FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Answers to questions yet to be raised about COVID-19 are already being compiled at Colorado State University’s “biobank.” The on-campus laboratory, operated by students and staff, is collecting samples of blood, saliva, stools and nasal swabs to catalog how different people responded to COVID-19 over time. By collecting samples regularly from more than 100 participants, researchers hope to one day use the data to better understand COVID-19, and its aftereffects.
One category of research being honed in on is that of “long haulers,” people who contract COVID-19 and are unable to be rid of the symptoms for months.
“I tested positive for COVID on Aug. 1. And I have been experiencing symptoms ever since,” said Devin Kadis, a senior at CSU.
Because Kadis still has all of her symptoms of COVID-19, except for regaining her sense of taste, she was the ideal candidate to participate in the biobank.
Kadis told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas she wanted to participate, in hope that her samples would help researchers prevent others from going through what she has.
“It is scary to know how little we actually know,” Kadis said. “I would never want anybody to experience COVID symptoms for six months.”
CSU’s Elizabeth Ryan, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, is leading the team of researchers who are overseeing the biobank.
“We need to understand what small molecules in the blood, or different fluids, may be involved or related to signaling some of these stress responses,” Ryan said.
By continuously collecting samples on a monthly basis, up to four times, the researchers are able to preserve valuable information about how each individual responded and recovered from the virus.
Participants are identified by UCHealth in Northern Colorado and are referred to the university for participation. Each participant is between the ages of 18 and 80, and at some point recently has tested positive for COVID-19.
While researching long haulers is part of the study, participants include many people who had unique experiences of their own. Some didn’t have symptoms, others were hospitalized.
Ryan said the collection of the samples will be especially useful in the future, potentially to answer questions which we don’t even have yet.
“[The samples] can be used in answering very specific research questions later that we may not even know, or have, right now. There may be things that we find out about the virus later on that we may be able to go back and say, ‘Wow, we have samples collected from these time points after infection,’” Ryan said.
Because the collection period started for many well before the COVID-19 vaccine was approved, the university also has an advantage. Now, the researchers will be able to compare and contrast samples from individuals from before, and after, they received the vaccination.
Kadis said she hoped participating in the biobank process at CSU would help people in the future dodge the rough recovery process she has had to endure.
“I really do think this is going to have a big impact on a lot of people,” Kadis said.
CSU said they were proud to offer this biobank service to research targeted at Northern Colorado residents, especially those from rural areas. While biobanks to exist in many metropolitan areas, this one in Fort Collins will allow researchers to expand their knowledge on the pandemic’s impact away from large populations.