In The News

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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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The UArizona Cancer Center is one of two new centers to join the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN) and has received an initial $1.4 million to advance cancer prevention and control science, with particular focus on the health needs of Hispanic cancer survivors. Dr. Cynthia A. Thomson, a professor in the UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and BIO5 member, discusses the importance of this distinction for the center's public health initiatives.
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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.
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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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Copper can kill viruses and other germs by disrupting the protective layers of the organisms and interfering with its vital processes. Believe it or not, the use of copper for health purposes dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt, and scientists today including UArizona Immunobiology assistant professor BIO5 faculty Dr. Michael D L Johnson, and are still learning about the amazing benefits of copper.
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UArizona researchers have produced additional COVID-19 test kits over the past week to be distributed to the university's campus health service, the Pima County Health Department, and potentially Banner Health. It is estimated that the university has the capacity to supply the county with 1,000 kits per week for several months, as long as money doesn't run out and there aren't any labor shortages. The additional tests come amid a significant shortage of kits nationally that has limited the ability to test patients for the virus.
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To help combat the devastating effects of opioid abuse on a regional level, several UArizona Health Sciences programs are providing education and training about opioids, addiction, and naloxone administration. Dr. Todd Vanderah, department head and professor in the UArizona COM-T Department of Pharmacology and BIO5 faculty member, discusses the importance of this type of public outreach and research and how this is key to decreasing the stigma of addiction.
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Dr. Felicia Goodrum Sterling, Immunobiology professor with UArizona College of Medicine-Tucson and BIO5 faculty, discusses the COVID -19 epidemic including our ability and responsibility to protect our community and those most vulnerable. Relatively simple non-pharmaceutical interventions have been effective in limiting infectious disease. These include: washing your hands, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, disinfecting common areas and surfaces, and social distancing (e.g. avoiding handshakes).
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Dr. Michael Worobey, head of the UArizona Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and BIO5 associate director, looks at the history of viruses and pandemics and how we can model forest fire scouting and suppression techniques in our virus monitoring systems. Dr. Worobey once worked as a forest firefighter and believes that the monitoring systems used in fire prevention would be easy, albeit costly up front, to mirror in routine global monitoring systems for influenza and other diseases.
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A UArizona physicist is hoping a $1.1 million award will allow him to modify an already sophisticated microscope that will enable him to photograph electrons in motion, something no one has ever done. Dr. Mohammed Hassan, UArizona assistant professor of physics, optical sciences, and BIO5 member, was recently awarded the grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, based in Los Angeles.
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NASA recently funded two UArizona teams to search for water and grow food in space.  Led by researchers in the College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the missions focus on harvesting water from the lunar surface and improving techniques for microgravity crop producti

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The Science City lineup is designed to ignite the senses and inspire the minds of tens of thousands of visitors from across the United States. Organized into thematic neighborhoods and interactive spaces, Science City immerses guests in the wonder of science through over 100 hands-on learning activities, laboratory tours, and exciting science demonstrations, as well as public friendly talks by renowned science authors and researchers. The Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB) is the third largest book festival in the country, and the only one with a focus on science
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New research led by researchers from the BIO5 Institute’s Center for Insect Science shows that crustaceans such as shrimps, lobsters, and crabs, have more in common with their insect relatives than previously thought when it comes to the structure of their brains. Both insects and crustaceans possess mushroom-shaped brain structures known in insects to be required for learning, memory and possibly negotiating complex, three-dimensional environments.
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Dr. Betül Kaçar is an astrobiologist and molecular biologist with research interests in the origins of life, ancient biological innovations, and finding life on other planets. She speaks to the importance of science, and how it provides her with a means to chase her dreams. Dr. Kaçar has been recently admitted to NASA’s team exploring traces of life in the Universe.
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The UArizona College of Pharmacy’s new Arizona Center for Drug Discovery (ACDD) is co-Directed by Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology professor and BIO5 researcher, Dr. Wei Wang. Dr. Wang promises to energize the drug discovery process across campus by helping UArizona drug researchers with drug discovery — early-stage efforts to narrow down candidate drug compounds — and connecting them with partners in the pharmaceutical industry.