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A Researcher’s Life during COVID-19: Crunching Data, Clinical Duties & New Opportunities

By Astrid Haegens, PhD | 23 Apr 2020

dialysis PATIENTS ActTransonic’s application specialists are proud to work in close collaboration with their customers to assure that our equipment is utilized optimally to provide the best scientific data possible. Here we would like to introduce three of our customers and let them elaborate on how they are dealing with COVID-19 and the unexpected situation that we are all facing.

 

Mads Dam Lyhne, MD & PhD fellow at the Department of Cardiology – Research, Aarhus University Hospital. Father of two and married to an oncologist.

I have been working with Astrid for over three years now. The main topic of our conversation has been pressure-volume experiments, as part of my PhD thesis. We have had several good discussions on how to analyze data, as well as best approaches to do left and right ventricular pressure-volume loops simultaneously. The ADV500 and its Admittance technology is unique in the sense that it is the only system available that can measure data from the left and right ventricles at the same time.

My own studies in an acute model of pulmonary embolism were done in February of this year. So being at home does not bring any delays from that perspective - I have three papers worth of data to analyze and write. This is however not going as fast as possible. Daycare is closed and focusing on research is difficult with two boys in the house looking for dad’s attention, but things are moving forward, nonetheless.

A second challenge we are currently facing in our research group is that we are in the middle of developing a chronic pulmonary embolism model and were supposed to complete several experiments in the coming week. We are, however, not allowed to. The current situation is forcing us to redesign our initial protocol, by adding a new timepoint. At the moment, we don’t know what time point this is going to be, as this depends on when the government will allow us back in the OR. Within our research group, we feel that reviewers will understand why we had to redesign our protocol. And who knows, it may turn out to bring us very unexpected insights.

The current situation also brings me as an MD back in the clinic. I signed up for ‘Corona duty’ some weeks ago. Tomorrow I will be brought up to speed on the current Corona protocols in the hospital and I’m expecting to be assigned clinical duties as of next week. In a sense, I’m looking forward to it, as it will allow me to help where help is needed.

 

Sabine Samolovac, Veterinarian, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany. Mother of a 2,5-year-old and married to a clinical nurse practitioner.

Last summer, I participated in the “European PV Loop and Microsurgery Workshop”  that Astrid co-hosts. Main goal of the workshop was to get familiar with pressure-volume loop associated surgery and the ins and outs of cardiac output, ejection fraction and stroke volumes. At the end of the workshop we agreed that Astrid would come and visit us in Göttingen, once we were ready to start PV experiments in our own facility. Then COVID-19 came along. At the moment, our lab is completely closed. However, I stay in touch with my colleagues during a weekly online lab meeting. This temporary closing of the lab, allows me to focus on projects that were on the back burner.

I’m participating in a program to strategize my academic career. There are several physical meetings planned in the upcoming year, but so far, we have been coping quite well with video conferences. Everybody is working from home, so they are actually easier to schedule now than they usually are.

In addition, at the German Primate Center (DPZ), we have a group of scientists ready to adjust their animal studies to COVID-19 research. As animal application protocols are all handled digitally, there is fortunately no delay in seeking approval to get these studies going. With COVID-19 being a pulmonary disease, we are trying to support that research group by looking for a mobile X-Ray machine to optimally perform these studies. As in normal daily life, you can shop for anything online and laboratory equipment is no exception to this rule. We are expecting to have the equipment in place relatively fast, so we can contribute with these studies to find preventive measures against COVID-19.

 

Antoine Herpain, MD & PhD fellow, Experimental Laboratory of Intensive Care, Erasme University Hospital ULB, Brussels. Father of two boys and married to a lawyer 

I have been supported by Astrid over the past 6 years on projects that require heart function measurements. Some of these include experimental designs of 20 hours or longer to mimic acute critical care situations in the clinic. The duration of these experiments brings different challenges compared to relatively short experiments, especially when it comes to pressure-volume measurements. Astrid has been giving advice, by sharing her experience with longer experiments. In our lab we also collaborate with the medical device industry to test the effectiveness of new types mechanical circulatory support. Functional cardiac parameters such as the ventricular contractility surrogates proposed by the pressure-volume loops are critical for us in these experiments.

COVID-19 has brought me back in the intensive care unit faster than originally anticipated, as I am supposed to finish my PhD thesis this summer. As with other ICUs worldwide, our regular ICU is currently overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. We already had plans to start up a cardiac oriented-ICU by the end of the year. The pressure on the regular ICU and the lack of additional ICU beds has forced us to speed up this project.

My collaboration with Astrid has grown over the past couple of years to the point where she is now involved in our plans to organize a two day symposium called “Pre-clinical Research in Acute Cardiac- and Critical Care” (PRAC3) at Erasme University Hospital here in Brussels. We originally planned this symposium to take place September of this year, however COVID-19 is forcing us to postpone the symposium for several months. We now aim to bring all key opinion leaders together in the spring of 2021. Our goal is to build a strong long-lasting international network of pre-clinical researchers  that can address and tackle some of the challenges present in the acute cardiac- and critical care field.

 

At Transonic, we try to put our client’s needs at the forefront and from this we have been honored to work with the 3 researchers featured here. As we continue with our blog series [Subscribe], we would love to hear from you! What keeps you busy during social distancing, and importantly, how can Transonic help to support your research? Please reach out to us using the comment section below if you have a blog topic you would like to see featured or if you yourself would like to lend your voice to a future blog. Our application specialists are looking forward to hearing from you.

 

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