In the news / Precision Medicine

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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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To address the critical need of local COVID-19 data, a collaboration of researchers from UArizona Health Sciences & The Data Science Institute including BIO5’s Nirav Merchant, launched a 2-way texting system to gather valuable info to track the virus in Arizona. The application will assist with identifying areas where resources are needed.
 
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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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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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Regents Professor Emeritus and UArizona CBC faculty Dr. Victor Hruby, is one of two university academics being honored as National Academy of Inventors Fellows, the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors. Known as a world leader in peptide research as it relates to health, disease and human behavior, Dr. Hruby holds more than 50 issued patents, and is dedicated to answering challenging research questions and then translating those discoveries to the public via intellectual property protection and commercial pathways.
 
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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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Acoustoelectric cardiac imaging, a new, noninvasive cardiac imaging technology developed at the University of Arizona, has been licensed to startup ElectroSonix. Dr. Russell Witte, BIO5 faculty and Medical Imaging professor at the UArizona College of Medicine-Tucson, developed the patented technology that provides improvements over current cardiac imaging technologies such as electroanatomical mapping, which provides low-resolution images that make it difficult to pinpoint the exact location of cardiac arrhythmias.
 
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UArizona researchers led by Dr. Nicholas Delamere, professor and head of the Department of Physiology at UA COM-T, are studying potential reasons behind pressure build up in the eye, that may help us understand and develop future treatments for glaucoma and other diseases.
 
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Dr. Jennifer Barton, University of Arizona professor of biomedical engineering and director of the BIO5 Institute, has been appointed to the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of the National Institutes of Health. The council advises the leadership of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, or NIBIB, on policies and priorities related to research, training and health information dissemination in the areas of biomedical imaging and engineering.
 
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Our genes can have the effect of increasing our risk for certain diseases, or at it turns out, sometimes they can protect us from them. This has turned out to be the case with a Colombian woman in her 70s who should have developed Alzheimer’s disease by her mid-40s, but has an identified a mutation in her genes that is keeping her from not experiencing dementia.
 
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To better understand biological processes, researchers at the University of Arizona have developed new materials for detecting radioisotopes that provide faster and higher resolution results than today’s generally accepted methods. These materials were developed by a team of researchers including the BIO5 Institute's Dr. Craig Aspinwall professor in the UA Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, and also a member of the Cancer Center and Sarver Heart Center at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson.
 
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Dr. Louise Hecker, research lead for a College of Medicine – Tucson lab studying highly selective Nox4 small molecule inhibitors for the treatment of fibrotic disorders, was selected to receive the Innovator of the Year Award in the academia category at the annual Governor's Celebration of Innovation Awards.
 
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A study done by UA COM-Phoenix researchers, including Basic Medical Sciences associate professor and BIO5 member Dr. Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, have discovered a function in a pro-inflammatory protein that could play an important part in improving current and future therapeutics for the herpes virus. The aim of the research is to better understand important underlying immune mechanisms in the female reproductive tract to improve women’s health.
 
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Because of routine PSA testing in older men, cancers that might have gone undetected without ever causing health problems were identified and treated. Dr. Richard Ablin, the pioneer who discovered PSA recognizes some variables to prostate cancer screening that require close attention when evaluating men
 
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An easy-to-use, self-administered blood test that quickly could evaluate a person’s radiation exposure would help triage emergency medical treatment in the event of a radiological or nuclear event. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services long has sought ways to monitor a population’s radiation