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COVID-19: Science, Stories, and Resources

Member Perspectives

As people around the world are affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Biophysical Society is sharing stories from members about how their lives and research have been impacted.

    

Adjusting to Working from Home

As people around the world are affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Biophysical Society is sharing stories from members about how their lives and research have been impacted. 

Catherine Musselman, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Denver, Colorado, United States

Like many my laboratory is adjusting to working from home. We all left our lab at CU Anschutz Medical Campus on March 14th and will be virtual until at least April 17th, likely longer. As of the time of writing [March 27] Colorado has almost 1500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths (https://covid19.colorado.gov/case-data). As these numbers are still very much on the rise, the entire state is currently on stay-at-home orders, hoping to reduce spread of the virus and overloading the healthcare system (including our own hospital).

It has, of course, been very hard to have bench work come to a halt. However, beyond having natural curiosity for the world around us, members of my lab are also strongly motivated by a desire to contribute to the health and well-being of our society. Part of why we care so much about purifying our systems, characterizing the thermodynamics of their interactions, and determining the molecular basis of binding is not just to understand the fundamentals of these processes, but to pave the way to understanding disease and ultimately the development of therapeutics. Given how long this work takes this can sometimes seem like a far-off goal. However, earlier today I saw something that put this all into perspective.

This perspective came from a bioRxiv paper describing how the proteins BRD2 and BRD4 (chromatin associated proteins) have just been identified as interaction partners of the SARS-CoV-2 envelope protein E. The authors surmised protein E might be mimicking a histone and binding the BRD2/4 bromodomains. Excitingly there are already BRD2/4 bromodomain inhibitors currently in clinical trials. More work will be needed to understand the potential of these inhibitors in treating COVID-19. However, this highlights something extremely important. Many laboratories (including ours) have collectively spent the last 20 years doing basic scientific research to characterize bromodomains and their interaction with histones, and to develop these inhibitors that now hold promise in stopping this pandemic. Thus, while working virtually has been an adjustment, and people are antsy to get back to their experiments, the best thing we can do for the health and well-being of society right now is to stay home. Several weeks away from the lab is, in the big picture, a drop in the bucket. We will get back to the bench soon enough and in the meantime are writing papers, reviewing papers, writing theses, studying for comprehensive exams, and getting caught up on literature. We hope to be even better prepared to tackle our experiments when we return.

Would you like to share your experience in this difficult and uncertain time? Email your perspective to [email protected]



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COVID-19: Science, Stories, and Resources

Header Image Credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS