In the news / Immune System

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Researchers are continually faced with the daunting task of securing financial support to conduct their research. Highly competitive grants, limited opportunities, and poor availability of resources make it difficult for investigators to keep their labs afloat, much less thrive. Dr. Felicia Goodrum, professor of immunobiology and member of the BIO5 Institute, has been nominated as the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) award designed to give productive and creative scientists long-term support, without the burden of constantly devoting time and staff resources to applying for multiple new grants to fund their research.
 
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The BIO5 Institute solicited COVID-19 research proposals for seed grants supplied by the Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF).

 
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As of April 28, more than 6,500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the state of Arizona.

 
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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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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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UArizona Center for Integrative Medicine Research Director and BIO5 member Dr. Esther Sternberg writes about her tips for coping with the stresses and anxieties that come with living through a global pandemic. Chronic stress, which worsens the severity and frequency of viral infections, can be lowered by using various integrative and mind-body techniques; cultivate social support, eat healthy, move, get some sleep, keep a routine.
 
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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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University of Arizona researchers have begun using a test that can detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus in a person who has no obvious symptoms and possibly determine whether someone was once infected with COVID-19. By studying the antibodies present in a person's blood, the two lead researchers, UA immunologists Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya and Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich, hope to answer questions such as what unique antibodies are important to fight the novel coronavirus, how much of the population already had it and recovered or showed no symptoms, and whether it's possible to get reinfected with the virus.
 
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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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Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich, an internationally noted immunologist, co-director of the UArizona Center on Aging at the College of Medicine - Tucson, and BIO5 member received a $4.5 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Using the funding from this grant, his lab will study how common infectious, psychological and physical stressors affect our immunity, lifespan and the aging processes.
 
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Dr. Matt Goode, UArizona wildlife ecologist and assistant research scientist in the university’s world-renowned Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response (VIPER) Institute, shares what researchers know about when, where, and why snakes are scarce in the winter, and how climate might change their behavior.
 
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A research group at the medical-device and health care giant Abbott, has discovered a new strain of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV—the first to be identified in 19 years. Along with other researchers, BIO5 associate director and UArizona Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department head Dr. Michael Worobey, discusses what these findings mean and what they tell us about the HIV virus as a whole.
 
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In the summertime, the call of the wild demands to be answered. The usually silent slithering of a snake can ruin a day spent basking in nature, but a snake bite doesn’t have to ruin your life. Along with other leading scientists, BIO5’s VIPER Institute researchers discuss the do's and don'ts of snake bite care and prevention, as well as the science behind venomous bites.
 
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The BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship recognizes outstanding postdoctoral researchers at the University of Arizona who are engaging in multi-disciplinary research projects aligned with the foci of the BIO5 Institute. These grants are specifically designed to support and enhance the independent research goals of BIO5 postdoctoral researchers, showcase their research at a BIO5 Research Symposium via short talks and/or poster sessions, and to facilitate a “forward thinking” mindset by requiring each fellow to form a three-member mentoring committee.