BRC 2016 Knowledge Translation Awards
The Brain Repair Centre awarded Knowledge Translation grants to four projects in 2016. These aim to commercialize significant innovations in the areas of non-invasive diagnostics, motor recovery, and neuroprotection and repair.
New technology looks to the eye as a window to the brain
A BRC KT grant is allowing Dr. Alon Friedman to pioneer a new technology using retinal imaging to identify early signs of brain disease. He and his collaborators are developing sophisticated new algorithms for ultra-high-field fluorescein angiography (UHFFA), an imaging technique used for diagnosing and monitoring diabetic retinopathy by tracing the leakage of blood components from tiny vessels in the retina into the surrounding tissues. This breach of the blood-retinal-barrier is often an indicator of similar leaks in the blood-brain-barrier that Dr. Friedman has discovered lead to a host of neurological diseases, from epilepsy to encephalopathy to dementia. He has started a company, EMAGIX Inc., to commercialize the patented algorithms, which will provide clinicians with a sensitive and quantitative means of evaluating the integrity of the blood-retinal-barrier, as a proxy for assessing small-vessel pathology in the brain. This will enable non-invasive, inexpensive diagnosis of early brain pathology, so measures can be taken to slow down the damage. One strategy Dr. Friedman has proven successful is to use medications already approved for treating high blood pressure to reduce the leakage and protect the brain by limiting the amount of inflammation-causing foreign proteins passing through the blood-brain-barrier.
Screening to maximize benefits of motor imagery therapy after stroke
Athletes use visualization to improve their performance and many stroke survivors can recover lost motor functions more quickly and completely by mentally rehearsing the required movements over and over again as part of their rehabilitation plan. Not all patients are able to do this kind of motor imagery, though, which is why physiotherapy professor Dr. Shaun Boe and PhD student Sarah Kraeutner have teamed up to create an app, MiScreen, that allows therapists to screen patients for their ability to perform motor imagery, ensuring that only those who would benefit from motor imagery are prescribed it. A BRC KT grant is enabling the researchers to streamline the testing protocol and adapt the app for use on smartphones and tablets so that it provides a portable and rapid means of assessing patients for their ability to benefit from motor imagery therapy. This work builds on a previous BRC KT-grant funded project to develop an EEG-based MI training tool for survivors of stroke and other brain injuries.
Dietary flavonoid-lipid combination promotes brain repair
KT awards from the BRC have enabled pharmacologist Dr. George S. Robertson to develop, refine and test a novel combination composed of the dietary flavonoids epicatechin (E) and quercetin (QU) and the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) called EQUEPA. He has found that EQUEPA protects the brain from damage by an experimental stroke. EQUEPA also enhanced myelin repair in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. His 2016 BRC KT award has also allowed Dr. Robertson to establish an industrial partnership with Dr. Dayan Goodenowe (President and CEO of Prodrome Sciences Inc.) to see if further therapeutic benefits are achieved by combining EQUEPA with plasmalogens (ether lipids that are a major component of myelin). These collaborative studies suggest that such a combination promotes brain repair by improving mitochondrial function which resolves neuroinflammation and stimulates neural regeneration. His BRC KT award has also supported a patent application for the use of EQUEPA as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders which will enable him to commercialize this product as a food medicine with his industrial partner.
Harnessing the neuroprotective potential of noble gases
A professor of anesthesiology and clinician at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, and a business professor at the Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, have teamed up to explore the neuroprotective potential of the noble gas, argon, with help from a BRC KT grant. Dr. Michael Schmidt and Dr. David Roach are building on an earlier BRC-funded study that allowed them to prove argon’s effectiveness as a neuroprotective agent in pre-clinical models and to file a patent application. With the 2016 funding, they are securing patents for their new technology in Canada, Europe and Japan. The researchers hope that this work will lead to the reduction of neurological sequelae following anesthesia and surgery, among other potential uses of this relatively inexpensive and abundant noble gas.
BRC 2016 Research, Dissemination & Commercialization Award
Understanding epilepsy as a network disorder
Every year, the BRC supports a high-level meeting, conference or symposium with an RD&C award. In 2016, this award allowed Drs. Bernd Pohlmann-Eden and Alon Friedman to host a gathering of the world’s leading epilepsy experts at White Point for the 4th Annual Halifax International Epilepsy Conference and Retreat. Their aim: to stimulate a broader conversation about epilepsy’s underlying mechanisms and what they share in common with other brain diseases, including autism, depression, dementia and schizophrenia. Faculty and attendees—who came from across Canada, the United States, Brazil, Germany, Israel and France—were able to build on the growing understanding of epilepsy as a network disorder, strengthen local connections, and lay the groundwork for an international collaborative network of clinicians and scientists with a shared interesting in unpacking the complexities of epilepsy. Dr. Pohlmann-Eden and other faculty members will publish key insights of the think-tank session in two papers in the journal, Seizure.
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