Dr. Alon Friedman
Neuroscience, Molly Appeal
New hope for brain damage and disease:
Dr. Alon Friedman is on the forefront of world efforts to prevent brain diseases by detecting and treating damaged blood vessels in the brain.
Dr. Friedman has found that damage to blood vessels in the brain - from brain injury, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, or other reasons - can lead to emotional and psychological disorders, cognitive impairment, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and Parkinson's disease.
"When blood vessels are damaged in the brain, substances in the blood cross the blood-brain barrier into the nerve tissues, where they can have toxic effects," explains Dr. Friedman, who came to Dalhousie from Israel's Ben-Gurion University in 2014, to accept the William Dennis Chair in Epilepsy Research. "My aim is to develop new technologies and treatments for detecting and repairing vascular damage and prevent brain damage before disease develops."
Tissues and data in the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank are an important resource for Dr. Friedman. “Examining brain tissues allows 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 new mechanism we could target in early stages to prevent further deterioration."
Dr. Friedman and his team make extensive use of Dalhousie Medical School's histology lab, where sophisticated tissue processing equipment like the Leica HistoCore PEARL being purchased through the Spring 2018 Molly Appeal, provides them with high-quality specimens for detailed analysis.
"Tissue analysis allows us to detect changes in individual cells and identify proteins that have leaked from the vasculature into the nerve tissues," Dr. Friedman notes. "Comparing these analyses to imaging studies of patients' brains provides us with tremendous insight into disease processes."
Dr. Friedman is collaborating with researchers in the Biomedical Translational Imaging Lab (BIOTIC) and clinicians - Dr. Cindy Calkin (Psychiatry), Dr. John Hanly (Rheumatology) and Dr. Alan Cruess (Ophthalmology) - to conduct MRI and other imaging studies of patients' brains and eyes. One of their goals is to advance new technologies for early detection of blood-vessel damage in the brain and retina, so people at risk can be screened and treated early to prevent disease.