Learn how Thurston scientists are helping the medical community better understand diseases such as meat allergy, lupus, and osteoarthritis in new ways, thanks to cutting edge research and important new insights.

Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to work alongside scientists who are conducting cutting edge research that is literally the first of its kind? Or perhaps research that could help shape the way medicine is practiced, and which can make a dramatic difference for patients?

That’s what it’s like for me every day, in my role as Director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at UNC. In my eight years leading this wonderful team of scientists and clinicians, I can’t think of a time during which I was more excited…or more proud. Let me highlight just a few reasons why.

In this issue of our newsletter you will learn about important new research that can help patients:

  • Drs. Maya Jerath and Scott Commins are among only several investigators in the US who are actively conducting clinical research into “alpha gal,” an often serious allergy to meat that is associated with tick or chigger bites. They’re working to gain important insights so that the medical community can more accurately diagnose and hopefully someday find a way to treat this poorly understood allergy. Now that’s exciting!
  • Epidemiologist Leigh Callahan, PhD, recently achieved further international recognition for the Thurston Arthritis Research Center when she served as keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the prestigious National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine in the UK. She summarized important findings, based on our research, regarding the role of community based physical activity interventions for arthritis. Read more about her talk, as well as her leadership role in managing the activities of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance in this newsletter.
  • Important research being conducted by Drs. Barbara Vilen and Jennifer Rogers is the first to clearly identify and illuminate a specific mechanism of action involved with lupus.

Elsewhere at Thurston, other exciting developments are taking place:

  • Dr. Richard Loeser, a Thurston rheumatologist and researcher, recently published two important studies that shed new light on exactly how free radicals play a role in the development and progression of arthritis. The work provided information that is needed to design new therapies to more specifically alter the harmful effects of these free radicals.
  • Meanwhile, Thurston doctors continue to not only “talk the talk,” but “walk the walk” – quite literally. Dr. Amanda Nelson is the first US rheumatologist to lead a local chapter of a national initiative known as Walk With A Doc, which encourages people to engage in physical fitness activities such as walking. Each month, she and Thurston physicians and staff turn out for these walk-and-talk events with patients, colleagues, and anyone who wishes to join in a fun outing. At the same time, Dr. Nelson is developing very sophisticated, first of its kind computer modeling to better analyze arthritic joints such as knees, hips and ankles.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Thurston Today. Look for additional updates to come, as there’s a lot more great news that I look forward to sharing with you in the near future!

Be well,

Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH
Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine
Director, Thurston Arthritis Research Center at UNC
Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology