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Lights, camera ... Science Action! This Concordian won $2,500 in the NSERC video contest

Younes Medkour received Canada-wide recognition for his short film on aging research.
May 1, 2018
By Cecilia Keating

Younes Medkour, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology Younes Medkour, PhD candidate in the Department of Biology: "I enjoy talking about what I'm doing."

Younes Medkour, a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology and Concordia Public Scholar, was chosen as a runner-up in the Science, Action! video competition. The honour comes with a $2,500 cash prize.

Hosted by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science, Action! showcases short videos about science and engineering research. In total, 16 finalists, chosen by a panel of judges, won prizes. Their films will be featured as part of museum exhibits and science fairs, and during Science Odyssey and Science Literacy Week.

Medkour’s video “The Fountain of Youth” features his quest to increase the human lifespan and delay the onset of age-related diseases. He was thrilled to finish as a runner-up in the Canada-wide competition.

"I never thought I could reach this many people with one video,” he says.

“People have inquired about my research, which makes me happy because I enjoy talking about what I’m doing.”

Medkour discovered that white willow bark extract can extend longevity in baker’s yeast. His findings have potential significance for human aging, given the similarities between human cells and yeast. In the next phase of his research, Medkour aims to identify the specific molecule or molecules in willow bark extract that delay aging.

"My research is still in the early stages, but I believe that by the end of my doctoral studies I will uncover the mechanisms by which this plant extract extends lifespan and delays the onset of age-related diseases,” he says.

‘This research affects everyone’

How did you first become interested in the research project showcased in your “Fountain of Youth” video?

Younes Medkour: I always took aging for granted and never thought that it could be studied. Aging research sounded like fiction to me until I realized that Concordia had researchers working on this mystery. That’s when I applied to Vladimir Titorenko’s laboratory for an undergraduate volunteer researcher position. I have been hooked ever since.

Why is this research important and who does it affect?

YM: Have you ever heard of someone who doesn’t age? No, right! This research affects everyone, because everyone grows old. And with the increasing number of elderly people, new challenges arise. My research is aimed at the discovery of natural chemical molecules that can delay aging, improve the health of elderly people and slow down the onset of age-related disorders like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, liver dysfunction, cancer, sarcopenia and neurodegenerative diseases.

What is the desired outcome of your research?

YM: The hope is to develop new types of natural products of plant origin that delay aging and improve health. This research will also expand our understanding of the biology of aging, which is fundamental to curing age-related disorders.

We have identified that white willow bark has age-slowing properties in yeast, and this could potentially apply to humans. Because this natural extract is a mixture of many molecules, I’m also participating in research aimed at identifying the specific molecule or mixture of molecules responsible for delaying aging.

What inspired you to apply for this contest?

YM: As a researcher, one of my duties is to inform the public of the progress of my field. And since I really enjoy talking about my research, I thought this was a good way to showcase what I was working on.


Manufacturing the future

Lucas Hof, a PhD student from the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering, was also longlisted in NSERC's Science, Action! competition for his video, “Manufacturing the Future.” It features the glass micro-machining technology he has developed alongside his colleagues in Concordia’s Electrochemical Green Engineering (EGE) Group.

Find out more about research at Concordia.


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