Age: 17Syosset, NY
Project Title: Exploring the Role of Cannabidiol in a Caenorhabditis elegans Epilepsy Model
Epilepsy is a progressive neurological disease characterized by recurrent seizures affecting people of all ages worldwide. Individuals afflicted with epilepsy whose seizures are not well controlled by the 24 anti-epileptic medications approved by the FDA are deemed drug resistant. Epidiolex (CBD) was approved by the FDA in 2018 for the treatment of seizures as cannabidiol components of cannabis have been shown to have anti-convulsive effects, yet the pathway in which CBD inhibits seizure activity is unknown. Cannabidiol has been shown to affect various pathways of inflammation including the adenosine and tumor necrosis factor alpha pathway. To further explain the protective effects of cannabidiol in mitigating seizure activity, the adenosine and TNFa inflammatory pathways were tested by culturing nematodes with adenosine and TNFa antagonists and agonists. Further understanding the mechanisms of action of cannabidiol will allow for greater therapeutic implications for the 65 million people impacted by epilepsy.
My name is Hailey Edelman, and I am from Syosset, New York. I have been immersed in science my entire life. My mother is a physician, and I remember meeting her at the hospital after rounds, observing the comings and goings of the doctors. She would share her passion for caring for her patients through stories of triumphs in defeating illness. At age ten I stood one full foot below my classmates. Nicknames like “shorty” were bellowed in the hallways. At age twelve, I began my introduction to the medical community when I discovered the reason I was failing to grow: Growth Hormone Deficiency. I self-injected medication daily for five years. My experiences in medicine are unique in that I understand the patient perspective and have first-hand knowledge of the caregiver perspective. I understand the courage, determination and dedication to battle your own illness. This perspective, I know, will guide my journey in science on a path that is certainly unique. Identifying a problem and conducting research has solidified my interest in scientific experimentation and my desire to pursue science at a university. My favorite part of the day is conducting research. While this can be rigorous and challenging, it is ultimately so rewarding seeing your ideas come to fruition. Although research does not always go according to plan, overcoming challenges is exciting and leads to new ideas. I am honored to be recognized as a Davidson Fellow, and I am excited to continue to embrace my passion for the sciences.
My journey as a marijuana aficionado began with a panic attack. I had just submitted a proposal to the entire high school science research faculty to “feed worms edible cannabis” as part of my research project. Would they judge me, mistakenly suspecting that I was some sort of stoner? Having always been labeled by those closest to me as a “rule follower” or “goody two shoes,” I was hesitant to undertake an experiment involving such a controversial substance. Yet, the potential benefits of understanding the way cannabidiol helps people in their fight against epilepsy was intriguing. I had seen the benefits of using marijuana for epilepsy treatment in my own home. My sister Lexi takes “weed” or, properly named, cannabidiol. She is not an addict, or a belligerent teenager, but rather an amazing, brave twelve-year-old.
Cannabidiol became a daily part of her life when she began taking Epidiolex: the first FDA approved cannabidiol for drug resistant epilepsy. The science was groundbreaking, but there were still so many unanswered questions. Though cannabidiol has been approved for the treatment of epilepsy, the mechanism of action has not been elucidated. My research seeks to determine which inflammatory pathways are affected by cannabidiol.
My research was conducted in my high school laboratory which certainly created many challenges. One of the most difficult challenges to overcome was unexpected school power outages. This caused incufridge temperature fluctuations leading to specimen death twice during experimentation. The specimens were reordered, and I continued research experimentation over the summer to obtain necessary data. Additional challenges of working in a high school laboratory included limited hours of experimentation, data collection, and available equipment. With the support of my amazing teachers, Ms. Veronica Ade, Dr. Mary Hendrickson, and Ms. Betsy Girardi, I was able to overcome these challenges and successfully complete my research.
Epilepsy affects people of all ages, involves 2.2 million people in the United States and greater than 65 million people worldwide of whom 30% are pharmacoresistant to the current available anti-seizure drugs. These medications may reduce seizure activity but do not completely mitigate epileptogenesis. Epilepsy is also associated with neurodevelopmental delays and decreased life expectancy by 10 years for people whose epilepsy condition has a known cause. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) affects 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy and is more prominent than sudden infant death in infancy (SIDS). My research concludes that the adenosine pathway and TNFa pathway are involved in the mechanism of action of cannabidiol as an anti-epileptic therapy. Further research in elucidating the mechanisms of action of cannabidiol in epilepsy could expand the potential therapeutic uses of cannabidiol for other forms of resistant seizures including neurodevelopmental diseases. Immunomodulating and biological therapies have led to major therapeutic advances in oncology, rheumatology, and neuroscience. Insights into the mechanisms of actions of therapeutic agents sheds light on disease pathways and would allow for future targeted bio-pharmacological therapies.
Investigating and elucidating the specific inflammatory pathways in which cannabidiol functions as an anti-epileptic drug will lead to more specific therapies. Therapies can be developed to target specific receptors impacted by inflammation in epileptogenesis within the central nervous system.
I recently graduated from Syosset High School and will be attending Yale University as a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major this fall. Throughout my years in high school, I completed studies in various honors and advanced placement STEM and humanities courses. One of my most notable high school experiences was my involvement in Syosset High Schools Advanced Research program. The program allowed me to conduct guided research beginning in 9th grade and independent research in grades 10-12. My 10th grade research teacher’s enthusiasm encouraged me to explore areas of research that were important to me. Having suffered from growth hormone deficiency, I first studied transdermal approaches to hormonal therapies. In 11th grade, I proposed and began my project “Exploring the Role of Cannabidiol in a Caenorhabditis elegans Epilepsy Model” and continued experimentation into senior year. Through this program I had the opportunity to present my work to industry professionals at various local and national competitions.
For my research I have been recognized as a 2020 Regeneron Talent Search Scholar, International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist, WAC Science Competition Honorable Mention, and NYSSEF Andromeda Honorable Mention. Academically, I have been named a National Merit Commended Student, AP Scholar, National Honors Society Member, and French National Honors Society Member. Some of my most rewarding experiences throughout high school have been my involvement in community and volunteer programs. Specifically, my travels to Ecuador to provide medical care enhanced my understanding of global healthcare challenges and furthered my interests in public health. In my free time, you can find me steering the varsity crew boat on the bay, snowboarding and zip lining through the mountains, or on stage performing in my school musicals. I will be a coxswain for Yale’s NCAA Division I Women’s Crew team this upcoming year, and I am excited to be part of the Yale Bulldog family. I plan to continue my studies in the research lab and attain my M.D/ Ph.D.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Obtaining my M.D/Ph.D
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
P!nk, Jeff Bezos, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jenifer Lopez, Kenneth Langone
In the News
SYOSSET TEEN AWARDED $10,000 FOR RESEARCH INTO THE ROLE OF CANNABIDIOL TO TREAT SEIZURES CAUSED BY EPILEPSY
Hailey Edelman to be Named a 2020 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Syosset, N.Y. – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2020 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 17-year-old Hailey Edelman of Closter. Edelman won a $10,000 scholarship for her project, Exploring the Role of Cannabidiol in a Caenorhabditis elegans Epilepsy Model. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am honored to be recognized as a Davidson Fellow,” said Edelman. “I am excited to continue to embrace my passion for the sciences.”
The cannabidiol components of cannabis have been shown to have anti-convulsive effects, yet the pathway in which CBD inhibits seizure activity is unknown. Edelman’s project explores the protective effects of cannabidiol in mitigating seizure activity and determine which inflammatory pathways are affected by cannabidiol. Edelman’s project was inspired by her sister who uses Epidiolex, the first FDA approved cannabidiol for drug resistant epilepsy, to prevent seizures.
Edelman will be attending Yale University in the fall where she plans to study molecular, cellular and developmental biology.
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The following disclosure is provided pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 598.1305:The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is a Nevada non-profit corporation which is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt private operating foundation. We are dedicated to supporting the intellectual and social development of profoundly gifted students age 18 and under through a variety of programs. Contributions are tax deductible.
Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests. Read more about this population in this article.