In the news / Health and Food Safety

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The designation of Regents Professor is an honored position reserved for faculty scholars of exceptional ability who have achieved national or international distinction. Dr. Ian Pepper joins 5 other UArizona researchers recognized in 2021. In addition to this honor, Dr. Pepper has been inducted as a fellow by the Soil Science Society of America, the American Society of Agronomy, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Recent awards include the 2019 Extraordinary Faculty Award from the University of Arizona Alumni Association and the 2020 Graduate Teaching and Mentoring Award from the University of Arizona Graduate College.
 
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The third annual BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship, this year awarded to eight outstanding postdoctoral researchers, grants financial support and facilitates guidance to enrich research and career growth.
 
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UArizona Health Sciences professor and BIO5 member Dr. Cynthia Thomson, recently helped update the American Cancer Society's guidelines on cancer prevention lifestyle habits that could save lives. These guidelines cover the simple yet meaningful ways in which diet and physical activity can help people reduce their personal risks for developing cancer.
 
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After she and nine family members were infected with SARS-CoV-2 during a family vacation, Jennifer Uhrlaub now advocates for the importance of wearing a mask and social distancing not only in public, but also around those close to us.
 
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The BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship provided Jennifer Lising Roxas with a steppingstone to attain a two-year USDA fellowship award that funds her salary, research and travel to professional development opportunities.
 
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A team of engineers and scientists is developing a solar-powered desalination system to recover water from concentrated waste streams with maximum efficiency. The team is conducting research using the Optical Sciences Center solar testbed.
 
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Joyce Schroeder and Kristen Pogreba-Brown are lending their unique expertise and collaborative approach to mitigate the risk of returning to campus this fall.
 
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The University of Arizona will soon begin analyzing blood samples from hundreds of thousands of Arizonans to determine who has been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and developed antibodies against it. The first phase of testing will begin April 30 in Pima County and will include 3,000 health care workers and first responders.
 
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BIO5 connects and mobilizes hundreds of world-class researchers to develop creative solutions for complex challenges such as disease, hunger, water and food safety, and other health issues facing Arizona and the world. This interdisciplinary approach from BIO5 researchers, including Drs. Jennifer Barton, Judith Su, and DK Kang, has resulted in disease prevention strategies and promising new therapies, innovative diagnostics and devices, and improved food crops.
 
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Along with a fellow virologist, Dr. Felicia Goodrum, a UArizona Immunobiologist and BIO5 member, discusses the logic of continuing U.S. and state mandated shelter in place orders to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Goodrum gives her recommendations for moving forward and her belief that as a nation, we must work to marshal protective resources, public health monitoring, and strong scientific and political leadership as we navigate this new normal.
 
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With $3.5 million in funding from the state, the University of Arizona is moving forward with plans to start producing blood tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies for the Arizona’s front-line workforce. The antibody tests build upon the work of UArizona Health Sciences researchers and BIO5 Institute members Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, professor and head of the Department of Immunobiology, and Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya, associate professor of immunobiology. The tests will help determine how many people have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have successfully built an immunity against it. Experts say as many as 50% of people who have been exposed to COVID-19 have experienced few to no symptoms of the disease.
 
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We all do better when we work together. Using cutting edge technology and big data analysis, the newly formed Arizona COVID-19 Genomics Union (ACGU) will track the virus’ evolution and transmission. Co-founded by UArizona Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology head and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Worobey, the cross-university collaboration between NAU, TGen and UArizona is another example of how our combined strength will provide solutions to better Arizona.
 
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A team of UArizona Health Sciences researchers is studying whether or not certain copper-based chemical compounds could potentially stop the virus that causes COVID-19 dead in its tracks. The lab of Dr. Michael Johnson uses chemical compounds that deliver copper to disease-causing bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae and MRSA. The copper kills them. Building on the new COVID-19 findings, Dr. Johnson elicited the help of additional UArizona researchers including Drs. Koenraad Van Doorslaer, Wei Wang, and Elisa Tomat, to assist in the study as to whether or not these same compounds could block SARS-CoV-2 from even entering human cells or hinder their ability to replicate once they do.
 
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Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson have invented a new respiratory-assist device, or RAD, that provides fast, safe relief to those who experience difficulty breathing. Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, professor of medicine and chief of the UArizona Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and Dr. Marvin Slepian, Regents Professor of Medicine and director of the UArizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation, created the new device: a small-scale, low-pressure heliox rebreathing system that simultaneously removes carbon dioxide while appropriately adjusting for humidity as it recirculates gasses in a closed system. To battle one of the major complications of COVID-19, inflammation in the respiratory tract and lungs that can lead to life-threatening pneumonia, the fast and safe application of a RAD can make the difference between life and death.
 
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Lo Que Pasa spoke with University experts, including Dr. Melanie Hingle, a UArizona Department of Nutrition associate professor and BIO5 member, about nutrition, fitness and mindfulness, and asked their advice on how to stay on top of each as the coronavirus upends many routine aspects of daily life. Maintaining mental and physical health during a pandemic can seem very challenging, but is a very important step to take. Dr. Hingle gives a look into her pantry and shares her tips for keeping a healthy diet while staying at home.
 
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Researchers in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are working to produce much-needed hand sanitizer for health care workers in Southern Arizona hospitals. “With the goal of keeping our laboratory personnel safe, and also to do our part in ‘flattening the curve,’ we rapidly scaled down our ongoing research projects on bacterial infectious diseases,” said Gayatri Vedantam, an associate professor in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences and a BIO5 Institute member. “At the same time, our entire group came to the realization that stepping back was not aligned with what we do as scientists.”
 
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UArizona researchers and staff at all levels are working to assemble COVID-19 collection kits. Led by Dr. David T Harris, Arizona Health Sciences Biorepository executive director, UArizona Department of Immunobiology professor, and BIO5 faculty member, research staff had begun producing the kits over the weekend, ultimately assembling more than 1,600 kits. Dr. Harris said that while assembling the collection kits is fairly easy, it's finding the materials for those kits that's the difficult part. Despite already making nearly 2,000 of these collection kits over the weekend, Dr. Harris said staff aim to assemble 10,000 over the next two weeks.
 
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As marijuana use continues to become more common, additional research is needed to identify all of the health effects for both mother and child, as well as to identify ways to help women abstain from marijuana use during pregnancy. A new study led by Dr. Alicia Allen, assistant professor with the UArizona College of Medicine-Tucson and BIO5 member, has found that women who experience more stressful life events in the year before childbirth have greater odds of marijuana use before and during pregnancy. This is the first study looking at more recent stressful events, such as having a sick family member, financial problems or domestic problems, with the ultimate aim to identifying effective interventions to reduce marijuana use during the perinatal period.