Sign In

COVID-19 is a bump in the road for medical research

April 7, 2020

The coronavirus is impacting every community in our nation and is being met with a fierce fight from leaders across the U.S. On the front lines of this fight are medical professionals. The focus on this virus is leaving some medical issues on the back burner for the time being.

Fred Carlson suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It is a disease without a cure. The marathon-running Green Beret now lives with a compromised immune system, a dangerous condition as COVID-19 sweeps through communities.

Carlson cannot risk visitors at this time. ALS requires a lot of treatment and care as the disease attacks his body. His wife, MaryJo, is the only one able to care for him during this pandemic, aside from helpful neighbors going on the occasional grocery run. Marley, his service dog, helps, too.

“My world has gotten smaller,” said Carlson.

All of his doctor’s appointments are canceled. New social distancing guidelines and competition for resources have created this new world for ALS patients. Carlson fears a setback in the fight to beat ALS will come as a consequence.

“It’ll definitely diminish the efforts and the funds for ALS,” he said.

While the quest for a cure may hit a speed bump, Neil Thakur from the ALS Association is hopeful they can drive right through it.

“We’re not slowing down. There’s no way we can slow down,” said Thakur.

He says their research relies heavily on fundraisers, many of which are canceled or postponed. According to Thakur, in addition to treatment and equipment costs, their fundraisers help to provide $17 million each year in research grants around the country.

Thakur says their researchers are trying to juggle safety guidelines while not falling behind on their trials during the pandemic. Some of the university labs they use to conduct these projects have rules in place that make it difficult to keep up to speed.

“As it continues that’s when we’ll start to see the potential impact on the research program,” said Thakur.

Research for a number of ailments and diseases is falling into the background, according to Dr. Henry Wang, a professor and executive vice chair of research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s Department of Emergency Medicine. He says this is taking place as the world’s brightest minds rise to meet this new deadly challenge.

“When you have a disaster of this magnitude, it’s expected that we would see some impacts on research not related to COVID-19,” said Wang.

Wang says there could be setbacks in research relating to heart attacks, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and other areas unrelated to the coronavirus. He says the biggest hindrance during this period is the difficulty in seeing how studies play out beyond the lab.

“Labs are still open. They’re developing vaccines and new cures. The next challenge we have is how do we test and evaluate these options in the clinical environment which is very much a battlefield right now,” he said.

But he thinks new research and science coming as a result of this pandemic will prove beneficial in the future.

“In a disaster, research is usually an afterthought and takes a second seat next to operational considerations and recovery. But in a pandemic, this is a very different situation. It’s science that is going to come up with the vaccines and cures that we need,” said Wang.

Wang says his researchers are in this fight just like those working in emergency rooms or operating rooms.

“To study these therapies our research teams are potentially at risk, being exposed to the conditions that we see on the front lines in our emergency departments. So, we have to work very hard to protect them,” said Wang.

That means trying to get personal protective equipment for researchers, precious cargo as medical workers fight for masks, gloves, and gowns across the country.

“This knowledge will enable us to develop new cures and vaccines to prevent the condition and so they’re very much very important weapons in this battle in this international war,” said Wang.

Wang says before the pandemic there were several studies underway relevant to the current fight with this coronavirus. He mentions research on acute lung injury, damage in the lungs that can also come from COVID-19.

“These studies have been ongoing and are now perfectly situated for application in this disaster,” said Wang.

He is optimistic that a vaccine for COVID-19 is coming soon, though the widespread distribution of the vaccine is several months away. More immediately, he believes treatment for COVID-19 is just weeks away.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Oscar The Blind Dog

    In the weeks leading up to a heated presidential election, another close race played out that had dog lovers across the country faithfully voting online every 24 hours for their favorite furry friends. For four weeks, from Sept. 10 to Oct. 9, nearly 1 million votes were cast in Garden & Gun magazine’s Good Dog […]

    Read more

    Genius Dog Challenge

    Six dogs are competing to become the world’s smartest dog – a title reserved for the pooch that learns words the fastest. Shany Dror is a driving force behind the Genius Dog Challenge, which is live streamed on Facebook and YouTube every week until December 16, when the winner will be announced. The canine challenge […]

    Read more

    Finding Homes For Dogs

    Adoptable Animal Rescue Force gives back to the community by finding the right homes for dogs. We’ve been a Teller County nonprofit, no-kill rescue since 1999. Social networking has allowed us to expand our services in recent years to include dogs coming in from high kill shelters in New Mexico and Texas. There are times […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Retiring

    Talking to police or giving testimony at a courthouse, can be a scary experience for many. Since 2014, service dogs have been allowed in the courtroom to provide emotional support for those in need. For Emery Baert, having Madison with her made a huge difference. “If she wasn’t there, to this day, I wouldn’t know […]

    Read more

    A Shelter Dog's Life

    The sound of paws and claws precedes Isabella’s entrance. She bursts out of the Worcester Animal Rescue League’s front door, dragging Sara McClure, WARL’s dog program coordinator, behind her. McClure has two hands on Izzy’s bright red leash as the pit bull mix comes barreling into the parking lot. McClure motions for me to take […]

    Read more

    Veterans Court Therapy Dog

    Howard County Superior Court II Judge Brant Parry stood in his courtroom last week and looked around like he had lost something. “You want to see her?” he asked, still looking around the mostly empty room. A few moments later, a brown fluff of fur came bounding through an open back door, prompting instant smiles […]

    Read more