Teen works magic on mice

Natalie Farrell, 17, a Canmore Collegiate student, is spending hersummer in the lab of Patrick Whelan, a University of Calgaryneuroscientist, as part of the 2010 Heritage Youth Researcher Summerprogram.

With a little help, she is bringing dissected limbs back to life.

Natalie Farrell, 17, a Canmore Collegiate student, is spending her summer in the lab of Patrick Whelan, a University of Calgary neuroscientist, as part of the 2010 Heritage Youth Researcher Summer program.

“Natalie is looking at chemicals, which can be used to reactivate dormant areas of the spinal cord, those that produce walking,” Whelan said.

The research is crucial to helping improve the rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries.

Before joining Whelan’s lab on July 6, Farrell said she knew “nothing” about the spinal cord.

“You don’t realize how much it controls,” she said.

But now, after dissecting and studying 50 mice, Farrell knows a lot. Every day, Farrell isolates their spinal cords and hind limbs, bathes them in fluids and dopamine, and watches what happens.

“They physically walk again, alternating legs. I record it and measure the changes in their movements.”

After she graduates, Farrell plans to study life sciences at Queen’s University.

“I have never been so challenged,” said Farrell of the whole experience.

 
 
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