Thurston scientists are leading the way in studying the cause and geographical spread of a meat allergy related to tick bites, novel ways to treat a variety food allergies, addressing barriers to immunizations, novel exercise interventions for osteoarthritis, and new tools that are important to genomics research.

Scott Commins, MD, PhD
Edwin Kim, MD

Leading the Research Effort In “Alpha-gal” Meat Allergy
TARC is one of only a few research sites in the U.S. that is studying this newly emerging and poorly understood mammalian meat allergy. TARC scientist Scott Commins, MD, PhD, is conducting basic, epidemiological, and clinical research, including identification of genetic and immunologic markers associated with this unique allergic response. He is working to shed light on alpha-gal allergy in order to better understand why the reactions occur several hours after eating red meat, and why some people experience much more severe reactions than others. The ultimate goal is to develop ways to more accurately diagnose, prevent and hopefully, one day treat the allergy.

Pursuing New Treatments for Peanut and Other Food Allergies
Edwin Kim, MD, working within the UNC Food Allergy Initiative directed by Wesley Burks, MD, continues to research novel modalities of treatment for food allergies. These include sublingual immunotherapy, oral immunotherapy, epicutaneous immunotherapy, and most recently subcutaneous immunotherapy. These treatments bring the promise of desensitization and protection against inadvertent exposures to food allergens as well as longer term potential for lasting tolerance.

Addressing Barriers to Patients With Inflammatory Diseases Receiving Critical Immunizations
TARC researchers Saira Sheikh, MD; and Millie Kwan, MD, PhD, are evaluating better ways to address under-utilization of critical vaccinations for patients with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and lupus. Their educational monograph, Vaccination in Adults with Chronic Inflammatory Conditions, was distributed nationwide to all board-certified allergists, immunologists and rheumatologists in the U.S. They are studying the success of the program to evaluate how it might be expanded to educate primary care and other specialties about the critical importance of immunizations.

Assessing Novel Exercise Interventions for Osteoarthritis
Kelli Allen, PhD, and other TARC researchers are conducting a large trial comparing the effectiveness of physical therapy and internet-based exercise training for individuals with knee OA. Yvonne Golightly, PhD, worked with colleagues on a recent pilot study which examined the use of the physical therapist-led Otago Exercise Program and the national Walk With Ease program to reduce the risk of falls in individuals with OA. Golightly and Abbie Smith-Ryan, PhD, will launch a new study this year to examine High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as a new physical therapy approach for managing knee OA.

Conducting New Genomics Research
Thanks to a grant from the NIH, Doug Phanstiel, PhD, and his TARC colleagues are conducting research focused on developing new tools to identify DNA loops and applying them to study the role that these loops play in immune response and inflammation. DNA loops are structures that bring regulatory regions of DNA – which are often hundreds of thousands of base pairs away from the closest gene – into close physical proximity of gene promoters, allowing for regulation of gene transcription.

TARC Scientists Present New Data: At the 2016 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals, TARC researchers presented numerous new findings, leading six separate scientific presentations and workshops, and presenting 10 poster sessions with topics ranging from functional genomic screening to social influences in rheumatic diseases.