In the news / Respiratory

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

 
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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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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 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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At least two independent research teams in the United States are developing technology to measure how much COVID-19 is in sewage water to help track how the virus spreads. One of those teams is led by Dr.

 
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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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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the world are running short on personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators – masks that, unlike surgical masks, fit tightly around the face and are capable of filtering out 95% of airborne particles. A group of UArizona researchers, including Dr. Doug Loy, a Department of Materials Science and Engineering professor and BIO5 member, is responding to the shortage by designing, 3D printing, and testing masks for health care workers.