The Albany Medical Center in New York and University of Wisconsin researchers are collaborating to find a way to better allocate medical resources to COVID-19 patients using mass spectrometry techniques. 

According to a UW press release, Dr. Ariel Jaitovich, a pulmonary and critical care physician at the Albany Medical Center, reached out to UW researchers for improving treatment and care for COVID-19 patients.

“It’s a new disease. Two months ago, we knew nothing about it,” Dr. Jaitovich said in the release. “What we are trying to do now is do systematic work to better understand what this disease is about.”

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The team is comprised of the Albany Medical Center in New York, Morgridge Institute for Research and the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, according to the release.

SMPH professor Josh Coon, who specializes in mass spectrometry research, is working together with the research group to contrast samples from COVID-19 patients with control samples of those who have tested negative for the virus. The team will analyze about 150 samples from the Albany Medical Center to understand the “molecular profile” of COVID-19, according to the press release.

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“This is extremely important for many reasons, because you can, for example, intervene early with people who are more likely to do worse over time based on these early identified markers,” Coon said in the release. “You can better allocate resources in a moment in which there is a shortage of resources to deal with this pandemic.”

Coon said mass spectrometry can provide molecular signals that can then help in distinguishing between mild and severe cases. Coon also said some possible indicators of the severity of the disease could be blood clotting factors in lung vessels and cytokine storms that trigger the immune system’s inflammatory response to skyrocket and result in acute respiratory distress syndrome, according to the release. 

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The Coon Laboratory is investigating the molecular signals of the disease and Jaitovich’s team in New York is examining the potential genetic influences on COVID-19 through RNA sequencing by collaborating with Associate Director of Bioinformatics Ron Stewart and computational biologist Scott Swanson at the Morgridge Institute for Research.

“We should be able to get an idea about what genes or gene sets are involved in things like inflammation, and how that might differ between COVID-19 and other ARDS cases,” Stewart said in the release.