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COVID-19 and GRIN Research

How is COVID-19 Impacting GRIN Disorder Research?

Our lives have changed in countless ways because of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements.

These regulations have also taken a toll on GRIN Disorder Research. Around the world, labs that aren’t focused on finding vaccines or treatments for COVID-19 have been shut down. Experiments are on hold and researchers have had to sacrifice some animals in order to keep veterinary and lab staff to a minimum.

We reached out to key GRIN researchers to ask how the shutdown is affecting their work.

The good news is that these researchers are doing everything they can to keep Coronavirus disruptions to a minimum. They’ve been able to maintain GRIN animal lines and have continued to make whatever progress they can while working from home. They're preparing to reopen their labs when it’s safe to do so. And they’re making plans to collaborate on clinical trials when restrictions are limited.

Here’s what they told us:

Amy Ramsey, University of Toronto, Canada

“Our laboratories are closed except to allow the maintenance of existing mouse lines. One of our mouse lines (GRIN1 Q536R) has been made and is waiting to be imported, but we are not allowed to receive them. We are also not allowed to perform any studies on mice except to genotype them. In fact, we were asked to cull animals before the shutdown to reduce the workload so we lost 72 cages of mice. This was tough psychologically. We have not furloughed any staff and have asked them to work from home. The graduate students remain busy with literature research, but the technical staff is unable to do very much from home. Our university is discussing different scenarios for reopening that would maintain social distancing, but we have not been given dates for reopening. I would say that we are still making progress, but it is certainly delayed (maybe we have lost 1.5 months out of the 2 months of shutdown). We have been able to maintain the colony of GRIN1 Y647S. We have ordered a third mouse line (GRIN1 M813T) to be made from a core facility but I believe the progress on that has completely stopped.”

Steve Traynelis, Emory University, USA

“Because our efforts on GRIN research require laboratory work, virtually all efforts are on hold. Emory closed all except ‘essential work’ which included covid-19 research, and long-range studies already started that involved, for example, animal lines. Thus, we were not able to continue new functional analyses of variants. Emory also mandated that all personnel get paid during the shutdown so that we don’t lose staff, so the grant that ends July 24 is continuing to be drawn down to cover personnel who were working on GRIN variants, despite minimal current efforts. It is unclear whether NIH will be able to use stimulus money to extend grants that were suspended but expensed. We are writing papers, organizing data, etc. from home, but this probably represents 20 percent effort. We have not lost any mouse lines and did generate the GRIN2B E413G line before the shutdown, but we cannot even genotype this line.”

Tim Benke, University of Colorado, USA

“All labs are shut down. The University is planning a phased re-opening in May. All work that can happen off site (home) is continuing. Because of this, we continue to enroll in the GRIN registry (contact Jenifer.Sargent@childrenscolorado.org).  Regulatory aspects of the study (altering the parameters of the study) have been slowed by COVID19 because our Review Board has been preoccupied (for example, allowing telehealth visits).  Many clinical research studies are having to change their protocols due to COVID19; fortunately, we are continuing with our existing framework which did not require in-person visits. I am involved in 5 trials in non-GRIN disorders; these are all on hold.”

Graham Collingridge, University of Toronto, Canada

“My lab has been closed down for a few weeks now. The researchers are spending the time reading the literature, analyzing data and planning experiments for when we can return to work. I keep in touch on a daily basis with my research team via Zoom. There is minimal impact on our own research contribution so far, but it will start to cause delays if we cannot reopen the labs soon. We have been able to maintain our mouse colonies. This was a high priority for us.”

Ann Poduri, Boston’s Children’s Hospital, USA

“We are seeing patients and fielding inquiries remotely. As we hear of people who might want to enroll in the patient registry, we will certainly refer them to the study.”

Johannes Lemke, University of Leipzig, Germany

“As for the Covid-19 situation: So far, it did not negatively impact GRIN research in our institution.”