What happens to research at a health sciences university like Northeast Ohio Medical University when a pandemic causes it to take its classes online and close its facilities for all but essential functions?
That has been the question for researchers like Khaled Adjerid, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in the Infant Swallowing Lab of Rebecca German, Ph.D., in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology.
Using animal models, Dr. German’s lab investigates how infants coordinate sucking and swallowing – and how those processes are coordinated with breathing. The research has potential for helping people of all ages who have feeding problems, including those with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Amid circumstances that continue to change during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Adjerid commented recently:
The greatest challenge has been continuing and finishing experiments that were initiated before the preventative measures were put into place. When using animal models [infant piglets] we care deeply about the animals that give their lives for advancements in human medicine, especially in our field of preterm infant pediatrics. So, we have committed to seeing out our experiments with our team of research staff, which includes undergraduates, lab technicians, postdoctoral fellows and faculty members.
With interaction among personnel increasingly limited, it has become more difficult to accomplish our usual scientific goals. But we continue caring for the animals and carrying out scaled-back versions of our protocols – which are further constrained by time, since the infant stage we study only lasts for a few weeks in piglets.
“It takes a team to collect the data,” adds Dr. German. “We were committed to seeing the project through.”
Did you know?
NEOMED’s Comparative Medicine Unit is a 41,000 square foot secured facility on the NEOMED campus that provides animal care services in support of the research and teaching programs at Northeast Ohio Medical University. The facility can accommodate a broad range of laboratory animal species in a safe and secure environment. A disaster plan has been developed to assure appropriate animal care during emergencies.
Photo credit: Jake Socha, Ph.D.