In the news / Respiratory

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Dr. Judith Su runs the UArizona Little Sensor Lab, where researchers are working to sense tiny amounts – down to a single molecule – of everything from doping agents to biomarkers for cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Lyme disease and, yes, even COVID-19. Dr. Su, biomedical engineering and optical sciences professor and a member of the BIO5 Institute, has received a $1.82 million, five-year Maximizing Investigators' Research Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
 
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One of the most significant questions about the novel coronavirus is whether people who are infected are immune from reinfection and, if so, for how long. Drs. Deepta Bhattacharya and Janko Nikolich-Žugich, University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers and members of BIO5 Institute, determined the answer by studying the production of antibodies from a sample of nearly 6,000 people. Finding showed that immunity persists for at least several months after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
 
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A new study by the University of Arizona is looking into COVID-19 immunity, which includes how long it will last and if you can get it more than once. Dr. Jeff Burgess, UArizona Associate Dean of Research and BIO5 member, along with other researchers said just because you've had COVID-19, doesn't mean you're in the clear. According to the CDC, there are no confirmed to date of a person being reinfected with COVID-19 within three months of initial infection. The CDC also said, if a person has recovered and has new symptoms the person may need an evaluation for re-infection.
 
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Sinus infections are one of the most common illnesses, so identifying the progression of the common cold to chronic disease lasting longer than 12 weeks is critical in creating therapies that slow the development of a disease affecting nearly 12% of U.S. adults each year. A group lead by Dr. Eugene Chang, vice chair and associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the UArizona College of Medicine, was awarded $2.24 million to study a protein in the respiratory tract with a genetic variation strongly associated with these ailments.
 
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Dr. John Galgiani, head of UArizona’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence and BIO5 member, is heading up vaccine research at the center and is working on a vaccine shown to prevent valley fever in mice. Dr. Galgiani discusses the vaccine’s progress and the different hurdles valley fever researchers face in developing a viable vaccine for humans.
 
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Since the University of Arizona opened its doors, more than 9,000 students, faculty and staff had been tested for COVID-19 and everyone on campus was wearing a mask. The school had even begun sampling its wastewater to quickly detect a potential hot spot. But the centerpiece in the school's preemptive battle against COVID-19 was the "Covid Watch" smartphone app, which uses Bluetooth technology to send an alert to someone's phone if they are exposed to the virus.
 
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Dr. Yin Chen, UArizona College of Pharmacy associate professor and BIO5 member, was awarded a $2.58 million federal grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to seek a better understanding of fungal asthma caused by exposures to environmental fungi. Dr. Chen will collaborate with fellow BIO5 members Drs. Deepta Bhattacharya, Donata Vercelli, and Fernando Martinez on this study.
 
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A respiratory-assist device (RAD) co-created by Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy, UArizona COM-T Pulmonary/Allergy division chief and BIO5 member, has been given a new use in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The device was originally developed for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients, but now Dr. Parthasarathy's team is working to get the invention to front-line workers battling COVID-19.
 
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Dr. Paloma Beamer, a UArizona associate professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and BIO5 member, discusses the risks of contracting COVID-19 through air travel and the precautions and steps you can take to prevent contracting the virus. Dr. Beamer believes it is important to assess the necessity of the trip before deciding to fly and recommends rescheduling if possible. Dr. Beamer also gives tips for safety and cleanliness for those that cannot avoid air-travel.
 
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A new analysis, led by UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology head and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Worobey, indicates that the first COVID-19 outbreak began around February 13th, weeks later than the previously assumed timeline of the outbreak beginning in mid-January. The study provides reason for optimism: It suggests that if COVID-19 cases can be brought down to very low numbers, it’s possible to use techniques such as contact tracing to keep an outbreak under control.
 
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The UArizona College of Pharmacy's scientists, labs and alumni are partnering with pharmaceutical companies, working in hospital emergency departments, and helping the public get the medication they need as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this effort are BIO5 members Drs. Jun Wang and Chris Hulme, both of which have shifted their research foci toward COVID-19. Dr. Wang is working on developing promising drug candidates that inhibit SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell culture, while Dr. Hulme is researching the pharmacological underpinnings of COVID-19.
 
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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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Right now, the attention of the United States and the world is focused on the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, as summer and the monsoon season approach, those in Arizona and other parts of the Southwest will have another respiratory illness to contend with – valley fever. Dr. John Galgiani, director of the UArizona Valley Fever Center and BIO5 faculty member, discusses the similarities and differences of COVID-19 and valley fever, as well as the risks of contracting both at the same time.
 
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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 Drs. Nirav Merchant and Sriram Iyengar, 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.