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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC ECHO for MAT in rural North Carolina

UNC is creating a program to help provide Medication Assisted Treatment to rural communities in North Carolina. This initiative is part of a project to help rural physicians treat opioid use disorders, which is part of the larger opioid epidemic.

The UNC Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes for Rural Primary Care Medication Assisted Treatment is aiming to learn what is preventing rural health care providers from helping patients.

“There is both a shortage of MAT providers, especially in rural counties, and a need to support MAT providers through case-based learning, practice supports, and a collaborative community response with treatment and other social and medical supports for patients receiving MAT,” said Sherri Green, a research fellow at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research and assistant professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Green is also leading UNC ECHO, which is a three year project that is being funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Asthma symptom research

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and Marsico Lung Institute have found a protein that they believe plays a role in asthma symptoms.

The protein, SPLUNC1, was first studied in cystic fibrosis patients by researcher Robert Tarran, then his colleague Stephen Tilley started researching the protein in relation to asthma. When looking at normal and asthmatic volunteers at the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology, Tilley said they found lower levels of SPLUNC1 in the asthmatic samples.

Tarran’s lab found SPLUNC1 works to reduce airway hyper-responsiveness, a symptom of asthma, by preventing calcium entry into muscles. In Tilley’s lab, researchers simulated asthma in mice and found higher SPLUNC1. The mice’s symptoms were improved when SPLUNC1 levels were restored.

The researchers said they hope to use the knowledge about the protein to engineer new therapies for asthma, something that hasn’t been done in the past decade.

Predicting autism with MRI scans

Using MRI scans, scientists were able to predict 80 percent of infants who would develop autism within the first two years of their lives. The infants all had older siblings with autism. The senior author of the study, Joseph Piven, director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, said the study could help diagnose children before behavioral signs begin around age 2. Before this study, it was impossible to predict those children at a higher risk for developing autism before the children were two years old. The research was led by the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and hundreds of children participated in the study.

The research was conducted at other sites across the country, like University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The MRI scans were given at 6, 12 and 24 months. The scans gave the researchers information about brain volume, surface area and cortical thickness. Using those factors, the scientists were able to predict which infant’s brains were overgrowing, which is linked to the development of autism.

Researchers hope they can use this information to learn more about the development of autism in the hopes that they can learn how to prevent it.

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