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Section of Translational Neuroscience

The Section of Translational Neuroscience (STN) in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCNS) consists of five primary members distinguished by their PhD background. Research areas include neurodegenerative diseases, movement disorders and multiple sclerosis (MS), with a focus on understanding the pathogenesis of neurological disorders and the discovery and translation of new therapies into the clinic.  These therapies include those that may protect the injured nervous system, and those to promote regeneration.

All members within STN maintain meaningful and productive collaborations with clinicians or clinician scientists within DCNS, in addition to our partners in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services.

Current active members of STN include: 

  • Dr. V. Wee Yong is a professor who co-directs the MS Program of HBI. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Neuroimmunology (Tier 1) and he has been the president of the International Society of Neuroimmunology. Dr. Yong’s research interests lie in the area of neuroimmunology, neuroprotection and CNS regeneration. His projects have been guided by MS, spinal cord injury and malignant gliomas. Dr. Yong’s research has been translated into Phase III clinical trials in MS and spinal cord injury. He is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. His research, cited over 15,000 times (Web of Science) has been supported by Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the MS Society of Canada, and Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions (AIHS). 
  • Dr. Minh Dang Nguyen is an associate professor and a member of the HBI. The main goal of his research is to understand the roles of the cytoskeleton, the physical backbone that maintains the architecture of the cell, in neurological diseases. His research has been funded by AIHS, Alberta Cancer Foundation, CIHR, the Human Frontier Science Program Organization, the Brenda Strafford Foundation Chair in Alzheimer research, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
  • Dr. Shalina Ousman is an associate professor and a member of the MS Program of HBI. Her research is focused on investigating the role of alphaB-crystallin ( BC) in autoimmune function, disease mechanism and regeneration in the context of multiple sclerosis.  Dr. Ousman also has a strong program to foster axonal regeneration in the peripheral nervous system. Her research has been funded by CIHR, AIHS, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and Canadian Foundation for Innovation.  
  • Dr. Bin Hu is a professor specializing in Parkinson’s disease research.  He is a member of HBI, he directs a basic research laboratory and he oversees an experimental therapeutic program for patients living with Parkinson’s disease. His scholarly activities and research interests are focused on brain attention networks, especially those related to sensorimotor learning and memory. His research has been supported by CIHR, Parkinson Society Alberta, AIHS and Branch-out Foundation for Neurological Diseases.
  • Dr. Oury Monchi, is a professor, Clinical Research Director of DCNS, the Research Director of the Movement Disorders Program of HBI, and the Tourmaline Oil Chair in Parkinson’s disease. He was, until September 2014, the founding director of the Quebec Parkinson Network. His laboratory has been a pioneer in using different neuroimaging techniques to study the origins and evolution of cognitive deficits in Parkinson’s disease with the ultimate goal of the early prediction of dementia in the disease. Interactions between cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms, and non-medication therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and cognitive training are also being explored. Dr. Monchi is the Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. His research is funded by CIHR, NSERC, and Parkinson Society Canada. 

Highlights

As the director of the Alberta MS Network, Dr. Yong collaborated with non-governmental organizations, industry and the Alberta government to successfully bring new research funding for MS into Alberta. In the last year, he organized the inaugural Americas School of Neuroimmunology (attended by 150 delegates from the Americas in Calgary), and he co-organized the inaugural Global Schools of Neuroimmunology in Jerusalem (attended by over 500 trainees and investigators). 

Dr. Nguyen co-ordinated the Principles of Neuroscience I graduate course for the Department of Neuroscience in 2015 and 2016.  He was a conference speaker and chair at the Spring Hippocampal Research Conference in Sicily, Italy.

Dr. Ousman successfully graduated a PhD candidate in the past year and has two other PhD students who are scheduled to defend their thesis work shortly. She organized a symposium on neuroimmunology at the 2016 Canadian Association for Neuroscience annual meeting in Toronto.  Dr. Ousman was recognized as an Immigrant Women of Inspiration by the Canadian Immigrant Magazine in 2016. 

Dr. Hu continues to direct a $750,000 grant that oversees a multi-centre study of Ambulosono, a sensorimotor contingency-based music walking program for people living with Parkinson’s disease.  His work has been widely publicized, including by the press in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Monchi received a JELF fund from the CFI to establish his laboratory with a main focus on TMS and neuroimaging in movement disorders and dementia.  He was a speaker at major symposia on Parkinson’s disease in Barcelona, Milan and Palo Alto, Calif., in the past year.  

Dr. Manuel Hulliger has received Professor Emeritus status from the University of Calgary—congratulations!

Education

STN members offer graduate, postdoctoral and clinical fellowship studies in both clinical and basic neurosciences, year-round research projects for senior undergraduates and summer research programs. Section members are also active participants in community-oriented educational events.

Future Directions

The Section of Translational Neuroscience is in a unique position to foster cutting edge translational neuroscience research. We are somewhat different from the basic science departments in that our program has a clear mandate to facilitate and integrate research and education and to ensure that discoveries in basic and clinical research can lead to innovative health solutions for Canadians with neurological and mental disorders.  In that light, work by our STN members, in collaboration with our neurology and neurosurgery colleagues, has resulted in a recently completed and successful Phase III clinical trial in MS, and an ongoing Phase III trial in traumatic spinal cord injury.  A $5 million team grant from Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions led by one of our STN members, and which includes several clinical colleagues, has enabled us to initiate and continue clinical trials of potential remyelinating therapies in MS.