Medical and nursing students at TTUHSC El Paso are being taught to recognize COVID-19 symptoms and treat patients at a simulation lab.

Biomedical research at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso focuses on conditions directly impacting borderland residents. Studies from the university also shine a light on the nation’s future public health issues, as Latinos quickly become one of the fastest-growing populations in the U.S.

TTUHSC El Paso researchers have continued their studies in cancer, diabetes, neurosciences and infectious diseases, but have also recently focused their efforts on COVID-19 and its impact.

COVID-19 treatment clinical trial

TTUHSC El Paso faculty received a $1.7 million sub-award from UT Health Science Center at Houston to investigate the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The award is part of a multimillion-dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health, which is sponsoring the research trial with collaborators from NYU Langone Health, Yale University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and more.

From the university’s Department of Emergency Medicine, Edward Michelson, M.D., professor and chair, Erik Nordquist, M.D., associate professor, and Susan Watts, Ph.D., director of research, are joined by Diego De La Mora, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine. They will lead the trial locally and work with 200 participants in the region.

The trial will greatly impact the borderland by providing additional insight on the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, while also giving local residents opportunities to participate in important national research.

Funds from the grant will also allow the team to expand by hiring additional research personnel to assist with the trial.

Telemedicine & rural communities

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, telemedicine is a basic need for many health care providers, helping deliver care to patients without the risk of transmitting the virus.

For those in rural communities, telemedicine programs reduce barriers to quality health care access.

In February, TTUHSC El Paso received nearly $80,000 from the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program to offer epilepsy and ophthalmology services to rural communities in West Texas.

Diego De La Mora, M.D., chief health informatics officer, is leading the program locally, working with Presidio County Health Services to grow collaboration in patient care.

The USDA’s grant will equip community clinics with webcams, headphones, digital stethoscopes, retinal fundus cameras and telemedicine software programs to extend care from TTP El Paso doctors to residents of the Big Bend region.

Neurodegenerative diseases

Early this year, Laxman Gangwani, Ph.D., a researcher in TTUHSC El Paso’s Center of Emphasis in Neurosciences, received a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for his research on the accumulation of RNA-DNA hybrid strands, known as R-loops, and their effect on neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases include spinal muscular atrophy and ALS, both of which result in muscle weakness and impact physical function.

Dr. Gangwani’s research seeks to provide insight on human proteins, senataxin and ZPR1, and how they can prevent the accumulation of pathogenic RNA-DNA strands.

Using the two proteins as therapeutic targets would be a breakthrough toward the prevention of neurodegeneration and treatment of an incurable group of neurological diseases.


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