Dr. Alon Friedman
New hope for epilepsy:
Dr. Alon Friedman is on the forefront of world efforts to prevent brain diseases, such as epilepsy, by detecting and treating damaged blood vessels in the brain.
A new recruit to Dalhousie Medical School and the IWK Health Centre, Dr. Alon Friedman arrived in Halifax from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University in July 2014, to accept his new role as William Dennis Chair in Epilepsy Research.
“I was impressed by the collaboration between scientists and clinicians, and the facilities for brain research - I knew it would be a positive environment for translating my findings to the patient,” says Dr. Friedman. “It was also appealing to me that the Dennis family cares so much about epilepsy research, they would fund a research chair. It’s important to me that people in the community are promoting and supporting research.”
Dr. Friedman has found that damage to blood vessels in the brain - from brain injury, stroke, high blood pressure or other reasons - is associated with epileptic seizures. “When these vessels are damaged, substances in the blood cross the blood-brain barrier into the nerve tissues, where they can have toxic effects,” he explains. “My aim is to develop new technologies and treatments for detecting and repairing vascular damage and early brain changes before disease develops.”
In addition to epilepsy, vascular damage in the brain can lead to emotional and psychological problems, cognitive impairment, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
Tissues and data in the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank will be an important resource for Dr. Friedman. “The brain bank will allow us to compare clinical histories of donors with the pathologies of their brains, to see how blood-brain-barrier damage was involved at various stages of disease,” he says. “We want to identify a mechanism we could target in early stages to prevent further deterioration.”
Dr. Friedman is collaborating with researchers in the Biomedical Translational Imaging Lab (BIOTIC) at the IWK and QEII to advance new technologies for early detection of blood-vessel damage in the brain. He hopes such technologies will be used in the future to screen for blood-vessel damage in anyone at risk - due to concussion, high blood pressure, family history, and other possible factors - so they can be treated early and effectively to avoid brain disease.