University of Arizona, ASU ramping up contributions for coronavirus fight

Apr 3, 2020, 10:55 AM | Updated: 11:03 am
(University of Arizona Photo)...
(University of Arizona Photo)
(University of Arizona Photo)

PHOENIX –  Arizona State University and the University of Arizona are increasing their efforts in the fight against COVID-19.

UArizona professors of medicine have created a respiratory assist device that could help patients with coronavirus breathe easier while ASU is increasing production of COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment.

UArizona professors of medicine Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy and Dr. Marvin Slepian developed the device.

The device was originally created as an at-home breathing device for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients.

“Most systems in use today are high-pressure and high-flow,” Parthasarathy said in a press release on Thursday. “The advantage with our system is that people can comfortably wear it without feeling like air is being forced into them. It won’t make them feel claustrophobic.”

The apparatus is a small-scale, low-pressure rebreathing system. The device simultaneously removes carbon dioxide while adjusting for humidity as it recirculates gases in a closed system.

The system works by mixing helium and oxygen, a combination that has a lower density than the normal air we breathe. It  allows for gas to flow through the airways with less resistance and less work needed for breathing.

ASU is able to increase its efforts in the fight against coronavirus thanks to a $2 million donation from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

The grant will help the university test healthcare workers, first responders and infrastructure personnel, assemble test kids and manufacture personal protective equipment like face shields though a 3D printing process.

“ASU is in a unique position to scale up our testing efforts to support round-the-clock testing and analyze hundreds of samples daily,” director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute Joshua LaBaer said Monday.

“We have an urgent window right now to make an impact through testing and save lives in our community.”

LaBaer’s team has over 100 scientists, staff and students working on the project.

In two weeks, the Biodesign Institute has shifted its focus to become a certified COVID-19 testing center and is now producing 2,000 test kits per day.

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University of Arizona, ASU ramping up contributions for coronavirus fight