WINNIE LOIS KAMDEM MOTUE
A second year M.Sc. student in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience at McGill University, Lois' graduate research project explores the link between oxidative stress and multiple sclerosis. She is a graduate trainee in Dr. S. Narayanan's lab.
Welcome to #IamIPN! You’re currently a Master’s student in the IPN. How has your journey as a graduate student been thus far?
I am very happy and grateful for all the efforts made by my peers to train me in the use of imaging tools pertaining to my research and for the many opportunities I have had to network with people in my field of study.
The academic background of IPN students is diverse, such that many of them come from local, national and international universities. Like some of your peers, you completed your CEGEP studies in Montreal, obtained your Bachelor’s degree from McGill University, and are now enrolled in the IPN Master’s program. Why did you decide to stay in Montreal and at McGill for your graduate studies?
Montreal is a very pleasant place to stay in, mostly because of its multiculturalism. I greatly enjoy the discovery of new cultures. Pursuing graduate studies in neuroscience at McGill was an obvious choice given McGill’s well-renowned reputation for excellence in this particular field. Also, I really appreciate that McGill is very reflective of Montreal’s diversity.
You completed your B.Sc. degree in Neuroscience, with a minor in Sociology. What inspired you to major in a field related to health sciences, and minor in an area related to social sciences?
Society plays a major role in shaping human health and behavior partly through our day-to-day interactions. I thought that learning about the social determinants of health and behavior would give me a broader understanding of the human being.
Regarding your Master’s research project, the main question of your study is if oxidative stress in the brains of patients with multiple sclerosis contribute to disability. Please explain the origin story of your research; What spurred your interest in MS?
MS is one of the world’s leading causes of neurological disability in working-age adults, and Canada is among the countries that have the highest incidence of the disease. The early phase of MS, referred to as relapsing remitting (RR), is characterized by recurrent flare-ups of symptoms associated with neurological deficits that resolve partially or fully with time. Treatment of RRMS using disease modifying medications (with over a dozen approved thus far) is the current best approach to manage the flare-ups and delay permanent damage in the brain and spinal cord that would cause inexorable progression of symptoms. Patients who are already in this progressive stage of MS still suffer from lack of medications (with only one drug recently approved for the secondary progressive form and one for the primary progressive form) that can help them cope with their symptoms. This is in part due to the fact that the neurological substrates for progression in MS (of which there are probably several) remain a mystery. Oxidative stress is suspected by many experts to be an important substrate for this neurodegeneration.
Very interesting! What exactly is oxidative stress, and what are the specific aims of your research?
Oxidative stress could be defined as the production of abnormally increased amounts of highly reactive molecules that damage brain cells, including neurons, leading to their premature death. The main objective of my research is to establish (i) when in the clinical course of MS does oxidative stress become important, and (ii) whether its emergence in patients with relapsing-remitting MS signals transition to secondary-progressive MS.
What do you hope to achieve with your data and research?
We use specialized techniques of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to measure variations in the brain-chemical glutathione (GSH), which is a scavenger of the highly reactive molecules mentioned above (also referred to as antioxidant). The reduction of GSH signals an increase in oxidative stress; thus, we expect to find that GSH is decreased in the advanced, progressive stage of MS compared to the earlier, relapsing-remitting stage. The demonstration that oxidative stress is related to progression would open the way to the development of potential antioxidant drugs for progressive MS, with MRS of GSH offering a directly-linked imaging marker for phase II trials.
What is one law that you would change in order to accelerate MS research, and why?
In Canada, the government policies that support the unemployed because of a disability do not yet equivalently support people with an episodic disability, such as relapsing remitting MS. These include, for example, Disability Tax Credit or Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit. Relapses of MS can indeed be quite sudden and disabling; Patients often report loss of the use of one or more of their limbs. So, among other policies, this is one law I would definitely change.
What do you plan to do after you complete your Master’s studies?
My M.Sc. project is part of a larger, longitudinal study led by my supervisor Dr. Sridar Narayanan. The plan is to concentrate on the acquisition and analysis of cross-sectional data as part of my Master’s degree and then continue on and acquire longitudinal data as part of my Ph.D. studies.
Apart from your academics, you had been volunteering at the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal for the past 7 years. What inspired you to volunteer with the elderly subset of the population at a young age?
At the time, I was a newcomer to Quebec. Hence, volunteering at the IUGM was a way to stay connected to my grandparents back in Cameroon, whom I missed. I enjoy the company of the elderly, as I think that they have a lot to give.
Would you say that your volunteer experience was a source of inspiration for your current research project?
In part, as it inspired me to study neurodegenerative diseases, of which multiple sclerosis is one.
What do you enjoy doing outside of the classroom and lab?
I enjoy reading and playing badminton.
Let's play a round of rapid fire questions to close this interview!
endMS Master's Studentship Awards
If you were to camp out in your lab over the weekend, what would be the first item you pack?
How would you describe MS from a patient’s perspective?
Baffling, surprising, challenging
How would you describe MS from a researcher’s perspective?
What would your ideal weekend consist of?
Relaxing and being around my siblings
What is one extracurricular activity that you hope to take on in the future?
It was a pleasure getting to know you, Lois. Thank you for your time. Wishing you all the best!
Published on March 10, 2020