By Robin Della Corte
Eunice Linh You, a Grade 11 student at Laval Liberty High School will be heading to Arizona to compete internationally after winning regional and national laurels in Canada for her project on stem cell treatments for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Linh You explored how brain cells react to a chemical called dopamine. Having won first place in Montreal and third place at the national science competition for her project, entitled “Shake hands over cures, not PD”, Linh You will vie for top honours at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, May 12-17.
She also recently submitted her project to the Google Science Fair online.
“Parkinson’s disease is caused by the degeneration of a specific group of neurons in the brain known as the Substantia Nigra,” Linh You said. “If we could generate a certain type of neuron from stem cells, we could transplant them into the brains of the patient, which would alleviate all their motor symptoms.”
Linh You won the $3,000 third prize in the national Sanofi Biogeneuis Challenge, a competition for young Canadian science students who placed first in their regional competitions this year. Linh You previously won at the Regional Sanofi Biogeneuis Challenge Canada, which earned her a $2,250 prize. She subsequently placed first in both the Super-Expo Sciences Hydro-Québec and Hydro-Québec Montreal Regional Science and Technology Fair.
For her wins at regional competitions, Linh You garnered considerable recognition and honor, as well as the cash prizes and a scholarship to Concordia University.
She started researching Parkinson’s last year, when she studied the effects of pesticide exposure.
Linh You switched to stem cell research after being paired with a mentor, Liam Crapper, a doctoral candidate studying stem cells at McGill University. She claims she couldn’t have “succeeded without his amazing support.”
“Since the degeneration of neurons is in a small area, there is only one area to target, and only one cell type,” she said. “This is what makes the stem cell treatment so promising.”
Linh You tried to improve upon earlier clinical trials, and to eliminate complications in stem cell therapy to make it “a more viable treatment.”
She saw that although earlier clinical trials eliminated physical symptoms that affect movement in certain patients, others developed different motor symptoms and some of their bodies rejected the treatment.
The first type of transplant used involved fetal stem cell transplants but did not work on all patients. Linh You’s work involved human stem cells made from skin cells, which can be altered to mirror the patient’s own cells, according to Linh You.
Linh You said that she plans to study Health Science at Marianopolis College in Montreal this fall, and hopes to eventually pursue neuroscience McGill University.
“I’m extremely honored my research is being appreciated,” Linh You said. “It feels amazing when you’re part of a search for new ideas in science.”
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