Alexis StPierre

3MT 2024 Finalist Alexis StPierre

Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, Health Sciences

Thesis: Different Strokes for Different Folks

Introduce yourself:

I am a first-year Master’s student with a passion for science and healthcare. I am a member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute (NMHI represent!!) in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. While on campus, you can find me working in the lab or volunteering at the Campus Food Bank. Outside of school, I am a certified scuba diver and love to do all things active/ outdoors! You can often find me on the ski hill, at spin class, or in the nearest sushi restaurant.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

My research focuses on how to improve blood flow after an ischemic stroke! When someone experiences an ischemic stroke, there is an acute and prolonged inflammatory response within the brain which signals for a massive recruitment of neutrophils. The large rush of neutrophils all at once may lead to the formation of a physical blockade (called a neutrophil stall) within the brain’s capillaries. The presence of neutrophil stalls contributes to ongoing brain injury as they further prevent blood flow into the brain, ultimately worsening functional outcomes post-stroke.

Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a peptide that may activate neutrophils to become more adhesive therefore promoting the formation of stalls. As an effect of this, antagonizing/ blocking ET-1 may be a potential therapeutic target to decrease the formation of stalls and improve blood flow to the brain after ischemic stroke.

My research aims to fill the gap in the literature on whether ET-1 is a viable target for reducing neutrophil stalls within the capillaries of the brain's microvasculature. I hope to find a new therapeutic method to improve cerebral blood flow post ischemic stroke and improve the lives of many individuals who may one day suffer from stroke.

How does presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help you to explain your research to the public?

Before creating my 3MT, I could never quite find the right words to describe my research to my friends and family without being too technical or specific. Being a part of 3MT allowed me to think more critically about my project and learn to be more concise when communicating my research to others. While I totally nerd out on my research, I know not everybody might be as interested as I am in the details! 3MT allowed me to practice getting the main point across in an informative, but interesting manner for people of all educational backgrounds so they may understand what kind of research is happening right here in Edmonton.

What inspires you to do research?

More than 50% of people who suffer from stroke live with permanent disability. To me, this is absolutely outrageous and I feel confident that there must be a way to decrease rates of disability post-stroke. Knowing that my research might have even the slightest impact on others' lives is a massive inspiration and motivator to me. In addition to that, I feel so fortunate for this opportunity to learn and am grateful that I get to indulge my science curiosity every day. That in and of itself is a huge motivator for me!

What are three key words important to your 3MT?

Ischemic stroke, neutrophil adhesion, improved blood flow

How does your research impact local, provincial, or global communities?

Stroke can impact anybody and everybody around the world. The global inclusiveness of stroke permits my research to impact all communities.

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

I would dedicate this research to every person who has felt the impact of stroke in their life. Additionally, I’d like to thank my supervisors (Dr. Ian Winship and Dr. Glen Jickling) for helping direct my research, my wonderful lab mates for always helping me troubleshoot, and my family for showing me constant support in my scholarly endeavours.

Alexis StPierre – Different Strokes for Different Folks

Watch Alexis' Three Minute Thesis