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Research Interrupted, But Not Stopped

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 15:00

Carolina Cocito, PhD, the Ty Louis Campbell Research Fellow in the Children’s Brain Tumor Project laboratory, who studies the role of the immune system in the progression of invasive brain tumors, shared her story about how the project’s important work continued even with the lab on hold. 

The work of our lab relies on the use of genetically engineered and orthotopicmouse models of brain tumors and on the generation, maintenance, and characterization of cell lines for in vitro studies. Many of the cell lines are patient-derived, donated by patients and families after biopsies or, sadly, autopsies. You cannot imagine anything more precious to us than these cell lines. 

The week of the shutdown was very upsetting for us all, mostly because we didn’t have a clear idea of when we would be able to come back and resume our experiments. We froze most of the cell lines that were in culture at the time of the shutdown and we worked closely with our animal facility to develop a plan for the animals in our colony.

Although the team could not come in to work, we were able to define a rotation schedule so we could monitor the animals and collect some tissue for future analyses. The same schedule allowed us to continue day-to-day lab management such as monitoring equipment and managing deliveries. We met virtually at least once a week with the PIs and with the rest of the group to discuss our progress and to talk about new interesting findings in the field. We were extremely connected, which was very useful both from a psychological and collaborative point of view. 

After an initial period of incertitude, I started to appreciate how productive my time at home could be. As a matter of fact, during those days I had the time to analyze my most recent data, generate figures for a manuscript, finalize some of my projects, study, and plan my experiments in detail. My colleagues and I all found ways to use our time productively so we could ramp up again quickly when it was safe to return. 

Now that we researchers are back in the lab, I definitely feel the pressure to catch up—but at the same time I have a lot of new projects and ideas to work on. 

More about the Children's Brain Tumor Project