigators involved in the development of emerging research related to OA (and related conditions) that may be suitable for additional funding and exploration.
  • Serve as a vital and dynamic research hub and nexus for collaborating multidisciplinary research entities related to OA and related musculoskeletal diseases.

To help it achieve these goals, the MCRC draws upon the broad resources of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance, as well as the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Research Project.  

Finding Solutions that (really) work

The MCRC is motivated by an important call-to-action named A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis.  It is the product of a mandate from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arthritis Foundation (AF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the research and public health communities to develop and launch a public health initiative to mitigate the impending OA crisis.  A key strategy targets the need to understand how to increase the utilization of effective interventions for OA and OA prevention, such as weight control, avoidance of joint injuries, increased physical activity, and self-management education.  While the scientific community has demonstrated and documented the benefits of these approaches, little is known regarding the best ways to foster the actual uptake of these important behaviors, especially over the long term.

 

  1. Barbour KE, Helmick CG, Boring M, Brady TJ. Vital Signs: Prevalence of Doctor-Diagnosed Arthritis and Arthritis-Attributable Activity Limitation — United States, 2013–2015. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:246–253. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6609e1.
  2. United States Bone and Joint Initiative: The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States (BMUS), Third Edition, 2014. Rosemont, IL. Available at http://www.boneandjointburden.org.