Principal Investigators

Jason Plemel, Ph.D.

Dr. Jason Plemel began his training in the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff at the University of British Columbia where he completed his Doctorate. There he investigated two separate strategies to improve white matter regeneration: transplantation of precursor cells to replace lost oligodendrocytes and cell culture to find novel targets to improve remyelination. During Dr. Plemel’s postdoctoral work he studied the contribution of microglia following myelin injury in the laboratories of Dr. Peter Stys and Dr. Wee Yong at the University of Calgary. His interdisciplinary project investigated mechanisms of how immune cells respond to primary degeneration and developed a new tool to image cell death and injury using spectral microscopy. In his new faculty appointment at the University of Alberta, Dr. Plemel and his laboratory will investigate how microglia play an important role in the regeneration of injured white matter, but also how microglia can induce injury to white matter during different disease conditions.

Dr. Bradley Kerr
Bradley Kerr, Ph.D.

Dr. Bradley Kerr received his BSc in Psychology from McGill University. He then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of London-King’s College in the UK. His Ph.D. research was aimed at understanding the role of novel modulatory peptides, growth factors and pro-inflammatory cytokines in persistent pain. Dr. Kerr went on to do postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology and at McGill University where his work focused on studying inflammatory responses after nervous system injury. Dr. Kerr joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Alberta in 2007 and is also an adjunct associate professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry. The focus of research in his lab is aimed at addressing the mechanisms of chronic pain after injury or disease with a major focus on chronic pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis.

Graduate Students

Charbel Baaklini, M.Sc. Student

All the way from Lebanon, Charbel came to Edmonton for his masters in neuroscience. He graduated with a BSc in Biology. As Plemel’s first graduate student, he’s so excited to be in the process of discovering new ways to treat one of the most prevalent neurodegenerative diseases, multiple sclerosis. His project will focus on the roles of microglia in the process of remyelination and he hopes to find molecular targets to induce this regenerative process in MS patients.

Zoe Dworsky-Fried, M.Sc. Student

Zoe is a first year Master’s student in the Department of Pharmacology under the supervision of Drs. Bradley Kerr and Anna Taylor. She moved to Edmonton from Halifax where she completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University. Zoe is currently investigating if there are sex differences in neuroinflammation and microglial activation in the motivational and affective domains in the EAE model of MS.

Kevin Thorburn, Ph.D. Candidate

Kevin completed his BSc in neuroscience at the University of Alberta in 2014. He started as a volunteer in Bradley Kerr’s lab in 2012 and continued on to pursue a PhD under Dr. Kerr’s supervision. Kevin is currently studying 1) trigeminal pathology and dysfunction in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis 2) astrocyte biology after CNS injury and disease and 3) effects of systemic inflammation on the regeneration/sprouting state of dorsal root ganglion neurons. Outside of the lab, Kevin enjoys hiking, camping and cycling. Kevin’s bike team, Go for Spoke, recently made its debut at the 2018 Johnson MS Bike ride and raised $2880 for the MS Society of Canada.

Caylin Chadwick, M.Sc. Student

Caylin is a first year MSc student in Neuroscience as of September 2018 under the supervision of Drs. Bradley Kerr and Anna Taylor. She was born and raised on Vancouver Island and completed her B.Sc. degree in Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge. She will be exploring the role of corticotropin-releasing factor in two models of pain: chronic nerve pain and EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; a model of MS).

Timo Friedman, M.Sc. Student

Timo is a Master’s student under the supervision of Dr. Bradley Kerr. He is investigating the role of microRNAs in pain syndromes using computational and bioinformatics methodology. His other interests include data mining and machine learning.

Muhammad Saad Yousuf, Ph.D. Candidate

Saad completed his B.Sc. degree in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Toronto and joined the Kerr lab at the University of Alberta as a graduate student in 2013. His research focuses on understanding the role of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) in mediating pain hypersensitivity in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS). His current research in the lab suggests that sensory neurons of the DRG experience inflammation and stress possibly resulting in hyperexcitability. He employs a variety of techniques including qRT-PCRs, Western blots, immunohistochemistry, RNA interference, pharmacology, and calcium imaging to identify novel therapeutic strategies aimed at alleviating pain in EAE and, by extension, in MS.

Martin Zirngibl, M.Sc Student

Martin is a visiting grad student from Munich, Germany. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biotechnology at the TUM in Munich. Currently he is in his last year of Master of Biology at the LMU Munich. At the end of April, Martin came into the lab of Jason for a 3-month internship in the course of the UARE program. However, he will prolong his stay to March 2020 to do his Master’s Thesis in Jason’s lab to complete his studies in Germany. 
Martin focuses in his project on the effect of microglia on demyelination in Cuprizone-induced demyelination in the corpus callosum.

Undergraduate Students

Mansi Desai

Endoplasmic reticulum stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR) in primary sensory neurons have been identified as a precursor to pain. Mansi’s project as pharmacology 498 student is to determine sex differences in the UPR to identify potential causes of the differences in nociception between male and female mice. Along with research, she enjoys meeting new people, hiking and volunteering at the Stollery hospital.

Apurba Mainali

Apurba is a fourth-year Molecular Genetics student doing a research project in the Kerr-Plemel lab. She is studying microglia and infiltrating macrophage levels in the brains of mice that have been intoxicated with cuprizone, a mouse model of progressive MS.

Lab Support

Kelly Lee

Kelly completed her MSc at the University of Toronto in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics.  The main focus of her research will be using Cuprizone model of progressive Multiple Sclerosis in mice to investigate how microglial cells respond to demyelination and the factors that are released into the extracellular matrix as a result of the toxin.

Madelene Ho

As an undergraduate in the BSc Specialization in Cell Biology program, Madelene chose this year to be a Research Assistant not only to gain more laboratory experience and techniques but to be part of the front lines in Multiple Sclerosis research. Apart from her love of the daring environment of research labs, she is passionate about curative research and care in the clinical sciences. Recently, she has been fascinated by auto/immune and degenerative diseases and disorders; she likes being involved in working with MS, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and HIV/AIDS.

Gustavo Tenorio

After completing an MSc from the University of Alberta, Gustavo started working with Dr. Kerr and has been working with him for the past 9 years. Gustavo is an important lab resource. He trains new staff and students on a variety of tasks ranging from bench work to data processing. Recently, his work has shifted more towards lab administration, as well as identifying hazards and implementing controls in order to make sure the lab follows EHS standards.

Alumni and Past Members

Ana Catuneanu, M.Sc. Student

The goal of Ana’s MSc thesis is to better understand how neurons in pain processing areas of the spinal cord change during chronic pain development in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis and how these changes differ between sex. She is supervised by Dr. Bradley Kerr and her work is supported by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

Stephanie Brown

After completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Alberta, Stephanie started working as a Research Administrative Assistant at the University of Alberta in the division of Neurology. She supports the research activities of four principal investigators, including Dr. Plemel.  She also provides much needed support for finances, human resources and other administrative activities.