Phoenix’s TGen joins research effort seeks to understand ‘long COVID’

Sep 17, 2021, 4:45 AM | Updated: 7:14 am
(AP Photo/Martin Mejia)...
(AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
(AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

PHOENIX — What is “long COVID” and could you be suffering from it? A new study hopes to define it.

Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) needs participants that will measure the virus’ long-term health impacts, with an emphasis on neurobehavioral effects.

“These include things like fatigue, brain fog — where you might have learning, thinking or memory problems — anxiety and depression as well,” said Matthew Huentelman, a professor in TGen’s Neurogenomics Division and head of its neurobehavioral research unit.

“And you could be experiencing some lingering sleep issues.”

The institute is also looking for Arizonans with no long-term side effects from the coronavirus for comparative purposes.

Other researchers in the nationwide, multi-year, $470-million study will examine long-term heart and lung effects, too.

“So that way, every person who joins this study, regardless of where they joined from, are contributing to the overall data sets so we can understand Long COVID.”

The National Institutes of Health is paying for the study.

TGen’s participants would range from birth to age 25. About 30% of new coronavirus cases are in children and young adults.

The hope: researchers can eventually define, treat and prevent long COVID.

Huentelman explained scientists want to “really start to put some official boundaries around these complaints and understand when we would call it Long COVID and when we wouldn’t.”

Right now, scientists rely on patients to tell them how long is too long for the coronavirus. Assessments will likely include heat and lung function testing, brain scans, memory tests and cognitive function assessments, and molecular measurements for changes in the blood.

TGen is partnering with MindCrowd and its community of 160,000 people who may have already participated in Coronavirus studies.

MindCrowd is a 10-minute online test that could help measure memory loss because of Long COVID.

A team of interdisciplinary researchers at Rhode Island’s Hasbro Children’s Hospital, NYU Langone Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Northeastern University are partnering with TGen in the NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery Initiative.

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Phoenix’s TGen joins research effort seeks to understand ‘long COVID’