Local business, university and hospital labs working to create new COVID-19 protection measures, treatments

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — The threat of the coronavirus pandemic has pushed students out of classrooms and made it unsafe for some businesses to work with their clients. However, Coloradans are turning these unfortunate circumstances into opportunities to help fuel courage on the Front Range.

“Right now, I have an opportunity to work in an empty lab to keep my distance from people and do testing that’s really going to have large impacts,” Colorado State University professor Christian L’Orange said, adding, “I feel very proud we get to do this work.”

On CSU’s campus, a 2,000 square-foot room packed with tubes, pipes and technology normally serves as a lab for experiments on air quality, pollution and what triggers disease in the air.

However, in this abnormal time, CSU is shifting focus.

“In the past, it hasn’t been used for mask testing, necessarily,” L’Orange said. “But we had the expertise and the equipment to do this type of testing and we had the ability to ramp up this testing very quickly.”

CSU recently transformed into the state’s designated testing site for COVID-19 medical protective gear.

“It’s not just about how well it filters, but a mask that has too high of a pressure drop actually puts too much burden on a person that’s breathing and can be downright dangerous to be honest,” L’Orange said. 

In Denver, at Agile Orthopedics, Eric Neufeld is in the business of aiding those battling trauma. 

“This is just truly a natural extension of that,” Neufeld said. 

Aside from creating custom prosthetics, Neufeld is now using his shop to invent intubation boxes. 

“That’s one of the silver linings coming from a crisis, is that you start to think really creatively and think outside the box on what you can do to help,” Neufeld said. 

With Neufeld’s incubator boxes, a clear plastic box goes over a patient’s head and shields doctors and nurses as they lean in to intubate a patient.

“The boxes are adding a secondary layer of protection or replacing those missing items in the OR, emergency department and ICU,” Neufeld said. 

In the labs of UCHealth, there’s a massive push toward creating possible COVID-19 treatments.

“When someone gets infected with COVID-19, their body makes an immune response,” UCHealth infectious disease specialist Dr. David Beckham said.

Last week, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital became the first in the state to treat COVID-19 patients with a serum made up from the blood, specifically antibodies, from someone who recovered from the disease.

“We’re hoping with the collaboration between the research side and the clinical lab rotary that we can have a serum test available hopefully in a short time — we’re hoping weeks,” Beckham said. 

For people who have recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating their plasma, the current requirement is that those patients have to have documented proof of prior COVID-19 disease. 

The other requirement is you to have a negative test result and be symptom-free for at least 14 days. 

Check with blood banks at the Red Cross, UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Center in Fort Collins, Children’s Hospital Colorado or Vitalant to see if you can make an appointment to donate – you will have to meet the requirements with your physician prior to going to these centers.

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