Open Science connects patients and researchers at The Neuro

Mahdieh Tabatabaei puts Open Science research into action

Mahdieh Tabatabaei is a Research Assistant in the Clinical Biological Imaging and Genetic Repository (C-BIG Repository) and Early Drug Discovery Unit (EDDU) at The Neuro.

Mahdieh began her journey at The Neuro in 2017 and like so many she had heard about the exciting research being done here long before she arrived. Her Master’s degree supervisor at Concordia University, Dr. Peter Darlington, did his postdoctoral training at The Neuro. “He always talked about how things were different here," she recounts. "So, when the opportunity to work at The Neuro appeared, I was really excited because I would finally get to see what he had been talking about. I applied right away and I was very excited to start working here.”

Mahdieh spends half her time with the C-BIG Repository and the other half with the EDDU. The C-BIG Repository collects biological samples, such as blood, skin, and cerebrospinal fluid, from patients with neurological conditions and healthy volunteers, who have agreed to donate their samples for future research. Mahdieh receives the samples and processes them so they can be stored long term in the repository. These samples can be distributed to academic and industrial laboratories, including the EDDU, for research.

The EDDU uses samples from patients with Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and neurodevelopmental disorders to create patient-derived stem cells (otherwise known as induced pluripotent stem cells or iPSCs) that allow them to model these diseases on a dish.

This is where Mahdieh comes in again. One of her primary responsibilities at EDDU is to coordinate between C-BIG Repository and EDDU in order for CBIG-R to receive vials of these patient-derived stem cells for future distribution to other research labs. Researchers who use C-BIG Repository samples work in a feed-forward mechanism, sharing their findings with C-BIG Repository so that future researchers will have access to this information about these samples and can avoid pursuing research questions that have already been answered.

“The data is going to be made available publicly for people to work towards the same path, towards the development of new treatments,” says Mahdieh. “This part of it is very interesting for me. I think that's one of the things that really keeps me going, knowing that we're doing something that people trust us for. And I think that's really important.”

The C-BIG Repository is built on the principles of Open Science, which allow for the sharing of data and materials among researchers to advance knowledge. This would not be possible without the generosity of individuals who donate their samples to the C-BIG Repository. Mahdieh works closely with The Neuro’s Clinical Research Unit (CRU), the unit responsible for approaching patients and obtaining their consent to collect samples from them for the repository.

“The researchers here are at an exceptional advantage of working [under] the principles of Open Science,” says Mahdieh. “I think that's one of the reasons why most patients agree to donate, because they understand that this is a different way of doing science and it will probably work out better than the previous methods. So they are so willing to contribute and donate because they think that this is going to be a new hope for them, and oftentimes it's a new hope for people after them.”

As someone involved in both the initial collection of patient samples and the future collection of materials and data derived from those same samples, Mahdieh is acutely aware of the of the privilege and responsibility her work entails. “I believe this not only provides hope for the patients, it gives the researchers a sense that they are making a difference more than they ever could.”

“Fun fact about me: I lived nine years in my home country, Iran. Then I lived four years in Mexico, followed by three years in India, and then 11 years in Canada. And I married my Bengali husband in Bolivia.”

Related webpages:
Early Drug Discovery Unit
Clinical Resarch Unit
C-BIG Repository
Mahdieh Tabatabaei's bio

The Neuro logo McGill logoMcGill University Health Centre logoKillam logo

The Neuro is a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering the highest quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.