Health News – NoCamels – Israeli Innovation News is the leading news website on Israeli innovations. We cover all the latest innovation in the fields of technology, health, environment and lifestyle. Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:21:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Skin Cancer Breakthrough: Melanoma Cure Within Reach Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:15:29 +0000

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Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, and melanoma – the most aggressive of all skin cancers, which accounts for 2 percent of skin cancer cases – is responsible for nearly all skin cancer deaths. Melanoma rates have risen rapidly in the US over the last 30 years. In 2013, Israel’s Health Ministry recorded 1,634 new cases of melanoma, nearly twice the number diagnosed in 1980. Although scientists have identified key risk factors, they have struggled to find a way to halt its spread.

Now, Israeli and German scientists have potentially discovered how the cells of melanoma invade the rest of the body and ways to stop that spread.

SEE ALSO: ‘Cure For Terminal Cancer’ Discovered With Breakthrough Immunotherapy

In a breakthrough study published Monday in the journal Nature Cell Biology, the team details how melanoma evolves from pigment producing cells called melanocytes into tumors, and then spreads, or metastasizes, in the rest of the body.

Tumors initially form on the dermis, the outer layers of skin often in the form of dark colored moles. If caught early, doctors can easily remove the moles and prevent the cancer from spreading. If the mole is allowed to expand into dermis, the cells can be absorbed into the body’s circulatory system and travel to major organs and lymph nodes, where the disease becomes deadly and more aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are needed.

Melanoma Cells

Melanoma cells

“The threat of melanoma is not in the initial tumor that appears on the skin, but rather in its metastasis – cancer cells sent off to colonize in vital organs like the brain, lungs, liver and bones,” team leader Dr. Carmit Levy, of Tel Aviv University explains.

SEE ALSO: Vanity Best Tool In Fight Against Skin Cancer

According to the study, the way that the tumor spreads is through releasing microscopic bubbles called vesicles which contain microRNA genetic material. This genetic material triggers changes with skin cells which are the equipped to receive and then carry the cancer to the rest of the body, in what the study calls “trafficking before invasion.”

Two chemicals hold the key

The researchers say that they have also discovered two chemicals that could stop the process of metastasizing in its tracks.

The first chemical, dubbed only with an alpha-numerical designation of SB202190, prohibits vesicles from travelling from tumors into healthy skin cells. U0126, the second chemical, prohibits the cells from morphing after being exposed to vesicles so that they will be unable to accept cancer cells.

Both chemicals could be good contenders for drug treatments, according to the report.

Levy’s team from Tel Aviv University worked with Dr. Shoshi Greenberger from the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Dr. Ronen Brenner with Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and Prof. Jorg Hoheisel and Laureen Sander from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.

“Our study is an important step on the road to a full remedy for the deadliest skin cancer,” Levy says. “We hope that our findings will help turn melanoma into a nonthreatening, easily curable disease.”



Photos: Tel Aviv University



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Serving Up A Balanced Meal: Could Israeli Startup ‘Plate My Meal’ Teach Iranian Kids Healthy Eating Habits? Tue, 16 Aug 2016 08:44:26 +0000

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“Globesity,” the term used by the World Health Organization to describe the global epidemic of obesity, is spreading fast. According to the WHO, more than 1.9 billion adults in the world are overweight, of whom 600 million are obese.

Now, Israeli startup Plate My Meal is offering a simple yet effective way to instill healthy eating habits and prevent obesity from a young age, with a five-piece plastic plate set for toddlers. The plates, which are divided into different compartments, indicate the recommended portions of different kinds of foods, including dairy products, vegetables and grains.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

In addition, the set suggests the appropriate time for each meal: Breakfast (7-8 a.m.), mid-morning snack (10-11 a.m.), lunch (12-1 p.m.), mid-afternoon snack (3-4 p.m.), and dinner (5-7 p.m.).

“I envisioned a product that would help parents encourage their children to eat healthy, so I developed a very simple, three-step system: when, what and how much to eat,” Plate My Meal CEO Dror Tamir (also the co-founder of startup Steak TzarTzar, which grows crickets for human consumption) tells NoCamels. The plate set costs $30 and is currently available on the company’s website, with additional online retailers coming soon.

SEE ALSO: Study: Mediterranean And Low-Carb Diets Have Long-Lasting Health Benefits

plate my meal - set

The company, which dubs its three-step system “the 3D healthy eating concept,” based it on US Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines for Americans. The system not only teaches toddlers proper serving sizes, but also the different food groups and how to mix them up to make a healthy meal.

“The government spends billions of dollars every year trying to educate the public,” says Tamir, who questions its success, in light of the growing obesity epidemic. “Instead of talking about losing weight or dieting, we have to talk about our habits.”

According to the company, the Israeli health ministry has endorsed Plate My Meal. Even the ministry of health in Iran – which has no diplomatic relations with Israel – contacted Tamir about the plate set, since Iran is also combating a national obesity problem. In a recent crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, Plate My Meal raised $10,030, further proving the interest in its product.

Some of the advantages Plate My Meal claims to have over its competitors – MyPlate, Diet Plate, and Create Your Plate, to name a few – is that it recommends portion sizes and foods from different groups, while simultaneously tailoring each plate for a specific meal and therefore a specific time of the day. Plate My Meal also contains one plate for each recommended meal of the day, whereas some of its competitors offer one plate for all meals, according to Tamir.

Peanut butter or tahini? 

Evidently, Plate My Meal caters to some cultural dietary differences. For instance, the American set contains one dairy portion for lunch and one protein for dinner, whereas the Israeli set contains the opposite (protein for lunch and dairy for dinner), in accordance with local customs. The food suggestions also take these cultural differences into account: The portion of fat in the middle compartment of one of the plates contains drawings of both tahini (Mediterranean) and peanut butter (American) as options.

Vegetables - Health News - Israel

Plate My Meal plans to create sets for the whole family, not just for children, and also cater to other dietary restrictions, such as vegetarianism and veganism. Most importantly, encouraging healthy eating habits from a young age are fundamental for the prevention of obesity, and that’s what Plate My Meal is trying to achieve.

Now, all that’s left to do is to actually fill your plate!

Photos and video: Courtesy

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Israeli Researchers Find Way To Spot Tumor Cells Invading The Brain At An Early Stage Tue, 09 Aug 2016 09:11:31 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Metastatic melanoma is the deadliest of the skin cancers; when malignant melanoma metastasizes to the brain, it is a death sentence for most patients. The mechanisms that govern early metastatic growth and interactions of metastatic cells with the brain’s microenvironment are still shrouded in mystery.

Now, a Tel Aviv University study shows a new way of detecting brain micrometastases months before they transform into malignant and inoperable growths. According to the research, micro-tumor cells hijack astrogliosis, the brain’s natural response to damage or injury, to support metastatic growth. This knowledge may lead to the detection of brain cancer in its first stages and permit early intervention, the university said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: How Elephants’ Genes Are Fighting Cancer In Humans

Cancer Cell

The study was led by Dr. Neta Erez of the Department of Pathology at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and published in Cancer Research.

SEE ALSO: To Stop Cancer From Spreading: Shoot The Messenger

Erez and her team used mouse models to study and follow the spontaneous metastasis of melanoma in the brain. She and her partners went over all the stages of metastasis: the initial discovery of melanoma in the skin, the removal of the primary tumor, the micrometastatic dissemination of cancer cells across the body, the discovery of a tumor and eventual death.

Imaging techniques used today cannot detect micrometastases. Melanoma patients whose initial melanoma was removed may believe that everything is fine for months, or years, following the initial procedure.

Yet after the removal of the primary tumor, micrometastatic cells travel across the body to the brain or other organs, and are undetectable at the micro level. These cells learn to communicate with cells in their new microenvironment in the brain — cells which are, at first, hostile to them. But eventually a tumor appears. And then it generally is too late for treatment.

Erez calls the period of the initial growth of disseminated micrometastatic cells in distant organs the “black box” of metastasis. “We believe that we have found the tools to characterize this black box,” said Erez. “And this is key to developing therapeutic approaches that may prevent brain metastatic relapse.”

Students and researchers at Dr. Neta Erez's lab

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Courtesy

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Baby Keeping You Up? Nanit’s Innovative Monitor Helps Parents Get A Good Night’s Sleep Sun, 07 Aug 2016 13:24:19 +0000

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One of the biggest problems new parents deal with is severe lack of sleep: Newborns and babies often wake up in the middle of the night, leaving mom and dad exhausted by dawn.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Research Finds Parents’ Interrupted Sleep Is The Equivalent Of No Sleep At All

In order to learn more about your baby’s sleep cycles, and adjust yourself better to their snooze patterns, startup Nanit, which was founded by Israelis, has come up with a smart baby monitor, which not only alerts you when your little one wakes up, but also documents on video every minute of their sleeping hours, using innovative computer vision technology.

Nanit tracks four measures: sleep quality – which is the ratio of the time the baby is asleep to its time in bed; how much time the baby sleeps through the night; how many times the parents attend to the child throughout the night; and sleep onset – how long it takes the baby to fall asleep.

“Parents know their child best; we are just giving them the information, so they can make the best decisions for their child,” Tor Ivry, co-founder and CTO of Nanit, tells NoCamels.

nanit baby monitor

Nanit uses machine learning technologies to monitor the baby’s sleep behavior by live-steaming the crib in HD to an app on the parent’s smartphone. The monitor itself – a slick, white device – provides a bird’s-eye view of the crib, streaming video that uses algorithms to analyze the baby’s movements. The computer vision technology allows the app to differentiate between a sleeping baby and a restless baby, so if the app senses motion in the middle of the night, the parents will be alerted through the app.

How does Nanit help you optimize your baby’s sleep? Here’s an example: One of Nanit’s beta testers realized that when they gave formula to their baby right before he went to sleep, it took him longer to fall asleep. Thus, Nanit can give parents the tools to better manage their baby’s sleep.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

The mobile app provides a comprehensive sleep report each morning, through which parents can watch a time-lapse video and see a summary of the night’s events. In addition to the sleep analysis, Nanit has a night-light, built-in temperature and humidity sensors, and it can also play nature sounds or white noise to help your baby fall asleep.

Nanit is available on the company’s website for $329 for the hardware and $100 for a year of analytics. Pre-orders are $279, and $50 for the analytics. If the parents decide to only buy the hardware, they will still receive real-time alerts and a free 30-day trial of the analytics.

Baby sleep guru 

Founded in 2014 by Ivry, CEO Assaf Glazer and COO Andrew Berman, this revolutionary baby monitor has already received $6.6 million in funding from several investors.

baby crying

Obviously, Nanit competes against many other baby monitors, some more sophisticated than others. It also competes against one of Israel’s most revolutionary inventions in this field – respiratory monitor BabySense (by HiSense), which is placed under the baby’s mattress and alerts parents when breathing stops or becomes irregular, protecting babies against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Some call Nanit a “sleep guru,” while others call it a “baby translator.” No matter what you call this monitor, we hope it gives you a good night’s sleep!
sleeping baby

Photos and video: Courtesy

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Israeli, Indian Entrepreneurs Join Forces To Tackle India’s Healthcare Challenges Wed, 03 Aug 2016 11:40:44 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Amid Bollywood music and dancing, mouthwatering curries and masalas, more than 600 innovators, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals in four cities, in Israel and India, took part in a hackathon aimed at resolving health challenges for India’s poor.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Water Crisis, Indian Minister Praises Israeli Technologies: “Israel Is My Guru”

Some 100 teams in Tel Aviv, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore spent 36 hours together, face-to-face and online, and came up with ideas including a toothbrush that detects anemia, mobile phone applications to monitor the food intake of infants, and a smart pillbox to remind patients to take their tuberculosis medication.

The India Israel Affordable Healthcare Hackathon, which ran for three days in the four cities and ended recently, was organized by the Pears Program for Global Innovation, which is run by the Tel Aviv University. The program is a partner of OLAM, an organization promoting global Jewish service and international development.

The aim of the hackathon was to expose Israeli technology to the challenges of developing markets and turn the attention of Israeli entrepreneurs to the potential that Africa and India hold for their products. There are over 1,000 startups in the healthcare sector in Israel but most of them target the US and European markets.

“The best teams of the hackathon will be invited to join the Pears Challenge year-long fellowship program for outstanding Israeli innovators who want to develop technologies to address the health care needs of poor people in India,” Aliza Belman Inbal, director of the Pears Program, said by phone. “The hackathon was an amazing first step in this journey. We hope to create a pipeline of commercial ventures that deal with these problems.” The Indian winning teams will get placed at a parallel program in India.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Pesticide Company That Fights Pests With Bumble Bees Now Launches In India

The teams had to tackle pressing health problems by finding, among other challenges: an anemia diagnostic test for young girls; a technological solution to monitor food and milk intake among infants; screening and diagnosis solutions for hearing impairment; real-time monitoring devices for pregnant women in remote areas; a way to manage the side effects of chemotherapy in remote areas; improved access to funding for cancer treatments and a technology driven-solution to give psychological counseling for cancer patients by connecting them to doctors and counselors.

taj mahal

To read the full article, click here

Photos and video: Pears Program

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New Liquid Salt Blend ‘Umamix’ Cuts Sodium Intake In Half Without Sacrificing Flavor Wed, 20 Jul 2016 12:12:19 +0000

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These days, any nutrition aficionado will advise you to reduce sugar and carbs and warn you of their dreary tag-alongs, obesity and diabetes. But buried deep in health columns is something doctors have been saying for decades: high salt intake is just as bad.

SEE ALSO: Study: Mediterranean And Low-Carb Diets Have Long-Lasting Health Benefits

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “high sodium consumption raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death.”

Low-sodium salt is one option, but if you’ve ever tasted it, chances are you won’t have liked it. Trying its luck, Israeli company Salt of the Earth has come up with a new “salt” called Umamix, which is made of natural extracts, vegetable concentrates, and a little bit of Red Sea salt.

umamix new salt less sodium

Cutting sodium intake in half, the product comes in liquid form, and its brown color is reminiscent of soy sauce. But like soy sauce, the blend is more expensive than regular sea salt: it is expected to cost $5-$9 per kilogram. Umamix is named after umami, the fifth taste (along with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter). 

SEE ALSO: Ari Fruchter’s New Dead Sea Project: ‘The World’s Healthiest Gourmet Sea Salt That Will Also Promote Peace

According to Salt of the Earth, a can of tuna contains 350-450 mg of sodium; with Umamix, you can reduce it by 29 percent, without sacrificing the flavor. In other foods, the reduction is even greater: the company’s tests on hamburgers showed a 45 percent reduction – which means almost cutting sodium intake in half; and mayonnaise spiced with Umamix has 31 percent less sodium.

“Salt is necessary for life, of course, but most of us consume twice the recommended maximum level and that is a big problem,” Revital Ben Shachar, marketing manager for Salt of the Earth, tells NoCamels.

Adding a savory flavor

Salt of the Earth, established in 1922 with headquarters in Atlit, Israel, produces salt from the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The company is Israel’s main salt manufacturer, and exports to 30 countries worldwide. With Umamix, the company seeks to capitalize on the demand for healthy alternatives.

Salt of the Earth says it is collaborating with several organizations to introduce its new product to the market: Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management; the Chopping Block Culinary School in Chicago; Israeli hospitals and bakeries; and giant food manufacturer General Mills. For now, the condiment is not available to consumers.

Social Awareness: Israeli Entrepreneur Hopes Dead Sea Salt Will Promote Peace In The Middle East

The Dead Sea

“We want to build a strong foothold [in the food service industry]  in order to be able to show the validation of the product and its different applications,” Dror Levy, the company’s retail export manager, tells NoCamels.

“In several taste panels we have conducted, many people actually preferred Umamix to the regular salt,” Levy says.

Whether you like the taste of Umamix or not, one thing is certain: Reducing sodium intake will benefit your health!


Photos: Salt of the Earth

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Skin Deep: Temporary Electronic Tattoo Can Read Your Emotions Tue, 19 Jul 2016 13:09:24 +0000

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A penny for your thoughts? Put your coins away. A new stick-on electronic tattoo could help reveal what people are really thinking.

Developed by Professor Yael Hanein, head of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, the user-friendly electrode can be used to improve the therapeutic restoration of damaged nerves and tissue – and could even lead to new insights into our emotional life.

SEE ALSO: Light Beams, Not Pacemakers, Could Be The Future Of Heart Treatments

Stick-on monitoring

Consisting of a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that attaches to the skin, and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating that enhances the electrode’s performance, the tattoo records a strong, steady signal for hours on end without irritating the skin.

The tattoo allows users to continue on with their regular schedules, while monitoring their muscle activity for many hours, for a range of medical and other purposes. “Our tattoo permits patients to carry on with their daily routines, while the electrode monitors their muscle and nerve activity,” Hanein said in a statement.

Mapping of emotions

One major application of the new electrode, already under development, may be the mapping of emotions. “The ability to identify and map people’s emotions has many potential uses,” Hanein said. “Advertisers, pollsters, media professionals and others – all want to test people’s reactions to various products and situations. Today, with no accurate scientific tools available, they rely mostly on inevitably subjective questionnaires. To address this need, researchers worldwide are trying to develop methods for mapping emotions by analyzing facial expressions, mostly via facial photos and smart software. Our skin electrode provides a simple, convenient solution: monitoring expressions and emotions based on the electric signals received from facial muscles.”

SEE ALSO: Using DNA Nanotechnology, Israeli Scientists Develop The Future Of Flexible Display Screens

Conducted within the framework of an EU project, and partly supported by the BSMT Consortium of Israel’s Ministry of Economy, the study Hanein led was presented at an international nanomedicine workshop at Tel Aviv University in June.

Nanotechnology temporary tattoos

The new skin electrode is based on a fusion of nanotechnology with a very basic and commonplace product: the temporary tattoos that children love so much. “We used readily available materials and conventional industrial printing techniques, in order to simplify and speed up the development process,” Hanein explained. “Our ‘electric tattoo’ consists of three parts: a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that sticks temporary tattoos to the skin and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating, with special nano-topography, that enhances the electrode’s performance. The result is an efficient skin electrode that records a strong and steady signal for many hours, and does not irritate the skin. The user just fixes it onto the skin at the right spot and forgets about it, then carries on as usual while the little ‘tattoo’ measures and records muscle activity.”


Additional applications

According to Hanein, this is only the beginning. The new skin electrode has many more potential applications: a study initiated recently in collaboration with researchers at the Tel Aviv Medical Center uses it to monitor the muscle activity of patients with neurodegenerative diseases; physiological data measured in specific muscles may be used in the future to indicate the alertness of drivers on the road; patients in rehabilitation following stroke or brain injury may utilize the ‘tattoo’ to improve muscle control; and amputees may employ it to move artificial limbs with remaining muscles.

Photos: Tel Aviv University

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Israeli Prostate Cancer Test Reduces Need For Biopsies Mon, 11 Jul 2016 10:47:09 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men after skin cancer, with almost 190,000 new cases in the US expected for 2016 and about 26,000 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer.

SEE ALSO: To Stop Cancer From Spreading: Shoot The Messenger

Prostate cancer can often be detected before symptoms arise by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) — a substance made by cells in the prostate gland — in the blood. A high level of PSA could be indicative of cancer and if a blood test finds this, the patient will most often be sent for a biopsy.

Lung cancer cell dividing

But here lies the problem. Because PSA is secreted both by normal cells and cancer cells, its levels could be high for other reasons and not necessarily cancer: age, an inflammation of the prostate gland, or even a bicycle ride. But most often when doctors receive a high reading, they send their patients to do a biopsy, just to be on the safe side.

“There are roughly 1.5 million primary biopsies done in the US a year,” says Israel-born Arnon Chait, the CEO of Cleveland Diagnostics, based in Cleveland, Ohio. “On average 70 percent come back negative.” That is good news for the patient, but at a cost of about $4,000 per biopsy, health providers are not happy.

SEE ALSO: Harmless? Herbal Medicines Could Interfere With Life-Saving Cancer Treatments

Thus Cleveland Diagnostics (CDX), founded by Chait and his partner Boris Zaslavsky in 2013, is developing a technology and test kit that can identify the PSA that specifically comes from cancer cells. “We don’t look at the level of PSA in the blood – which is not specific to cancer,” Chait said. “Our test asks: where did this PSA come from, normal cells or cancer cells? This will help health providers save billions of dollars and patients won’t have to undergo unnecessary procedures.”

Potentially, said Chait, the new IsoPSA test, expected to enter the market in the last quarter of the year, could replace the current PSA test in the screening process in health centers. This same technology could also be used in other applications, to detect breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Chait said, as well as for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

To read the full article, click here

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Life-Saving Wearable Tech: This T-Shirt Monitors Your Heart And Vital Signs Wed, 06 Jul 2016 10:46:14 +0000

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If you or a someone you care about has suffered from a heart condition, you know how important early detection is.

That’s why Israeli startup HealthWatch has developed hWear, a high ‘tech-xtile’ wearable technology that monitors ECG (the electrical activity of the heart) and vital signs in real time.

SEE ALSO: Light Beams, Not Pacemakers, Could Be The Future Of Heart Treatments

hWear by HealthWatch

hWear is a sleeveless shirt that can be worn under any blouse, shirt or dress. Its fabric is embedded with ECG sensors that monitor the patient’s condition. If there are any irregularities, the shirt will send immediate updates using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to both the patient and their doctor, so the situation can be promptly addressed and treated.

Oftentimes, patients aren’t aware that they are having a cardiac episode, as heart problems can appear in many different forms. When this happens, problems can be left unchecked, and therefore untreated, until the next doctor’s appointment – when it could be too late.


It’s important to note that hWear itself is not the solution to the problem. Should the wearer experience any heart problems, hWear will only notify them and not actually rectify the problem. Once the wearer receives a notification, however, they can quickly consult a physician. With hWear, patients are able to take care of medical issues before they become life threatening.

SEE ALSO: One Heart Sometimes Beats As Two Dozen: New Study Could Improve Heart Disease Treatment

HealthWatch, hWear’s developer, is located in Ra’anana, Israel. The company was founded in 2010 by CEO Uri Amir, who has spent the past few decades creating and manufacturing medical devices.

In an interview with NoCamels, Amir describes the company as “weaving health into everyday life.”

Washable and FDA-approved 

hWear is one of the first heart-monitoring shirts on the market. It has little competition; while some wearable technologies like the “D-shirt” and “NuMetrex” monitor people’s heart rates, hWear monitors all vital signs – pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate, and blood pressure – giving both doctor and patient much more information.

Despite the advanced technology of this potentially life-saving product, hWear is quite simple to operate. No skin preparation or shaving is needed. Just slip on FDA-approved garment, and you’re ready to go. You can even put it in the washing machine along with the rest of your clothes!

Making health awareness as simple as getting dressed in the morning

Wearable technology is a rapidly growing industry. According to research firm Gartner, the industry is expected to grow by more than 18 percent this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 610,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. Fortunately, hWear can potentially save thousands of lives by making health awareness as simple as getting dressed in the morning.


Photos and video: Courtesy

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Wearable Device Livia Promises To ‘Turn Off’ Menstrual Cramps, Alleviate Period Pain Mon, 04 Jul 2016 13:35:15 +0000

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Most women suffer pain during menstruation; oftentimes, the aches can get bloody awful. It happens every month, and painkillers don’t always alleviate the cramps.

Now, an Israeli device called Livia is offering a solution to these scheduled periods of discomfort, by sending weak electric pulses to your abdomen. This wearable technology, which clasps onto your pants and is hidden under your blouse, can be discreetly worn in public (it certainly doesn’t cramp your style!) and also helps women stay away from painkillers.

SEE ALSO: Medasense’s Pain Assessment Monitor Among Winners Of Prestigious Startup Competition

Livia is marketed as “the off-switch for menstrual cramps.” It consists of a small square device with two gel pads attached to it, which are placed on the affected area of the abdomen.

SEE ALSO: Music For Medicine: How Musicians Are Easing The Pain Of Patients

The device utilizes a technology similar to Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), usually employed in physical therapy, to block pain receptors from processing the hurtful sensation in the brain and thus work its magic.

Chen Nachum, co-founder and CEO of Livia, explains the technology through the gate control theory of pain, which hypothesizes that there are “gates” that can prevent pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system.

“The nervous system can only handle one type of pain at a time, one type of signal,” he tells NoCamels. “So, if you create a signal that is not pain but a tingling sensation, and you transmit it to the body faster than the pain, then the nervous system will be busy with that signal and not with the pain.”


However, Nachum explains that there is a specific difference between TENS and the technology behind Livia. “Livia’s  wave shape is different, making it so effective for pain,” he says. “So, if you use a physical therapy device and if you use Livia, it feels similar but the body is reacting differently to the pulses.”

He could not go into further detail at the moment, since the company is currently trying to patent its technology.

Raising $775,000 in just one month 

Over the past years, Prof. Bari Kaplan, an OBGYN at Israel’s Beilinson Hospital, has constantly been looking for an alternative to painkillers to help his patients. And so, in April 2015, he co-founded Livia, along with Nachum.

Livia recently raised nearly $775,000 on crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, 1340 percent more than its initial goal. According to the company, with additional funds from private investors, the company already has more than $1 million in funding.

Taking care of back pain  

Livia is also said to work for back pain in the lower abdomen area of the body, which can be an advantage to women who suffer increased levels of back pains during their periods.

But with all its alleged advantages, some have criticized Livia for not being very discreet: If you don’t wear the right shirt, the device could potentially draw unwanted attention to your abdomen.

Pending FDA approval 

The company is expected to officially launch its product in October, for $85-$149. In the meantime, Livia is working on obtaining FDA approval.

The feedback from women who tested Livia so far has been encouraging, saying the device has really helped them, according to Nachum: “The responses I get are amazing, way beyond what I imagined.”


Photos and video: Courtesy

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Taking The Uncertainty Out Of Breastfeeding: MomSense Measures Breast Milk Intake Thu, 23 Jun 2016 11:53:32 +0000

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While parents who bottle-feed their babies can measure exactly how much formula is given, nursing mothers never know how much breast milk their baby actually consumes.

Now, Israeli startup MomSense is offering a mobile app that monitors babies’ milk intake in real time, revealing how many cubic centimeters (cc) of milk are consumed during breastfeeding. The company’s patented Smart Breastfeeding Meter consists of a smartphone app and an $89 earphone set that contains a nursing sensor which is placed beneath the baby’s earlobe.

The goal of MomSense is to make mothers feel more confident that their infants are getting enough nutrition by allowing them to accurately measure and control the consumed quantities of breast milk. The app monitors and analyzes the baby’s gulping for factors such as intensity, speed and frequency, to approximate the amount of milk consumed.

50 percent of new moms give up on breastfeeding 

Research shows that the predominant reason women give up breastfeeding (50 percent of new nursing moms eventually give up) is the belief that they are not providing enough milk; so, they then turn to bottle-feeding, which can regulate how much their babies are consuming.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Discover Breast Milk Not Always Healthy

By continually keeping track of each nursing session with MomSense, the app – available for both iOS and Android smartphones – gradually builds an ongoing record of breastfeeding patterns by amalgamating detailed nursing reports collected over time.

This technology also allows mothers to listen to their babies’ gulping sounds, thus enabling caregivers to acquaint themselves with the child’s regular eating sounds, thereby being able to detect anything that might deviate from their daily routine.

Making sure your newborn gets sufficient nutrition 

MomSense advises against using the app on premature babies, and all babies weighing less than two kilograms due to the fact that their chambers might be weak or not fully developed. Furthermore, it is advised to only employ the device once the colostrum (the earliest form of liquid produced by the milk ducts) is replaced by milk, which usually takes a few days after childbirth.

The company has also addressed concerns regarding radiation and safety by advising mothers to put their phones on airplane mode when nursing in order to avoid emissions from their smartphones.

According to reports in the media, the startup, which was founded in 2013 by Dr. Osnat Emanuel, has had several funding rounds after its initial $1 million seed round; however, a spokeswoman for MomSense declined to comment.


Earlier this year, MomSense was awarded the “Top Choice of the Year” award by Baby Maternity Magazine in the Nursing Aids category. Before earning the award, the app was tested by 50 new mothers, pregnant women and caregiver professionals.

SEE ALSO: Study: Breastfed Babies Are Less Likely To Develop ADHD

Now, after almost four years of research and development, MomSense’s technology is finally available to reassure new moms around the world that their babies are getting sufficient nutrition. According to Emanuel, “breastfeeding is a significant period for both mother and baby. We want to create a breastfeeding experience that gives mother a sense of calm and confidence which encourages her to continue breastfeeding and benefit from it.”


Photos and video: MomSense

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Israeli Startup Nano Dimension 3D Prints Human Stem Cells Thu, 09 Jun 2016 07:09:28 +0000

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Using plastics, nylon and metals to 3D print objects has already transformed the way companies around the world manufacture their prototypes and products. But the printing of stem cells – multicellular organisms capable of giving rise to more cells of the same type – provides for a much more serious application of the technology, one that could save many lives.

Israeli company Nano Dimension has successfully lab-tested a 3D bioprinter for stem cells, making it very possible that human tissue and organs can be manufactured using 3D printing in the not too distant future. 3D bioprinting is the process of creating cell patterns in a confined space using 3D printing technologies, where cell function and viability are preserved, creating tissue-like structures that are later used in the medical and tissue engineering fields.

SEE ALSO: 3D Print Your Own Homemade Superfood With Israeli Tech ‘Green Onyx’


In order to develop these high-quality cells, Nano Dimension turned to another Israeli startup, Haifa-based Accellta, to collaborate on the trial. The feasibility study confirmed that the combined know-how and technologies of the companies enabled printing of viable stem cells using an adapted 3D printer.

“3D printing of living cells is a technology that’s playing a significant role in medical research”

According to Nano Dimension CEO Amit Dror, “3D printing of living cells is a technology that is already playing a significant role in medical research, but in order to reach its full potential, for the field to evolve further, there is a need to improve printing speeds, print resolution, cell control and viability as well as cell availability and bio-ink technologies. By combining our high-speed, high-precision inkjet capabilities with Accellta’s stem cell suspension technologies and induced differentiation capabilities led by a world-renown group of experienced engineers and scientists, we can enable 3D printing at high resolution and high volumes.”

The companies will consider the formation of a new venture for these future solutions, and do not intend to invest significant capital directly to expand this activity. Such funds would be raised by and for the use of the joint venture.

SEE ALSO: Israeli 3D Printing Makes Life-Saving Blood Recycling Machine 96 Percent Cheaper

3D bioprinting enabled by the two companies’ technologies, means that Nano Dimension and Accellta have the potential to accelerate high-fidelity and high-viability manufacturing of living cellular products. Accellta’s unique, robust and reproducible suspension-based cell culturing systems produce billions of high-quality stem cells per batch and represent a transformative step in terms of stem cell production. Accellta’s technology can deliver large quantities of high-quality cells, which can be an enabler for printing even larger and more complex tissues – even whole organs in the future.


Embryonic stem cell

According to Accellta chairman and CEO Dr. Itzchak Angel, “Accellta and Nano Dimension have joined forces in this initial trial to evaluate and adapt the joint potential of our technologies. We hope and believe that this will bring the mutual capabilities and know-how of both companies to create 3D bioprinting solutions that combine a high precision, high-throughput printer with dedicated bio-ink technologies, derived from stem cells. By enabling high precision 3D bioprinting and differentiation of stem cells into required tissues, our combined technologies have the potential to enable vast areas of development.”

Photos: Courtesy

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Double The Sweetness, Half The Sugar: DouxMatok Tricks Your Brain Into Cutting Sugar Intake Thu, 02 Jun 2016 08:56:36 +0000

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There is something about sugar most of us simply can’t resist. With just one small bite, it enters our blood stream and rushes the body with pure energy. Our bodies are hardwired to love it, and that’s why the addiction to sugar is so hard to kick.

SEE ALSO: Thirsty? ‘The Right Cup’ Turns Water Into Your Favorite Drink Using Scent – Not Sugar

Public health bodies recommend eating a diet low in sugar to prevent the onset of diabetes. Fortunately, Israeli startup DouxMatok is coming to the rescue with a healthier solution which could revolutionize how manufacturers and consumers worldwide use sugar. DouxMatok has engineered a new form of sugar that offers the same sugar experience with half the calories. The sugar looks the same, but it’s physically altered to maximally satiate our tongues, so we consume less and protect our health.

Telling your brain: Enough sugar!

To make DouxMatok sugar, the company attaches regular sugar to a micron-sized, food-safe silica molecule (one of the most common substances on earth), using molecular bonding. This greatly increases the particle’s surface area, so when the sugar dissolves on the tongue, the taste buds are exposed to more of the sweet taste, and we feel satisfied.

SEE ALSO: Meet Valiber, The Smart Spoon That Tells You Exactly How Sweet Your Beverage Is

According to founder Eran Baniel, DouxMatok sugar tricks the brain into believing it consumed more than it actually did. “DouxMatok’s technology will allow for a reduction of 30-60 percent of sugar in a product, depending on the application, and with no effect on taste. When we tested it in the UK, our product had the exact same taste profile as sugar, with none of the aftertaste caused by artificial sweeteners.”

The technology would allow us to continue to consume the sugary chocolate and cakes we love, while experiencing fewer of sugar’s pernicious side effects, the most common being unwanted weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

The tongue test

The product is a lab-based transformation of sugar, which requires no artificial chemicals. The enhanced sugar works by modifying how the molecules interact with the receptors on the tongue. DouxMatok’s technology coats the sugar molecules on to organic carriers using a natural mineral, which transports multiple sugar molecules together to the taste receptors on the tongue.

The gustatory system, through which the body perceives taste, is not a fully efficient process. When consuming food or drink with a sweet flavor, usually containing sugar syrup or powder, many of the sugar molecules move through the mouth and miss the sweet taste receptors.

Consumers ingest these sugar particles without registering their sweetness, and therefore the sweetness of the product as a whole. If people could taste every sugar molecule in a cup of regular soda, they would most likely find it undrinkable.


Founded in 2014, DouxMatok won the award for Outstanding Company at “Agravest 2015″, a conference organized by Israel’s Ministry of Economy and other companies. The startup recently partnered with the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry in Boston to optimize its technologies and is currently in the process of raising $4 million for research and development.

The implications of what DouxMatok is doing are far reaching. And who knows, perhaps in the near future, the age-old coffee/tea question ‘one lump or two?’ may soon be replaced with the statement ‘one lump is just as sweet as two’.

Photos and video: Courtesy

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Not Just Asthma: Exposure To Air Pollution Raises Heart Disease Risk Mon, 30 May 2016 08:52:42 +0000

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Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health, known to cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, including asthma. According to the World Health Organization, outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide annually.

SEE ALSO: Exposure To Air Pollution In Womb Raises Risk Of Autism, Study Finds

But air pollution is not only linked to respiratory diseases. A new Israeli study shows that air pollution can worsen blood sugar levels, cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease, particularly in people with diabetes.

Health News: Israeli Researchers Use Skin Cells To Repair Damaged Hearts

The study, which was conducted by Israel’s Ben Gurion University and the Soroka University Medical Center, was recently published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“The continuous nature of exposure and the number of people affected gives us cause for concern”

“While air pollution is linked with relatively small changes in cardio-metabolic risk factors, the continuous nature of exposure and the number of people affected gives us cause for concern,” Dr. Victor Novack of BGU and the Soroka University Medical Center, who led the study, said in a statement. “Even small changes in glucose levels and glycemic control can contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

SEE ALSO: Following Israel’s Most Devastating Sandstorm, Eyes Are On Air Pollution App BreezoMeter

The study examined the effects of air pollution exposure on 73,117 adults living in southern Israel, where levels of particulate matter can escalate due to its location in the global dust belt.

To assess air pollution, the researchers used daily satellite data on how much sunlight was blocked by particles in the air. By examining this and other weather data, the scientists developed a model that allowed them to estimate daily air pollution exposure for each study participant using their address.

They then analyzed the results from 600,000 blood samples taken from the study subjects between 2003 and 2012. All of the study participants were known smokers or were diagnosed with diabetes, ischemic heart disease (a disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart), and hypertension (or dyslipidemia), which occurs when levels of fats in the blood are too high or low.

The study found participants tended to have higher blood sugar levels and a poorer cholesterol profile when they were exposed to higher levels of air particulates in the preceding three months compared to those exposed to lower levels of air pollutants. In all, particulate matter exposure was associated with increases in blood glucose, LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol), and triglycerides, or fats in the blood. Exposure to particulate matter was also linked to lower levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.

The associations were stronger for people with diabetes; however, those who were taking medications other than insulin to treat diabetes experienced a protective effect. This group experienced smaller changes in blood sugar and cholesterol levels following air pollution exposure.


Although air pollution did not have an immediate effect on blood test results taken within as little as seven days of exposure, the researchers found that cumulative exposure over the course of three months was tied to risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“We found an association between air pollution exposure in the intermediate term and undesirable changes in cholesterol,” researcher Maayan Yitshak Sade of BGU and Soroka University Medical Center said in a statement. “This suggests that cumulative exposure to air pollution over the course of a lifetime could lead to elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Other authors of the study include: Itai Kloog of BGU; Idit F. Liberty of BGU and Asuta Medical Center in Beer-Sheva; and Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health. The research was supported by a grant from Israel’s Environment and Health Fund. 

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LifeBond’s Stomach Closure ‘Glue’ Gets EU Approval Sun, 15 May 2016 11:25:31 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

LifeSeal, the no-leak sealant solution for patients who have undergone gastrointestinal (GI) surgery, is now approved for use in the European Union. The sealant, developed by Israel-based LifeBond, will allow doctors in 32 countries to use the unique “glue” that prevents leaks after bariatric and GI operations.

SEE ALSO: After Thousands Of Years Of Stitching, Israelis Invent New Wound-Closure Method

In addition, the company said, LifeSeal is now also on the fast track to FDA approval. The product was given the FDA’s Expedited Access Pathway (EAP) designation, and is now eligible for quicker approval consideration, which the company hopes will take place after it begins its new international study, which will include sites in the US and Europe. The FDA reserves its EAP designation for products that provide a solution for an unmet medical need.

LifeBond's lab

LifeBond’s lab

“LifeSeal offers surgical units and hospitals with an innovative, high-quality surgical tool that both easily integrates into the surgical practice, and has been proven in clinical studies to make a major positive difference for patients,” said Ittai Harel, chairman of the board of LifeBond and managing general partner at Pitango, the venture capital firm that led the company’s recent $27 million Series D investment round.

Generally, patients who have undergone bariatric or GI surgery will have their incisions stapled or glued, neither of which is an ideal solution. Staples have been known to leak, while glues can break down over time. In both cases, the risk of infection rises considerably as the patient’s insides are exposed to air.

In addition, the closures, which must remain in place for months, are difficult for patients to live with, and they often break, even if they have been secured well, because of patient activity like scratching.

SEE ALSO: New Israeli Innovation Can Patch Incisions With No Stitching Or Scarring

To solve this, LifeBond has developed a proprietary adhesive platform technology that quickly turns into a polymer (in the form of a hydrogel matrix – a clear, flexible and strong seal) that adheres strongly to physiological tissue surfaces. The properties of the polymerization process and the hydrogel matrix can be controlled to fit a variety of applications.

According to the company, the sealant is stronger and longer-lasting than others on the market, and uses only natural ingredients instead of chemicals, so it is much better tolerated in patients than other sealants.


To read the full article, click here

Photos: Courtesy

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Study: Overweight Teens Are At Increased Risk For Life-Threatening Heart Disease In Adulthood Wed, 04 May 2016 08:39:02 +0000

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Parents, take note: A nationwide, long-term study of 2.3 million Israeli adolescents conducted from 1967 through 2010 has found a link between elevated body mass index (BMI) in late adolescence and life-threatening heart disease in midlife.

SEE ALSO: Excess Weight During Pregnancy Affects Children’s Health

BMI is the value derived from the weight and height of an individual (weight divided by the square of the height – kg/m2). Normal BMI values are considered to be in the range of 18.5 to 25.

Start diet today

One-third of adolescents are either overweight or obese

Overweight and obesity in adolescents have increased substantially in recent decades, and currently affect a third of the adolescent population in some developed countries.

Some studies suggest that an elevated BMI is associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes. However, a determination of the BMI threshold that is associated with increased risk of fatality has remained uncertain.

SEE ALSO: Wait, What? Eating Carbs At Night Could Benefit Obese People

In light of the worldwide increase in childhood obesity, Israeli researchers Prof. Jeremy Kark and Dr. Hagai Levine from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, together with Dr. Gilad Twig of Sheba Medical Center and other colleagues in Israel, set out to determine the association between BMI in late adolescence and death from cardiovascular causes in adulthood.

Their study, which was recently published in the prestigious medical journal The New England Journal of Medicine, was based on the body mass index values of 2.3 people, starting at 17 year olds.

The results showed that 9.1 percent died from cardiovascular causes, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and sudden death. But those with elevated BMI had the highest risk. The BMI threshold associated with fatal risk was shown to be 22.5.

“Our findings appear to provide a link between the trends in adolescent overweight during the past decades and coronary mortality in midlife,” Kark said in a statement. “The continuing increase in adolescent BMI, and the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity among adolescents, may account for a substantial and growing future burden of cardiovascular disease, particularly coronary heart disease.”

heart attack

The timing of exposure to obesity during a person’s lifetime may play an important role

How might adolescent BMI influence cardiovascular outcomes in adulthood? The researchers considered two possible pathways. First, obesity may be harmful during adolescence, since it has been associated with unfavorable metabolic abnormalities, increased blood pressure, impaired glucose metabolism and insulin resistance. Furthermore, the timing of exposure to obesity during a person’s lifetime may play an important role.

Second, BMI tends to track along the life course, so that overweight adolescents tend to become overweight or obese adults, and overweight or obesity in adulthood affects the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Scientists involved in this research are affiliated with the Department of Medicine and the Dr. Pinchas Bornstein Talpiot Medical Leadership Program, Sheba Medical Center; Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps; Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University; Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine; Israel Ministry of Health; Department of Medicine, Mount Auburn Hospital; and Harvard Medical School. The study was funded by a research grant from the Environment and Health Fund in Jerusalem.

Health News: Israeli Researchers Use Skin Cells To Repair Damaged Hearts

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Vegetables Irrigated With Treated Wastewater Expose Consumers To Drugs, Scientists Warn Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:44:36 +0000

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Treating greywater and using it for agricultural irrigation is one of the best ways to conserve and recycle water. But now, an Israeli study shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to pharmaceutical contaminants. This new experiment found residues of carbamazepine – an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents – in the urine of people who consumed vegetables grown in wastewater-irrigated soil.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

“Fresh water scarcity worldwide has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater, as an alternative source for crop irrigation. But the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals in treated effluents has raised concerns over the potential exposure for consumers to drug contaminants via treated wastewater,” according to the team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center.

Vegetables - Health News - Israel

Study co-author Prof. Benny Chefetz of the Hebrew University acknowledges that “Israel is a pioneer and world leader in reuse of reclaimed wastewater in the agriculture sector, providing an excellent platform to conduct such a unique study.” However, his study – one of the first to directly address exposure to such pharmaceutical contaminants in healthy humans – shows that additional safety measures should be considered when treating wastewater for agricultural use.

SEE ALSO: How Israelis Are Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought

The study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology, followed 34 men and women divided into two groups. The first group was given reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce for the first week, and freshwater-irrigated vegetables in the following week. The second group consumed the produce in reverse order.

The volunteers consumed the produce, which included tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce, according to their normal diet and drank bottled water throughout the study to neutralize water contamination.

“We have demonstrated that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine,” Prof. Ora Paltiel of the Hebrew University, who led the study, said in a statement. “Treated wastewater-irrigated produce exhibited substantially higher carbamazepine levels than fresh water-irrigated produce.”

Research showed that healthy individuals who consumed reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine in their urine

She further warns that “those who consume produce grown in soil irrigated with treated wastewater increase their exposure to the drug.” Although the levels detected were much lower than in patients who actually consume this specific drug, “it is important to assess the exposure in commercially available produce.”

Most importantly, this study demonstrates that “human exposure to pharmaceuticals occurs through ingestion of commercially available produce irrigated with treated wastewater, providing data which could guide policy and risk assessments,” Chefetz concludes.

Photos and infographics: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Israeli ‘Liver On A Chip’ Could Help Scientists Fight Cancer, Develop New Medications Sun, 24 Apr 2016 06:00:46 +0000

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Israeli researchers have developed a tiny “liver-on-chip” that could help scientists fight liver disease, cancer, and a host of other conditions.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Makes Breakthrough Discovery In Liver Disease Treatment

The chip is made up of human tissues, with sensors for oxygen, glucose, and lactate. Measurements can be tracked in real time, and readouts appear immediately on a computer. The technology, developed at Israel’s Hebrew University, will enable the study of cellular processes, and will further the understanding of what happens when cells are damaged due to disease.

Health News: Israeli Team Finds Mechanism For Producing Stem-Cells Efficiently

In the study, led by Prof. Yaakov Nahmias of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researchers explain their use of micro-sensors to measure changes in cells when they are exposed to new drugs. Liver toxicity can limit the use of new medications, so the tool can be used to screen for less toxic drugs.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Scientists Develop New Human Stem Cells With Half A Genome 

The scientists used the chip to study the medication troglitazone (Rezulin), which had been used for diabetes and inflammation until it was removed from the market in 2000 because it induced severe liver injury. The drug cost its manufacturer more than $750 million in lawsuits.

Interestingly, conventional tests did not show liver damage from troglitazone, but the new liver-on-chip technology detected mitochondrial stress. The mitochondria are the organelles that generate energy for the cell. They are found in every cell of the human body except red blood cells, and convert the energy of food molecules to power most cell functions. Mitochondrial stress can be an early sign of eventual cell death – which the chip can detect early on.

Redefining cancer research 

“The ability to measure metabolic fluxes using small numbers of cells under physiological conditions can redefine the study of neuro-degenerative disease, stem cells, and cancer, in addition to drug discovery,” Nahmias said in a statement.

According to a Hebrew University statement, the study demonstrates it is possible to monitor in real time metabolic functions of cells exposed to different drug concentrations over a long period of time, using ‘organ-on-chip’ micro-devices.


Dr. Yaakov Nahmias

An alternative for animal experiments 

The study, recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could revolutionize in vitro methods (studies that are performed with microorganisms outside their normal biological context), presenting a real alternative to animal experimentation for evaluating toxicity of chemicals.”

Photos: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Harmless? Herbal Medicines Could Interfere With Life-Saving Cancer Treatments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:12:23 +0000

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Nearly two-thirds of the herbal medicines used by cancer patients in the Middle East have potential health risks, according to a new Israeli study. These seemingly harmless plants and extractions were found to interact with conventional cancer drugs and chemotherapy, negatively affecting life-saving anti-cancer treatments.

SEE ALSO: To Stop Cancer From Spreading: Shoot The Messenger

The study, led by Prof. Eran Ben-Arye of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Cancer. It concludes that herbal remedies such as turmeric may increase the toxic effects of certain chemotherapies, while gingko biloba and green teas could increase the risks of bleeding in some cancer patients. Other herbs, including black cumin, can reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

In all, 29 of the 44 most popular herbal products in 16 Middle Eastern countries – from Turkey to Tunisia – were associated with safety-related concerns.

herbs, spices

The findings are based on a survey conducted by Ben-Arye and his colleagues, who asked more than 300 cancer care providers about the kinds of herbal medicines their patients were using. They found that 57 percent of the providers had patients who used at least one herbal remedy.

SEE ALSO: Israelis, Palestinians Join Forces To Explore Local Flowers To Combat Cancer, Diabetes

The countries with the highest rates of herbal medicine use include Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and Qatar. Stinging nettle, garlic, black cumin and turmeric were among the most used herbs, with other items such as camel milk and honey also making the list.

A skeptical view of alternative medicine

Cancer care providers generally have a skeptical view of these alternative medicines, but the study notes that they support having a physician consultant who can speak to “the effectiveness and safety of these herbal practices, along with conventional cancer treatments.”

Ben-Arye emphasizes that, “in the majority of cases, patients seek to combine the best of the two worlds and do not perceive herbal medicine as a real alternative to modern oncology care.”

However, in many cases, there is a lack of communication between the patient and cancer care provider. According to the study, more than 20 percent of patients who use complementary and traditional medicine, including herbal agents, “are often reluctant to disclose this practice to their conventional medical professional.”

Health News: female doctors more tolerant than male counterparts

Detrimental effect

The researchers hope the new study will urge cancer care providers to offer “open, non-judgmental” advice about the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicine and improve physician-patient communication.

Hopefully, their findings will raise awareness to the detrimental effects of certain herbal products for cancer patients receiving conventional treatment.

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Breakthrough Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease To Undergo Clinical Trials Mon, 04 Apr 2016 09:41:42 +0000

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In order to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, medical professionals must conduct a long series of tests to assess a patient’s memory impairment, cognitive skills, functional abilities, and behavioral changes. The process also includes costly brain imagining scans and, in some cases, invasive cerebral spinal fluid tests to rule out other diseases.

Now, a new discovery by a team of Israeli and American researchers seeks to effectively screen and diagnose Alzheimer’s using a blood test. The new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, proposes a new biomarker for cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease: The activity-dependent neuro-protective protein (ADNP), whose levels can be easily monitored in routine blood tests. The study also found that higher ADNP levels tested in the blood correlate with higher IQ in healthy older adults. The researchers now plan to move forward into clinical trials in order to create a pre-Alzheimer’s test that will help to tailor potential preventative treatments.

SEE ALSO: Study: People Who Treat Alzheimer’s Patients Should Have Creative Hobbies

Elderly couple

The research was led by Tel Aviv University‘s Prof. Illana Gozes, and spearheaded by Dr. Gad Marshall, Dr. Aaron Schultz, and Prof. Reisa Sperling of Harvard University, along with Prof. Judith Aharon-Peretz of Rambam Medical Center and the Technion Institute of Technology.

Early intervention

During the study, significant increases in ADNP levels were observed in patients ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s dementia. ADNP levels tested in plasma and serum samples, as well as white blood cell RNA levels, distinguished among cognitively normal elderly, MCI, and Alzheimer’s dementia participants.

The investigators analyzed blood samples taken from 42 healthy adults, MCI patients, and Alzheimer’s disease patients at Rambam Medical Center in Israel. After comparing the ADNP expression in the blood samples, the researchers prepared plasma samples and once again compared the protein levels.

“Early intervention is invaluable to Alzheimer’s patients”

“This study has provided the basis to detect this biomarker in routine, non-invasive blood tests, and it is known that early intervention is invaluable to Alzheimer’s patients,” Gozes said in a statement. “We are now planning to take these preliminary findings forward into clinical trials — to create a pre-Alzheimer’s test that will help to tailor potential preventative treatments.”

SEE ALSO: Understanding Gender Differences Could Improve Autism And Alzheimer’s Treatment

This new research is based on Gozes’ earlier investigation of neuronal plasticity and nerve cell protection at the molecular, cellular, and system level, and her discovery of novel families of proteins, including ADNP, associated with cross-communication among neural nerve cells and their support cells. “Interestingly, we also found that the more ADNP in the serum, the higher the person’s IQ level,” Gozes said.

Health News: Researchers Identify Protein That May Be Key In Alzheimer's Treatment

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Israeli Researchers Find Key To Long-Term Preservation Of Organs For Transplant Thu, 24 Mar 2016 12:45:10 +0000

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When transplanting donated organs, time is of the essence. Transplantation stands the best chance to succeed when performed as quickly as possible after the donor surgery. A heart or lung is kept viable for transplantation for only six hours before deterioration begins. A pancreas or liver go to waste after 12 hours in storage, and a kidney can be kept outside the body for less than 30 hours.

Keep cool, not frozen

One of the main problems standing in the way of storing organs for more than a few hours is ice growth. When organs are frozen, expanding ice crystals damage the cells in a way that they cannot be revived.  Therefore, organs which are removed from a donor are kept cooled but not frozen.

A Hebrew University team led by Prof. Ido Braslavsky is now contributing significantly to the effort to perfect the process of preserving cells, tissues and organs in sub-zero temperatures. This would enable long-term banking of tissues and organs and efficient matching between donor and patient, eventually saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

“The ability to freeze organs and to then thaw them without causing damage to the organ itself would be revolutionary in terms of our chances to save lives,” Braslavsky said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Scientists Develop New Human Stem Cells With Half A Genome 

Ido Braslavsky

Prof. Ido Braslavsky at his lab, where his team investigates ice-binding proteins and new methods in cryopreservation of cells.

Braslavsky’s area of specialty is so-called “antifreeze proteins,” ice-binding proteins that help organisms resist or withstand freezing in water and on land by inhibiting the formation and growth of crystalline ice. Ice-binding proteins were discovered some 50 years ago in Antarctic fish and are now known to exist in cold-resistant fish, plants, insects and microorganisms. They actively inhibit the formation and growth of crystalline ice, and their superiority over other antifreeze substances is that they are needed in very low amounts to do it effectively.

Braslavsky and his team collaborated with Prof. Peter Davies from Queen’s University in Canada to investigate the mystery of exactly how ice-binding proteins stop the formation of ice crystals. They discovered that antifreeze proteins bind permanently with ice. “We found that proteins in insects are much more efficient in inhibiting ice growth than proteins in fish, but fish proteins bind faster to ice,” according to Braslavsky.

Learning from frozen foods?

This finding, recently published in the scientific journals Langmuir and RSC Advances, could be crucial for the advancement of using these proteins to help preserve frozen organs as well as frozen foods.

Many are familiar with ice cream that has lost its texture in home freezers, or meat that has lost a lot of its liquids and doesn’t look or taste fresh after thawing. Ice-binding proteins may allow the control of ice in frozen food and the developments of new frozen treats. Some food manufacturers have already started using ice-binding proteins in their products.


Braslavsky’s pioneering work in studying the interaction between antifreeze proteins and ice is now expanding to developing a cryopreservation technique (a process by which cells susceptible to damage caused by chemical reactivity or time are preserved by cooling to sub-zero temperatures) that will allow revival of cells and tissues while restoring their form and function.

Clearly, Braslavsky’s technique could be instrumental in ending the organ transplant shortage.

Photos: Dr. Amir Bein
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Scientific Breakthrough: Researchers Create A New Type Of Stem Cell That Has Half A Genome Tue, 22 Mar 2016 13:02:27 +0000

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In what many call a breakthrough discovery, Israeli and American scientists have succeeded in generating a new type of embryonic stem cell that carries a single copy of the human genome, instead of the two copies typically found in normal stem cells. These stem cells are the first human cells capable of cell division with just one copy of the parent cell’s genome.

SEE ALSO: Study Finds Precious Stem Cells Are Assigned ‘Bodyguard’ Cells

Human cells are considered ‘diploid’ because they inherit two sets of chromosomes, 46 in total: 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. The only exceptions are reproductive (egg and sperm) cells, known as ‘haploid’ cells because they contain a single set of 23 chromosomes. These haploid cells cannot divide to make more eggs and sperm. Previous efforts to generate embryonic stem cells using human egg cells resulted in diploid stem cells.

One set of chromosomes is enough

In this study, however, scientists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Columbia University Medical Center and The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute triggered unfertilized human egg cells into dividing. They then highlighted the DNA with a fluorescent dye and isolated the haploid stem cells, which were scattered among the more populous diploid cells. The scientists recently published their findings in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

The researchers showed that these haploid stem cells were pluripotent, meaning they were able to differentiate into many other cell types, including nerve, heart, and pancreatic cells – while retaining a single set of chromosomes.

An important impact on medical research

“This study has given us a new type of human stem cell that will have an important impact on human genetic and medical research,” Dr. Nissim Benvenisty of the Hebrew University, who co-led the study, said in a statement. “These cells will provide researchers with a novel tool for improving our understanding of human development, and the reasons why we reproduce sexually, instead of from a single parent.”

Since there are two copies of each gene, it has been challenging for researchers to locate and edit mutations that could lead to disease. With just one copy of a gene to target, haploid human cells could constitute a powerful tool for genetics, and could lead to better treatments for a host of diseases. Being able to affect single-copy genes in haploid human stem cells also has the potential to facilitate genetic analysis in biomedical fields such as cancer research and regenerative medicine.

SEE ALSO: Stem Cell Treatments Could Alleviate Asthma, Study Shows

“One of the greatest advantages of using haploid human cells is that it is much easier to edit their genes,” according to Dr. Ido Sagi of the Hebrew University, who co-led the study. “In diploid cells, detecting the biological effects of a single-copy mutation is difficult, because the other copy is normal and serves as ‘backup.’”

A cure for genetic diseases

Since the stem cells described in this study were a genetic match to the egg cell donor, they could also be used to develop cell-based therapies for diseases such as blindness, diabetes, or other conditions in which genetically identical cells offer a therapeutic advantage. Because their genetic content is equivalent to germ cells, they might also be useful for reproductive purposes.

A haploid cell with 23 chromosomes (left), and a diploid cell with 46 chromosomes (right).  (Credit: Columbia University Medical Center/Hebrew University.)

A haploid cell with 23 chromosomes (left), and a diploid cell with 46 chromosomes (right)

Photos and video: The Hebrew University of JerusalemColumbia University Medical CenterMargiriss

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Prone To Stress? Soon, There Will Be A Blood Test For That Tue, 15 Mar 2016 12:23:18 +0000

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Is your life stressful? A breakthrough Israeli study could lead to the development of a blood test that would tell whether you’re prone to stress. The results could facilitate preventive or early intervention in professions prone to high stress or trauma, such as combat soldiers, firefighters and policemen.

SEE ALSO: Let’s Relax: Researchers Show Stress Leads To Increase In Autoimmune Diseases

Through genetic research and brain-imaging technologies, researchers from Tel Aviv University have determined that the brain function responsible for regulating our stress response intertwines with molecular regulatory elements to produce a personal profile of resilience to stress.

New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Curry

New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Joseph Curry calls for rescue teams at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Our ability to cope with stress depends on how efficiently our body and mind regulate their response to it. Poor recovery from extremely stressful encounters can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or even chronic somatic dysfunction (such as pain and fatigue) in some people. Insight into the multi-level sequence of events — from cellular changes to brain function, emotional responses, and observed behavior — will help medical professionals make more informed decisions concerning interventions.

The biological complexity of stress

“We can’t look at one measurement at one point in time and think we have the whole picture of the stress response,” TAU’s Prof. Talma Hendler, who led the study, said in a statement. “This is perhaps the first study to induce stress in the lab and look at resulting changes to three levels of the stress response — neural (seen in brain imaging), cellular (measured through genetics), and experience (assessed through behavioral report).”

Brain - Technology News - Israel

According to TAU’s Dr. Noam Shomron, “vulnerability to stress is not only related to a predisposition due to a certain gene. The relevant gene can be expressed or not expressed according to a person’s experience, environment, and many other context-related factors.”

This type of interaction between the environment and our genome has been conceptualized lately as the ‘epigenetic process.’ “It has become clear that these processes are of an utmost importance to our health and wellbeing, and are probably, in some cases, above and beyond our predispositions,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Mom’s Stress During Pregnancy Affects Baby’s Iron Levels

The research for this study was conducted on 49 healthy young male adults. Researchers integrated the analysis of fMRI images of brain function during an acute social stress task and also measured levels of microRNAs — small RNAs that exert potent regulatory effects — obtained in a blood test before and three hours after the induced stress.

According to TAU’s Dr. Sharon Vaisvaser, “20 minutes after the stress drill ended, we had two groups: The sustainers, those still stressed, and the recovered, those no longer stressed. The sustainers either didn’t go back to baseline or took much longer to do so.”

The researchers found that a specific alteration in the expression of miR-29c, a certain microRNA, was greater among the stress sustainers, implying a marker of slow recovery. Intriguingly, this change corresponded with modified connectivity of a major stress regulation node in the brain, the vento-medial prefrontal cortex.

Brain-guided treatment based on a blood test

“We all need to react to stress; it’s healthy to react to something considered a challenge or a threat,” said Hendler. “The problem is when you don’t recover in a day, or a week, or more. This indicates your brain and/or body do not regulate properly and have a hard time returning to homeostasis (i.e., a balanced baseline). We found that this recovery involves both neural and epigenetic/cellular mechanisms, together contributing to our subjective experience of the stress.”

Health News - Genome Compiler: Designing Life On your Computer

According to Hendler, “knowing the brain metric that corresponds to such genetic vulnerability will make it possible to develop a personalized plan for brain-guided treatment based on a blood test.”

Added Shomron: “If you can identify through a simple blood test those likely to develop maladaptive responses to stress, you can offer a helpful prevention or early intervention.”

The study, recently published in the scientific journal PLOS One, was led by TAU’s Prof. Talma Hendler and Dr. Noam Shomron. Research for the study was conducted by TAU’s Dr. Sharon Vaisvaser and Dr. Shira Modai.

Photos: Preston Keres

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Novel WoundClot Bandages Can Stop Severe Bleeding Within Minutes, Save Lives Wed, 09 Mar 2016 12:52:13 +0000

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Compression is one of the simplest ways to prevent severe bleeding, and yet it is not suitable in all cases, especially when the injured may have internal bleeding. Israeli-developed WoundClot bandages could offer a solution, saving lives within minutes – before the injured even reaches a hospital.

SEE ALSO: Portable Ultrasound Kit Will Expedite Medical Treatment, Save Lives In Disaster Areas

Developed by nano-materials specialist Dr. Shani Eliyahu-Gross of Core Scientific Creations, WoundClot is composed of a highly absorbent gauze made from regenerated cellulose (what plant cell walls are made of). When applied to a wound, this single-use, sterile bandage turns into a gel-state membrane, forming a stable membrane with the platelets (clotting blood cells) from the wound. By enhancing the natural process of coagulation, WoundClot stops hemorrhaging within minutes. Perhaps more importantly, the membrane lasts up for up to 24 hours.


According to the company, uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of death in battlefield and conflict zones, and the problem is twofold: Stopping the bleeding as quickly as possible, and ensuring that the body doesn’t further hemorrhage before reaching a hospital.

WoundClot provides a treatment for both issues, but also provides a solution in cases where compression is not effective or even damaging, such as stab wounds, head and neck traumas, or internal bleeding.

SEE ALSO: Israelis Invent New Wound-Closure Method

Yet, the most impressive feature of the bandage is that it breaks down in the body. “Our product is unique because it is bio-absorbable,” according to CEO Yuval Yaskil. “It means you want the product to break down, but also to have a very stable membrane. And that is basically the trick, or the patent that we developed.”

After the bleeding has stopped, the remaining residual membrane can be irrigated out of the wound safely without pulling on the soft tissue or the existing clot.

Priced at under $10 per bandage ($100 for larger surgical products), WoundClot is by far not the cheapest bandage on the market. But the company is aiming to replace other less effective products, even those with active ingredients intending to promote coagulation, which end up costing much more, according to Core Scientific Creations.

white blood cells

Photos: The US ArmyMilitaryHealthDLG Images

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Betalin Aims To End Insulin Injections By Treating Type 1 Diabetes With Cell Transplants Thu, 03 Mar 2016 08:06:55 +0000

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Of the 382 million people who have diabetes, only five to 10 percent have Type 1 Diabetes. However, unlike like Type 2 Diabetes, which can be prevented with regular exercise and a healthy diet, Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Usually diagnosed in childhood, Type 1 Diabetes is traditionally treated with daily insulin injections, and though some prick-less therapies have surfaced, they have not achieved long-term insulin independence.

But Israeli biotech startup Betalin Therapeutics may change that, making insulin injections a thing of the past.

SEE ALSO: Intelligent Socks Paired With Smartphones Can Save Diabetics’ Feet

Kid self testing

Functioning as a gatekeeper, insulin is a hormone that enables sugar from consumed food to enter cells in the body. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream, where it can cause life-threatening complications. Anyone who has Type 1 Diabetes needs lifelong insulin therapy, administered through daily shots or a pump because insulin typically cannot be taken orally due to interfering stomach enzymes.

SEE ALSO: Israelis, Palestinians Join Forces To Explore Local Flowers To Combat Cancer, Diabetes

However, the problem with both modes of treatment is that patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and administer the correct dose of insulin throughout the day. And even the most vigilant monitoring doesn’t prevent a sudden spike or drop in blood sugar levels. In other words, patients and doctors can only treat Type 1 Diabetes reactively.

type 1 diabetes

The new approach: Transplanting healthy tissue 

Some researchers have been looking for a more proactive and automated approach, namely through transplanting healthy pancreatic islets, the part of the pancreas that contains the insulin-producing “beta” cells, into diabetic patients. An islet transplant protocol developed in 2000 increased insulin-independence rates from about 15 percent to about 80 percent. However, within a few years, most patients became insulin dependent again; studies since then have recorded anywhere between 60 and 90 percent of patients becoming insulin dependent within five years.

Thus the problem is not how to achieve insulin independence, but rather how to maintain it. That’s where Betalin Therapeutics has a solution. Led Prof. Eduardo Mitrani of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Betalin’s research team has developed a “micro-scaffold” which ensures that a transplanted cell will remain close to sources of nutrients. Supported by these micro-scaffolds, “naked” islets function similarly to freshly dissected pancreatic islets.

“The micro pancreas aims at solving problems currently associated with transplantation of naked islets,” Prof. Mitrani said in a statement. “In our system, prior to transplantation, islets are cultured within a biological scaffold that supports their survival, leading to long-term functionality of the majority of the cells.”

In a study published last November, Mitrani and his team showed that their delivery method, what they term Engineered Micro Pancreas (EMP), provides more efficient and regulated insulin production compared to beta cells without micro-scaffolding.

In addition to supporting regulated levels of insulin secretion, the EMPs became readily supplied with blood vessels (i.e. oxygen). The researchers also grew and expanded beta cells in culture by three- to four-fold prior to incorporating them into EMPs without losing their functionality.


This could translate into using a much smaller number of islets, enabling physicians to treat a larger number of patients. “Furthermore, the fact that we have shown expansion of beta cells in the laboratory while still retaining beta cell functionality is a significant breakthrough that may allow [us] to utilize even less initial donors’ islets to treat individual patients,” Mitrani explained. He went as far as to suggest that EMP could also be used to treat severe, advanced levels of Type 2 Diabetes.

Mitrani carried out his research with Prof. James Shapiro, the researcher who developed the islet protocol in 2000. “We have been collaborating for the past two years,” Shapiro said in a statement. “If Betalin’s new micro-scaffold technique continues to demonstrate efficacy in vivo, it has the potential to substantially improve cellular survival both for islets and potentially for stem cell engraftment [stem cell reproduction] in future clinical applications.”

In other words, Mitrani’s micro-scaffolds could possibly be applied to other transplant therapies, including that of stem cells, which are currently being researched as a treatment for types of cancer, including leukemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma, as well as other blood diseases.

Photos: Frankie Leon; The Diabetes Foundation of MississippiThe Regents of the University of CaliforniaGiovanni Maki

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Understanding The Behavior Of Predatory Bacteria Could Generate An Alternative To Antibiotics Tue, 01 Mar 2016 13:40:33 +0000

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The majority of disease-causing bacteria in the body are rendered harmless by the protective effects of the immune system. Those that manage to escape the immune system can be killed by antibiotics, but bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to more and more antibiotics.

Now, Israeli scientists say that studying the predator-prey mechanisms of bacteria – or, their hide-and-seek game, if you will – could potentially generate alternatives to antibiotics.

SEE ALSO: This Remarkable Discovery Shows Why Bacteria Are Becoming Tolerant To Antibiotics

bacteria kit - health news

Their proposition is based on the study of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, a bacterial predator that is an efficient killer of other bacteria, such as the prevalent E. coli. It is present in soil and, just like E. coli, it can also be found in the human gut, where a complex ecosystem of bacterial inhabitants exists.

This ferocious bacterial predator enters its prey and devours it from the inside. It can reach speeds of 160 micrometers per second, making it the “world champion” in speed swimming and 10 times faster than the E. coli.

Future development of potential alternatives to antibiotics

“Knowledge of defense and attack mechanisms in bacteria is crucial for future development of potential alternatives to antibiotics,” Dr. Daniel Koster of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said in a statement. “B. bacteriovorus kills bacteria by a whole different mechanism of action than antibiotics, and as such, predatory bacteria might in the future constitute a viable alternative to these antibiotics.”

Koster led the research together with scientists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at TU Delft in The Netherlands. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Predatory bacteria might be genetically modified to specifically target harmful bacteria”

In order to understand how E. coli is able to survive in the presence of such an effective predator, the researchers created two different environments for the B. bacteriovorus and E. Coli bacteria: The first one mimicked the features of soil, consisting of 85 tiny chambers, linked by a narrow channel; the second environment was an open space of a similar size, without the thin channel.

SEE ALSO: Researcher Discovers Protein That Could Replace Conventional Antibiotics

In the open environment, E. coli did not stand a chance to survive – most of the population was eliminated within a couple of hours. However, it proved surprisingly able to maintain a healthy population in an environment with many small chambers.

According to Koster, “groups of E. coli ‘hide’ in the many corners of the fragmented environment, where they readily stick as bio-films that probably protect them against B. bacteriovorus. Our findings provide important information because in natural environments, such as our gut, the bacterium also lives in fragmented spaces.”

petri dish

It is not yet known precisely how E. coli is able to defend itself against predatory bacteria, but the research contributes to the understanding of the behavior of the predatory bacteria, which could become a possible alternative to antibiotics in the future.

“In the future, predatory bacteria might, for example, be genetically modified to specifically target harmful bacteria, while leaving benign bacteria untouched,” Koster says. “As such, B. bacteriovorus might be more selective than the antibiotics currently in use, and anti-bacterial treatment might not require the widespread extermination of the gut flora that is of importance to human health.”

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‘Brain Movies’ Show Nicotine Affects Men And Women Differently Sun, 28 Feb 2016 11:21:24 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Addictions are hard to kick. Just ask all cigarette smokers who keep puffing away despite the boatload of evidence that they are killing themselves.

SEE ALSO: New Brain Stimulation Device Helps Smokers Quit

Now, new research being conducted in Israel shows that addictions work differently in women and men. A study being conducted largely in Israel by Evan Morris, an associate professor of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Psychiatry at Yale University, shows this clearly. In fact, Morris and his students have even made a movie out of it.

cigarette smoke

“Our dopamine movies show the effect of nicotine on the dopamine levels in the body, and those movies – which essentially show how the brain reacts when the chemical is released – show clearly that there is a difference in brain activity for men and women who smoke.”

Those findings are interesting, Morris told The Times of Israel, but the real point is to show “how short-term bursts of brain activity are prompted by chemical changes. This could have all sorts of implications for treating symptoms like PTSD and other stress-induced conditions, where there can be radical changes in brain activity for short periods of time.”

SEE ALSO: Researcher Says He Can ‘Erase’ Memory Of Addiction

Morris is a world-renowned expert on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging using tracer kinetic modeling to create functional images of the brain. He is in Israel on a Fulbright exchange program scholarship, which each year brings dozens of American researchers to Israel to work on innovative medical and technology projects in the Startup Nation for a year, while sending Israeli researchers to work in the US for the same amount of time.

“With PET, you can see how the brain changes – based on mathematical formulas – in response to induced changes,” said Morris. “One of the most difficult challenges facing researchers is developing models of short-term changes – changes in the brain that pass quickly, perhaps in just a few minutes or so.”

It’s clear that with a supercharged emotion taking over the body – anger, ecstasy, or anything in between – there are changes to the brain, “but generally researchers have been able to capture only changes that linger, with the imaging of the short-term changes unattainable.”

Brain - Technology News - Israel

To read the full article, click here

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It’s Official: Prolonged Cell Phone Use Leads To Lower Sperm Count Wed, 24 Feb 2016 12:33:58 +0000

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Men who talk on their cell phone for more than an hour a day double the risk of impairing their sperm count, according to a new Israeli study.

SEE ALSO: No More Pill? New Contraceptive Suppository Disables Sperm

In addition, the study has found that sperm levels of 47 percent of men who simply kept their phones in their pocket during the day were negatively affected. Speaking while charging the phone or sleeping next to it can also damage men’s sperm.


The study, conducted by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Israel’s Carmel Medical Center, supports previous findings that linked radiation from cell phones to lower sperm count.

Sperm quality is steadily declining in Western countries

Male sperm quality, which is steadily declining in Western countries, accounts for 40 percent of infertility problems among couples. Accumulated research knowledge on this subject shows that sperm quality is affected by congenital genetic factors, but also by environmental variables. One of them is the growing use of cell phones.

SEE ALSO: Combining Traditional And Chinese Medicine Boosts Fertility

According to the Technion, “many studies on the question of the connection between sperm quality and the radiation emitted by cell phones reached different and non-uniform conclusions, since they were carried out under different conditions (laboratory experiments on tissue, experiments in laboratory animals, etc.) and did not always address all the relevant variables.” But the new study “addressed a wide range of variables related to cell phone usage habits and sperm quality according to the parameters set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010.”

Take your phone out of your pocket 

The 106 men surveyed by the researchers were undergoing fertility evaluation at the hospital. The participants filled out detailed questionnaires that included questions on medical conditions that may affect sperm quality, but also questions about their cell phone usage: How much time the user spends on the phone each day, where he carries the phone, whether he makes or receives calls in areas with poor reception and while charging his phone, and so on.

The study results indicate clear causal connections, according to the Technion: Talking on a cell phone for over an hour a day, and talking on the phone when it is connected to a charger, double (from 33.3 percent to 66.7 percent) the likelihood of a decrease in sperm concentration. Sperm concentration also decreased to an abnormal level in men who carried the phone at a distance of less than 50 cm from the groin; an abnormal concentration was found in 47.1 percent of them, compared with just 11.1 percent in the total male population.

samsung in jeans pocket

“In light of the research findings, it is certainly recommended to shorten the duration of calls, not to carry the phone near the groin, not to sleep next to it, not to talk while it is being charged (in fact, it is better to turn it off while it is being charged) and to use a headset or hands-free kit whenever possible,” Dr. Ariel Silberlicht of Carmel Medical Center said in a statement.

The study was carried out as part of the doctoral work of Dr. Yulia Sheinfeld from the Technion Faculty of Medicine, under the guidance of Clinical Associate Professor Martha Dirnfeld, Director of the Fertility and IVF unit at Carmel Medical Center and a Clinical Associate Professor at the Technion.


Photos: Tim Parkinson

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Breakthrough Israeli Cancer Treatment Praised Worldwide Sun, 21 Feb 2016 13:30:17 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

A breakthrough cancer study in which patients suffering from a form of leukemia saw their diseases go into remission after they were treated with genetically modified T-cells has deep roots in Israel.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Find Why Leukemia Recurs After Successful Chemotherapy

One of the first in the world to work on the innovative adaptive immunotherapy technique to treat cancer, which was recently hailed worldwide as a potentially “extraordinary” development, was Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Zelig Eshhar.

cancer cells

Speaking Wednesday on Israel Radio, Eshhar said he was very heartened to hear about the results of the study at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I’m not surprised to hear about the results,” he said. “In our lab, we cured many rats and mice of cancer. I have been saying for years that we could do this in people, as well.”

In an article in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a team at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Perelman School of Medicine reported that 27 out of 29 patients with an advanced blood cancer saw their cancers go into remission or disappear altogether when they received genetically modified T-cells that were equipped with synthetic molecules called chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs. Those T-cells were able to target and destroy the tumor cells – specifically the ones that were responsible for the acute lymphoblastic leukemia the patients were suffering from.

According to officials at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where the research was carried out, patients in the trial – some of whom were told in 2013 they had barely a few months to live – not only survived, but now, after the therapy, “have no sign of the disease.”

SEE ALSO: To Stop Cancer From Spreading: Shoot The Messenger

The therapy involves extracting T-cells – the white blood cells that fight foreign or abnormal cells, including cancerous ones. Under normal circumstances, T-cells try to fight cancerous cells – but because the body has been weakened by the cancer, the response is usually not strong enough to prevent the spread of cancer. In addition, cancer cells are genetically programmed to evade T-cells, said immunotherapy researcher and oncologist Dr. Stanley Riddell, one of the leaders of the study.

petri dish

To read the full article, click here

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Portable Ultrasound Kit Will Expedite Medical Treatment, Save Lives In Disaster Areas Mon, 15 Feb 2016 11:28:05 +0000

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Ultrasound imaging is one of the world’s most common medical tests. It is non-invasive, relatively inexpensive, it doesn’t involve exposure to ionizing radiation, and is considered risk-free.

But an ultrasound scan is typically done at the doctor’s office. So, what about patients in rural areas or disaster zones who can’t get to a clinic?

Israeli researchers are now developing a portable ultrasound system that transmits scans directly to physicians – immediately, from anywhere in the world. With such a system, ultrasound scans can be performed in developing countries with limited medical infrastructure, and the team at the site can be given medical instructions based on the findings.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare


This innovative ultrasound kit, which can also be used at the scenes of car accidents, was developed by Prof. Yonina Eldar’s lab at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The small, advanced probe eliminates the need for the large ultrasound devices that are used by clinics and hospitals.

Remote treatment for patients in developing countries

The probe acquires only the relevant data, which is then transmitted to a remote processing unit or cloud. The resulting image is then transferred to the treating physician’s smartphone or tablet.

SEE ALSO: By Improving Access To Basic Necessities, Israeli Technologies Transform Africa, Save Lives

Ultrasound is based on high-frequency sound waves that we cannot hear. During the examination, a probe that transmits sound waves is placed against the patient’s body, generating an image of the internal organs based on the pattern of the waves reflected back to the probe.

This technology is used in a wide variety of important medical tests: Assessing the condition of the fetus in utero, diagnosing conditions of internal organs, evaluating blood flow, diagnosing thyroid problems, cardiac examinations, detecting tumors and infections, and more.

At present, ultrasound examinations are performed at clinics and hospitals using a probe connected to a large, cumbersome and expensive ultrasound device. The results of the scan are collected by a computer and are interpreted by a radiologist, who sends the diagnosis to the patient’s doctor. This process might take several days, which could be critical in some cases.


Dramatically changing the nature of ultrasound

The Technion‘s new system dramatically changes the nature of ultrasound examinations.  First, with the new algorithm developed at the lab, the data can be reduced at the initial scanning stage, so that it can be uploaded to a cloud without harming image quality and without loss of data on the way. Second, the smaller probe eliminates the need for the large ultrasound devices currently used at most clinics.

Dr. Shai Tejman-Yarden, a cardiologist at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, explains that in the case of injuries, for example, the system “will provide doctors who are not at the scene with information in real time, enabling them to instruct the paramedic at the scene,” he said in a statement. “This development will also enable remote treatment for patients in developing countries, under the guidance of Israeli doctors.”


Photos: Philips Ultrasound, Greater Niagara Medical Imaging

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Intelligent Socks Paired With Smartphones Can Save Diabetics’ Feet Tue, 09 Feb 2016 12:26:13 +0000

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Roughly 130 million diabetics around the globe suffer from diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage associated with the development of foot ulcers in patients with diabetes. Resulting from anatomical deformation, excessive pressure and poor blood supply, it often damages nerves in patients’ legs and feet.

SEE ALSO: Israelis, Palestinians Join Forces To Explore Local Flowers To Combat Cancer, Diabetes

Diabetic neuropathy is also the leading cause of amputation, which leaves many diabetics handicapped, and is costing the US economy alone more than $10 billion annually. Diabetic patients are encouraged to get regular checkups to monitor for the increased pressure and ulceration that can eventually require amputation. However, ulcers are only diagnosed after they occur, meaning that patients require healing time, which dramatically increases healthcare costs.

But now, an Israeli team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is working on a unique solution to solve this problem.


“This is a significant medical problem that affects the lives of millions. We thought there must be a way to avoid these wounds altogether,” Danny Bavli, the group’s lead engineer, said in a statement.

SEE ALSO: Dario Turns Diabetics’ Smartphones Into Trendy Glucometers

To address this challenge, Bavli partnered with Sagi Frishman and Dr. David Morgenstern, a leading orthopedic surgeon at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center. Together with members of the Hebrew University’s BioDesign group, they developed SenseGO, a machine-washable sock containing dozens of micro-fabricated pressure sensors.

With SenseGO, changes in pressure due to incorrect posture, anatomical deformation or ill-fitting shoes are registered using electrical signals that are relayed to a smartphone app, which in turn informs the patient of developing risks.

According to Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, BioDesign’s program director, “this is a classic mobile health approach. By giving patients and their families the tools they need to prevent the development of ulcers, we can dramatically reduce healthcare costs related to diabetes.”

BioDesign: Medical Innovation, a multi-disciplinary, team-based approach to medical innovation, is led by Nahmias and Prof. Chaim Lotan of the Hadassah Medical Center. Other members of the BioDesign SenseGO team include Inbal Boxerman and Yael Hadar, MBA students at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The innovations produced by program participants are commercialized by Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and by Hadasit, the technology transfer company of the Hadassah Medical Center.

SenseGO team

Photos: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Norwalk Hospital

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Why Studying Mosquito Habitats And The Evolution Of The Zika Virus Can Help Halt The Epidemic Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:22:03 +0000

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Since the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a “public health emergency of international concern” alert regarding the Zika virus, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders have called upon researchers to develop tests, vaccines and treatments to fight the mosquito-transmitted virus. Less than a week later, Israeli scientists from Ben Gurion University and the University of Haifa responded with insights into the particular circumstances of this most recent outbreak and how the virus is evolving.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researcher’s Discovery May Pave Way For Malaria Vaccine

Since the 1940s, outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported in Africa, the Americas and in parts of Asia. Spread through Aedes mosquito bites, the virus used to cause fever and joint pain. However, now, researchers have reason to believe that the most recent outbreak is closely linked to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

Aedes mosquito

Aedes mosquito

Over the past few months, hundreds of Brazilian women affected by the Zika virus gave birth to babies with microcephaly, leading several governments in Latin America to advise women to avoid pregnancy for the next two years.

SEE ALSO: Israel’s SightDx Detects Malaria In Blood In Only Three Minutes

This call-to-inaction is so extreme that Israeli universities are trying to gather findings that could stop the outbreak. Ben Gurion University’s Dr. Leslie Lobel has joined a much-needed international consortium in order to understand the risks and prevent the spread of the disease. “The Zika virus was discovered long ago, but not so much research has been done on it,” virologist Lobel tells NoCamels. The main goal now is to check if the pathology caused by the Zika virus is changing and, if so, why. “The correlation with microcephaly is still not clear,” he says.



Comparing Brazil to Uganda 

Lobel’s preliminary research focuses on the genetics of the virus, and on the differences between symptoms found in Ugandan and Brazilian patients. These differences could teach us about the evolution of Zika and lead researchers to a possible cure. In other words, virologists are trying to understand why before, the Zika virus only caused mild reactions such as fever, whereas now, it is believed to cause more severe symptoms such as microcephaly.

Lobel, an American-born virologist and physician, has worked on Zika together with Ugandan experts for 13 years and is now helping Brazilian authorities, since “it is very important to have a reference and compare the different cases”, he says. Funding for the research will likely come from the European Union, which sponsors several projects to advance medical research, some of them specifically addressed at preventing the spread of Zika.

However, Zika will not likely spread to Israel and many other parts of the world, Lobel estimates. “The insects that cause the virus don’t exist in Israel, and the ecosystem here does not represent an ideal environment for them to proliferate,” he tells NoCamels. “But we cannot foresee if the virus will change again in the future.”

Severe drought could have led to mosquito proliferation 

Meanwhile, preliminary findings from a study conducted at Israel’s University of Haifa could shed light on certain climates in which Zika-carrying mosquitos flourish. The study, led by Dr. Shlomit Paz in collaboration with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, has found correlation between exceptionally hot and dry winters and the Zika virus. The study was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet.

“The extreme temperature and drought in Brazil are due to a combination of the El Niño phenomenon and the climate changes of recent years,” Paz said in a statement. Her findings are based on data from the US agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They show that the latter half of 2015 saw the highest temperatures since records began, combined with severe drought. The Zika outbreak appeared in these areas over the weeks that followed.

Drought in Brazil

The Zika outbreak is linked to global warming

High temperatures (up to a certain limit) have provided a fertile breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes to reproduce. These mosquitoes also require water. Coincidentally, during periods of drought, local residents store water in containers, thereby creating a convenient habitat for the mosquitoes to proliferate.

The researchers are currently expanding the study in order to gain further insight into the precise nature of the correlation between climatic conditions and the outbreak of the disease. “In light of the health risk, and the fact that the Aedes mosquitoes also carry other viruses, it is important to address the impacts of climate when analyzing the causes of the current outbreak,” Paz concluded.

Photos: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Planet Ark

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Israeli Researchers Develop Novel Method To Treat Aggressive Blood Cancers Tue, 02 Feb 2016 12:50:40 +0000

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With a median survival rate of just five to seven years, Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) is considered the most aggressive blood cancer, and despite the progress in genetic-based cancer treatments, researchers have yet to develop an effective method for treating this rare form of lymphoma.

SEE ALSO: Medical Breakthrough: Israeli Researcher Predicts Where Cancer Will Spread

However, a novel method developed in Israel successfully locates and blocks the reproduction of a cancer-related protein in white blood cells, suggesting that a cure for MCL, as well as other blood cancers, may be within reach. The study was led by Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Dan Peer.


White blood cells in the blood stream

Gene silencers

“MCL has a genetic hallmark,” Peer said in a statement. “In 85 percent of cases, the characteristic that defines this aggressive lymphoma is the heightened activity of the gene CCND1.” When over-expressed, the CCND1 gene produces too much of a protein called Cyclin D1, sometimes 3,000 – 15,000 times too many.

To reduce and regulate protein production, Peer has been investigating an approach called siRNA, or small interfering RNA. A synthetic strand of RNA molecules, siRNA is basically a gene silencer, designed to specifically target a particular messenger RNA (RNA molecules that convey genetic information from the DNA to the ribosomes, where protein is produced) and disable its ability to express a specific gene.

In principle, any gene can be knocked down by a siRNA strand, and has thus drawn keen interest from geneticists and drug developers since its discovery in 1999. However, in practice, siRNA has shown different levels of effectiveness; some cells respond well, whereas others show no knockdown. Delivering siRNA to white blood cells has proven especially difficult because they are dispersed throughout the body, and have thus far been resistant to conventional siRNA strands.

SEE ALSO: Will IBM’s Super Computer ‘Watson’ Treat Cancer?

To better guide siRNA, researchers in Peer’s lab designed lipid-based nanoparticles (LNPs) coated with antibodies that specifically target the CCND1 gene. When loaded onto these LNPs, siRNA effectively induced gene silencing in MCL cells and prolonged survival of tumor-bearing mice with no observed adverse effects, the researchers found.

Personalized medicine

The drug developed in Peer’s lab points to the potential of personalized medicine in the treatment of cancers, which display wide genetic variety even within the same pathology. “MCL is a disease with a specific genetic hallmark, so you can sequence the patient to identify the mutation(s), and design RNA blockers to be placed inside a nano-vehicle,” according to Peer. “However, the delivery system can be used to accommodate any disease with a [known] genetic profile. This could be the future. We are seeing it happen before our very eyes.”

white blood cells

The research, whose results were recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, was led by Peer, and conducted by Ph.D. students Shiri Weinstein and Itai Toker, in collaboration with Prof. Pia Raanani of Israel’s Rabin Medical Center and Prof. Arnon Nagler of Sheba Medical Center. Peer’s laboratory is funded by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Photos: Wellcome Images; The Franklin InstituteAlkhwarizmi Center for Bioinformatics

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Study: Post-Term Delivery Doubles Risk Of Complications For Newborns Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:33:00 +0000

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While pregnancy is considered full-term at 40 weeks, only 5 percent of women actually give birth on their predetermined due date. That’s why most OBGYNs recommend more frequent and more vigilant monitoring after 40 weeks, and sometimes the artificial induction of labor. However, many pregnant women refuse induction due to the risk of stress to the fetus or increased likelihood of requiring a C-section.

But a new Israeli study provides evidence that the risks of not inducing labor at 42 weeks of pregnancy outweigh the risks to the baby if labor is not induced.

SEE ALSO: A Female’s Level Of Stress Before She Even Conceives Affects Her Offspring’s Genes, Study Shows


Conducted by Tel Aviv University researchers, the study has found that post-term deliveries, even among low-risk pregnancies, are associated with increased short-term risks to newborns, including illnesses and infections, which land them twice as frequently in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). The study isolates the post-term due date as a single, influential risk factor for the first time, according to the scientists.

The research was led by TAU’s Dr. Liran Hiersch and Prof. Nehama Linder, along with Dr. Nir Melamed of the Rabin Medical Center. It was recently published in the scientific journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Countering fear with fact

“There are women who refuse induction of labor, even more than two weeks past their due date,” Hiersch said in a statement. “Without the relevant data, it is difficult for doctors to convince them otherwise. Maybe now, with this research and further studies in hand, we can convince them that even though their pregnancies had experienced no complications — and they are being monitored, say, every three days — they’re potentially risking infection, illness and other unforeseen complications by refusing medical intervention.”

SEE ALSO: Stress During Pregnancy Affects Baby’s Iron Levels

Hiersch and his team examined the records of all women who delivered babies at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center over a five-year period. They extracted the records of approximately 23,500 women with a single fetus and without pregnancy complications who delivered at 39-44 weeks of gestation. Then, they compared the neonatal outcomes of three groups: babies born at 39-40 weeks; babies born at 41 weeks; and babies born at 42 weeks and later (post-date pregnancies).

“Although previous studies demonstrated an increased risk of complications for newborns born in the post-term period, most of these studies included women with pregnancy-related complications, such as small fetuses, hypertension and diabetes,” Hiersch explains. “The isolated effect of the prolonged pregnancy could not be determined. For this reason, we included in our analysis only women with low-risk pregnancies in order to more clearly determine the effect of gestational age at delivery on neonatal outcome.”

The researchers only addressed women who gave birth to live infants; they found that infants born past 42 weeks had twice the risk of contracting infections, experiencing respiratory difficulties and being admitted to NICUs than those born at 39-40 weeks.

baby girl sleeping

A warning to new mothers: “Do not postpone delivery beyond 42 weeks”

“Our study implies that even in otherwise low-risk pregnancy, it is advisable not to postpone delivery beyond 42 weeks,” Hiersch warns. “Therefore, it is reasonable to offer induction of labor to women reaching that time of pregnancy and maybe a little earlier.”

In the study, the researchers addressed the complications that occur immediately following birth. They are now exploring a larger study that addresses whether post-term deliveries put infants at risk for developmental difficulties later in life.

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Study: Screening Smokers With Pneumonia Leads To Early Lung Cancer Detection, Prolongs Life Thu, 21 Jan 2016 11:25:43 +0000

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality among both men and women in the US, and yet the disease is rarely diagnosed early. Now, a new Israeli study proposes that screening smokers admitted to the hospital with pneumonia could facilitate the early diagnosis of lung cancer and thereby save – or prolong – many lives.

SEE ALSO: Technion Creates Artificial Lung To Study Pollution Effects

The study, which was conducted by researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv University and Rabin Medical Center, was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal The American Journal of Medicine.

Lung cancer cell dividing

Lung cancer cell dividing

“Lung cancer is truly aggressive,” TAU‘s Dr. Daniel Shepshelovich, who led the study, said in a statement. “The only chance of recuperation is if it’s caught before it begins to cause any symptoms at all. The idea is to find the tumor well in advance.”

According to the researchers, “previous studies have shown that a low-dose radiation CT scan conducted once a year on heavy smokers has the potential to lower lung cancer mortality rates. But this requires huge resources, and we still don’t know how it will perform in real-world conditions, outside of strictly conducted clinical trials.”

Heavy smokers face greater risks 

Smoking causes approximately 85 percent of all lung cancer cases, only 15 percent of which are diagnosed at an early stage. Thus, Dr. Shepshelovich and his team examined Rabin Medical Center‘s cases of heavy smokers with community-acquired pneumonia — a form of pneumonia contracted by a person with little contact with the health care system. They reviewed every patient’s medical file for demographics, smoking history, lung cancer risk factors and the anatomical location of the pneumonia. The data was then crosschecked with the database at Israel’s National Cancer Registry for new diagnoses of cancer.

The researchers found that out of 381 admissions of heavy smokers with pneumonia between 2007-2011, 31 patients were diagnosed with lung cancer within a year of being hospitalized. Moreover, lung cancer incidence was found to be 23.8 percent higher in patients admitted with upper-lobe pneumonia. They also found that the lung cancer was located in the lobe affected by pneumonia in 75.8 percent of cases.

“We discovered that smokers hospitalized with pneumonia are diagnosed with cancer after the infection because often the cancer masquerades as pneumonia, physically obstructing the airway and creating such an infection,” Dr. Shepshelovich explains. “Considering that only 0.5 – 1 percent of smokers without pneumonia have a chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the fact that 8 percent of our study group developed lung cancer is alarming.”

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare

Tumor cells lining the alveoli, the tiny sacs within our lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and bloodstream.

Tumor cells lining the alveoli, the tiny sacs in the lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and bloodstream.

“Only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are detected at an early stage”

Existing diagnostic methods, such as chest X-rays, “sometimes find the cancerous tumors, but they do not change mortality rates,” he said. “In other words, people are aware that they have cancer for longer periods of time, but do not recover. This is not a solution.”

He continued to say that smokers admitted to the hospital with pneumonia should be considered for chest CT scans: “Only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are detected at an early stage. We want to increase that number in order to reduce mortality or, at the very least, extend lives.”

The researchers are currently considering a larger nationwide retrospective study on the subject.

Photos: Anne Weston, LRI, CRUK Wellcome Images; Yale Rosen, Pulmonary Pathology

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Burger And Fries, Anyone? Processed Foods Could Cause Autoimmune Diseases Tue, 19 Jan 2016 11:08:18 +0000

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In today’s hustle and bustle world, processed foods are commonplace time-savers. But that convenience may come at a high price to one’s health; a new study suggests that the effects of processed foods might not be reversible.

In findings recently published in the scientific journal Autoimmune Reviews, researchers from Israel and Germany present evidence that processed foods weaken the intestine’s resistance to bacteria, toxins and other hostile elements, which in turn increases the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare

chocolate bar

The study was led by Prof. Aaron Lerner of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Dr. Torsten Matthias of the AESKU.KIPP INSTITUTE in Germany.

The research team examined the effects of processed food on the intestines, and on the development of autoimmune diseases – conditions in which the body attacks and damages its own tissues. More than 100 such diseases have been identified, including type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hepatitis, and Crohn’s disease.


“In recent decades, there has been a decrease in incidence of infectious diseases, but at the same time there has been an increase in the incidence of allergic diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases,” Prof. Lerner said in a statement. “Since the weight of genetic changes is insignificant in such a short period, the scientific community is searching for the causes at the environmental level.”

In their study, the researchers focused on the dizzying increase in the use of industrial food additives aimed at improving qualities such as taste, smell, texture and shelf life, and found “a significant circumstantial connection between the increased use of processed foods and the increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases.”

Many autoimmune diseases stem from damage to the functioning of the tight-junctions that protect the intestinal mucosa. When functioning normally, tight-junctions serve as a barrier against bacteria, toxins, allergens and carcinogens, protecting the immune system from them. Damage to the tight junctions (also known as “leaky gut”) leads to the development of autoimmune diseases.

SEE ALSO: Thirsty? ‘The Right Cup’ Turns Water Into Your Favorite Drink Using Scent – Not Sugar

The researchers found that several common food additives weaken the tight junctions: glucose (sugars), sodium (salt), fat solvents (emulsifiers), organic acids, gluten and microbial transglutaminase (a special enzyme that serves as food protein “glue”).

“Control and enforcement agencies such as the FDA stringently supervise the pharmaceutical industry, but the food additive market remains unsupervised enough,” according to Lerner. “We hope this study and similar studies increase awareness about the dangers inherent in industrial food additives, and raise awareness about the need for control over them.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 2.50.10 PM

The researchers also advise patients with autoimmune diseases, and those who have a family background of such diseases, to consider avoiding processed foods when possible.

Infographic: Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

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Symptoms Are Evolution’s Way Of Preventing Disease From Spreading, Study Suggests Thu, 14 Jan 2016 11:13:49 +0000

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When you have a fever, your nose is stuffed and your headache feels like it is spreading to your toes – your body is telling you to stay in bed. According to a new Israeli study, feeling sick is simply an evolutionary adaptation that aims to stop disease from spreading.

SEE ALSO: Hossam Haick’s Revolutionary Device Detects Deadly Diseases, Cancer, On The Breath

This hypothesis, put forward by Prof. Guy Shakhar of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and Dr. Keren Shakhar of the College of Management Academic Studies, is laid out in a recent paper published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology.

public health sick infection spread ill Sneeze

The symptoms that accompany illness appear to negatively affect one’s chance of survival and reproduction. So why would this phenomenon persist? Symptoms, say the scientists, are not an adaptation that works on the level of the individual; rather, they suggest, evolution is functioning on the level of the ‘selfish gene.’ Even though the individual organism may not survive the illness, isolating itself from its social environment will reduce the overall rate of infection in the group.

“From the point of view of the individual, this behavior may seem overly altruistic,” Dr. Keren Shakhar said in a statement, “but from the perspective of the gene, its odds of being passed down are improved.”

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare

In the paper, the scientists go through a list of common symptoms (mostly flu-like symptoms), and each seems to support the hypothesis. Appetite loss, for example, hinders the disease from spreading by communal food or water resources. Fatigue and weakness can limit the mobility of the infected individual, reducing the radius of possible infection. Along with the symptoms, the sick individual can become depressed and lose interest in social and sexual contact, again limiting opportunities to transmit pathogens. Lapses in personal grooming and changes in body language say: I’m sick! Don’t come near!

“Isolation is the most efficient way to stop a disease from spreading”

Some of the most extreme “sickness behavior” is found in such social insects as bees, which typically abandon the hive to die elsewhere when they are sick.

Environment News: Researchers Use Bee Hormones To Kill Pests While Protecting Bees

“We know that isolation is the most efficient way to stop a transmissible disease from spreading,” Prof. Guy Shakhar said in a statement. “The problem is that today, for example, with flu, many do not realize how deadly it can be. So, they go against their natural instincts, take a pill to reduce pain and fever and go to work, where the chance of infecting others is much higher.”

The scientists have proposed several ways of testing this hypothesis, but they also hope its message sinks in: When you feel sick, it’s a sign you need to stay home. Millions of years of evolution are not wrong.

Photos: CDCDiego Cupolo; Tim Vickers, moveboulder

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Sleepless Nights? Silent Partner’s ‘Smart Patch’ Could Help Reduce Snoring Sounds Mon, 11 Jan 2016 09:54:16 +0000

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Can’t sleep because your partner snores at night? Israeli startup Silent Partner has created a new device that could significantly reduce snoring noise.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 million Americans, both male and female, snore on a regular basis. Now imagine your partner is one of them and it’s 2:30 AM. Instead of getting frustrated and even angry, you will soon be able to use a small, horseshoe-shaped device to take away the noise.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

Silent Partner has developed a lightweight and compact wearable device worn on your face, near your nose. It quiets the snoring noise by creating a “silent zone” around the person wearing it, giving their partner a better night’s sleep.

The device uses the previously developed Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology to muffle the sound of snoring before it spreads. To this existing technology, Silent Partner developers have added an innovative “sub-wavelength active noise cancellation” technique, which creates a more accurate noise-reduction zone around the snoring person, the company claims. The device starts at $59, and its battery is designed to last all night, according to Silent Partner.

This novel technology is based on the phenomenon of destructive interference, where sound waves of opposite amplitudes cancel each other out, resulting in a much lower sound. In other words, Silent Partner does not eradicate snoring; rather, it simply subdues the noise.

SEE ALSO: Study: Interrupted Sleep Is The Equivalent Of No Sleep At All

Unlike many other anti-snoring technologies, Silent Partner focuses on the noise rather than on the underlying medical issues that contribute to snoring. Other devices use positioning strategies to counter snoring. For example, competitor Nora detects snoring noises and then changes the position of your pillow to relieve snoring.

“Helping millions of people get a good night’s sleep”

Evidently, the crowds are fascinated with Silent Partner. The startup recently raised $262,548 during a one-month campaign on crowd-funding platform Indiegogo – more than six times its initial goal of $40,000.

This simple-to-use “smart patch” has been received with praise on Indiegogo, as it solves a universal problem that could cause tension between partners. American-Israeli entrepreneur Bob Rosenschein projects that Silent Partner is “going to help millions of people get a good night’s sleep,” according to Indiegogo.

Commenting on the significant demand for Silent Partner, co-founder Netanel Eyal tells No Camels: “We feel lucky that we can help a lot of people.”

silent partner

Last year, Eyal and co-founder Yoni Bazak (who met at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) started developing the idea for Silent Partner. Designed in Israel and manufactured in China, Silent Partner is expected to be ready for shipping in November 2016.

Here’s to quieter nights!

Photos and video: Courtesy

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Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare Wed, 23 Dec 2015 11:49:34 +0000

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Most of us have probably encountered at some point or another problems in our everyday healthcare. It could be waiting a long time for an appointment, taking unnecessary medications, or simply not finding enough information about how best to treat a condition.

But now, several Israeli healthcare startups are addressing some of these common issues with easy-to-use technology, potentially helping patients save money and time. NoCamels highlights five of the most intriguing startups transforming everyday healthcare.


Imagine you could skip the waiting time for a doctor’s appointment and save the money you would have paid for the visit. Israeli startup TytoCare has developed an innovative hand-held instrument, called Tyto, which is able to detect and classify common diseases such as flu or ear infections. The kit includes a stethoscope, an otoscope and a computer-vision camera that helps the user diagnosis the problem. In case a doctor is needed, the device can also be used to connect with a specialist for a remote consultation.

Founded by Israelis Dedi Gilad and Ofer Tzadik in 2012, the company has so far raised $18.5 million (drugstore chain Walgreens is among the investors) and is about to complete beta testing of the product.



Israeli startup MeMed has addressed the issue of antibiotic misuse by developing a new kind of diagnostic test, called ImmunoXpert, aimed at determining whether an infection is viral or bacterial. The distinction is made on the basis of the patient’s immune response (through a speedy blood test), as the device can tell the difference between the specific kinds of proteins released in the blood in each case.

Providing a reliable diagnosis is fundamental if we consider that several cases of misuse are caused by incorrect prescriptions. Whereas antibiotics are very useful in healing bacterial flues, when it comes to viruses they are not only ineffective, but also potentially dangerous, since the overuse of antibiotics facilitates the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, which have become increasingly common across the globe.

The company was founded in 2009 by Eran Eden and Kfir Oved and is headquartered near Haifa, Israel. In 2015, it was awarded €3 million by the European Commission through the Horizon2020 Grant Program, aimed at sponsoring groundbreaking discoveries able to impact global economy and healthcare.



Medisafe, founded by Israeli brothers Omri and Rotem Shor, has developed an app designed to help people keep track of their medications. We all know how easy it is to miss a pill, but for people affected by chronic diseases, missing a dose could have severe consequences and lead to possible hospitalization.

medisafeMedisafe has found an easy and effective way to address the problem of medication non-adherence with a mobile app. Available for both iOS and Android users, Medisafe automatically reminds users to take their medicine through notifications and informs a family member when those messages go unnoticed.

SEE ALSO: Breakthrough Israeli Research Improves HIV/AIDS Treatment, Could Lead To Cure

Not only does this system build a safety net around the patient, it could also help reduce the overall burden of medication non-adherence, which in the US alone is estimated to cost the healthcare system about $290 billion, according to think tank HealthWorks Collective.

With 2.5 million users, Medisafe claims the app significantly improves medication adherence. Founded in 2012, the company has raised $7 million in three rounds from eight investors, including famed Israeli angel investor Eyal Gura, Lool Ventures and Microsoft Ventures.


Struggling to be active at work the morning after a night out? Imagine how it would be if your sleep were disrupted regularly – more than a dozen times in one night.

In the US alone, about 50 million people suffer from sleep disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Millions suffer from a condition called sleep apnea, which consists of a series of breathing interruptions during sleep. As breathing stops or diminishes, and consequently the level of oxygen in the brain declines, the human body is programmed to wake up so that the person will start to breath normally again.


If untreated, this disorder can become extremely dangerous: Chronic lack of sleep may lead to reduced cognitive functions, memory loss, depression, and can increase one’s chances of being involved in a car accident. In extreme cases, sleep apnea can increase the risk of a stroke and heart failure.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

But an Israeli company seems to have found a simple solution: Nyxoah has developed a small neurostimulator that prevents airway blockage by electrically controlling the nerves of the tongue. The device measures 20 mm in diameter and 2.5 mm in thickness, it can be implanted by a small incision, and  then kept in place during sleeping hours by a disposable adhesive patch.

Founded in 2009 by Robert Taub and Adi Mashiach, Nyxoah has so far raised $11 million.


Finding a trustworthy doctor is no easy task. In case you need surgery, choosing the most suitable hospital is crucial yet difficult because essential information is not always readily available to everyone.

After his sister died from complications of a routine operation, entrepreneur Moni Milchman funded and developed a global, comprehensive search engine for hospitals. Type in the procedure you need, and Archimedicx will find and rate the most suitable clinics, free of charge for the patient.

The search can be filtered according to countries, waiting time, budget and other considerations, and enables the user to contact the hospital directly to speak to a specialist.

archimedicx screenshot

Archimedicx was founded in 2014 and has quickly reached 30,000 users. The company has raised an undisclosed amount, though it is thought to be worth several million dollars.

Photos: MeMed, Archimedicx, Nyxoah, TytoCare, MediSafe

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Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain Tue, 15 Dec 2015 08:53:57 +0000

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Cranky or grumpy after a long night? Fatigue puts most people in a bad mood, but a new Israeli study pinpoints the neurological mechanism responsible for increased anxiety due to only one night’s lack of sleep.

“Prior to our study, it was not clear what was responsible for the emotional impairments triggered by sleep loss,” Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Talma Hendler, who led the study, said in a statement. “It turns out we lose our neutrality. The ability of the brain to tell what’s important is compromised. It’s as if suddenly everything is important.”

SEE ALSO: Israeli Scientists Help Create First 3D Map Of The Brain


Hendler’s research team “assumed that sleep loss would intensify the processing of emotional images and thus impede brain capacity for executive functions;” however, “we were actually surprised to find that it significantly impacts the processing of both neutral and emotionally-charged images,” she says.

Sleep deprivation could lead to poor judgment and anxiety

To detect emotional responses, the researchers measured the electrical neurological activity in participants’ brains (using EEG and/or fMRI) and then showed the participants images designed to invoke different emotional responses. Images of cats were associated with positive emotions, while images of mutilated bodies were associated with negative emotions. Common objects, such as a spoon were deemed neutral images.

When participants had a good night’s rest, neurological tests indicated that participants had various responses, depending on whether the image was emotionally positive, negative or neutral. In contrast, responses of sleep-deprived participants were significantly less differentiated.

To test concentration levels, the researchers conducted a second experiment in which participants were asked to complete a simple task while distracting images (neutral and emotional) were displayed in the background. The team found that after one night without sleep, participants were distracted by every single image (neutral and emotional), while well-rested participants were only distracted by emotional images.

The effect was indicated by activity change in the amygdala, a set of neurons responsible for emotional processing in the brain.

According to Hendler, “these results reveal that, without sleep, the mere recognition of what is an emotional event and what is a neutral event is disrupted. We may experience similar emotional provocations from all incoming events, even neutral ones, and lose our ability to sort out more or less important information. This can lead to biased cognitive processing and poor judgment as well as anxiety.”

SEE ALSO: Revolutionary: Israeli Researcher Says He Can ‘Erase’ Memory Of Addiction

The study was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The researchers are currently examining how novel methods for sleep intervention may help the treatment of anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress disorders in which emotional regulation may also be affected by sleep.

sleeping beauty

Photos: Roydon Joe; Marissa VooJenc

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Thirsty? ‘The Right Cup’ Turns Water Into Your Favorite Drink Using Scent – Not Sugar Sun, 13 Dec 2015 08:30:23 +0000

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Doctors recommend drinking at least eight cups of water a day. But let’s be honest: Plain water is not the tastiest drink available. Most people prefer soda and fruity drinks, but most contain an unhealthy amount of sugar, which if drunk daily, increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other chronic conditions.

A staggering 35 percent of adult Americans are obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control; moreover, the American Diabetes Association estimates that 30 million children and adults in the US have diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Cutting down on sugar consumption has become a public health necessity and yet soft drinks are still readily available – and they’re typically loaded with sugar.

But now, Israeli entrepreneur Isaac Lavy has invented a unique cup that eliminates sugar from our beverages – without compromising the flavor. Through an ingenious mechanism, the Right Cup, which looks just like any other plastic cup, will trick your brain into thinking you are drinking fruit-flavored soda when, in fact, all you are drinking is 100 percent pure water.


Lavy was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 30 years old: “My doctors told me to drink only water, but I hated the taste.”

The mechanism of the Right Cup seems pretty simple: The same FDA-approved substances that make our sweet drinks delicious are positioned inside the cup itself – not in the drink. When sipping water out of the Right Cup, the nose will transmit to the brain the same signal that the tongue would send if it tasted something sweet. The basic idea is that the sense of smell is responsible for 80 percent of our taste experience, which explains why when we have a cold we can hardly taste any flavor.

SEE ALSO: Is Sushi Healthier Than Ice Cream? Not Necessarily, Diabetes Researchers Say

It almost sounds too good to be true. Could the human brain be tricked so easily? The founders claim it really works: After five years of research and development, the company tested the prototype and also recorded some of the reactions on a video; people seem to struggle to believe that all they are drinking is pure water.

In November 2015, at the conclusion of the testing phase, the founders launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that has been incredibly successful. Aiming to raise $50,000, this miraculous cup more than tripled its inventor’s original goal, raising $163,000 in three weeks.

the right cupThe company plans to start production in February 2016 and to ship the cup in April 2016; the price for a package of four cups is currently $78. The cup will be available in four different flavors: Apple, lemon-lime, orange and berries.

SEE ALSO: It’s Official: One Glass Of Wine A Day Improves Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes

Encouraged by the outstanding results of the Indiegogo campaign, the company is now aiming to raise additional funds in order to begin research necessary to reproduce the Cola flavor, one of the most popular in sweet beverages.

Photos and video courtesy of The Right Cup
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Japan Turns To Israel For Radiation Disease Treatment Thu, 10 Dec 2015 07:56:39 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Four years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the country is still not out of the woods, with the risk of mass radiation poisoning a continued risk. That is why the Fukushima Medical University’s Global Medical Science Center has signed a deal with Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics to further develop the company’s PLX-R18 cells to treat acute radiation syndrome (ARS).

Under the deal, PLX-R18 cells will be studied primarily as a potential treatment for radiation-induced damage to the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The parties intend to develop pre-clinical models of radiation damage in these tissues, and then use them in trials; Pluristem will contribute PLX-R18 cells and scientific knowledge, while Fukushima Medical University will conduct the studies and provide the required resources.

SEE ALSO: If Nuclear Disaster Strikes, This Israeli-Designed Belt Protects Against Radiation Exposure


Fukushima, Japan

Although out of the news, the Fukushima plant continues to pose major health risks. Four and a half years after the explosion and subsequent meltdown at the plant damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan in March 2011, radiation continues to spread, both in Japan and abroad.

SEE ALSO: Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of Medicine

Just last week, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution issued a report saying that more sites off the coast of the western US were showing signs of radiation contamination. And in Japan itself, as many as a million people could die in the coming years from radiation-induced cancer, according to a report last month by Fairewinds Energy Education.

So far there have been just a few documented cases of cancer directly linked to the disaster, but no one in Japan is taking anything for granted. While officials are doing what they can to clean up the site, they realize that they must also act to prevent a potential health emergency.

Enter Pluristem, a Haifa-based company that is developing a cure for acute radiation syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation disease, the mass destruction of tissues and cells caused by exposure to extremely high levels of radiation, such as a nuclear catastrophe.

ARS can cause lethal damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lung, skin and bone marrow, as well as other systems. But tests have shown that the stem-cell technology developed by Pluristem can prevent damage to cells affected by ARS. In tests conducted in Israel and the US, animals (mostly mice) that were subjected to total body irradiation and injected with human cytokines, showed significantly increased survival rates when treated with Pluristem’s PLX-RAD cells. The treatment essentially reversed the effects of radiation disease – which is especially hard on bone marrow – to a great extent.



To read the full article, click here

Photos: Juha Uitto, Pluristem

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Breakthrough Israeli Research Improves HIV/AIDS Treatment, Could Lead To Cure Tue, 01 Dec 2015 07:06:29 +0000

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For people living with HIV, the widespread antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help slow the spread of the disease and prevent it from developing into AIDS. However, ART is not effective against all strains of the disease, nor is it a cure for the virus, which still affects 37 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Several Israeli universities and scientific institutes have recently made strides towards new, more effective treatments and a possible cure for HIV/AIDS. In recognition of World AIDS Day 2015, NoCamels spotlights some of their most groundbreaking research.

SEE ALSO: One Israeli Researcher Is Outsmarting HIV To Cure AIDS


People living with HIV, by country

Hebrew University: Destroying HIV-positive cells 

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a new method to destroy HIV-positive cells without damaging the healthy ones. When the HIV virus attacks, it inserts a portion of its DNA into the genome of the healthy cell through an enzyme called integrase. However, research led by Prof. Abraham Loyter and Prof. Assaf Friedler has discovered that certain peptides (amino acids) can interfere in this DNA-transfer process, and ultimately cause the infected cell to self-destroy.

SEE ALSO: Breakthrough Israeli Device Will Circumcise 700,000 Rwandans To Prevent HIV/AIDS

The procedure was tested on cultures of human cells infected with HIV-1, the most common form of the virus, and within two weeks, those cells were destroyed. The study is still in progress; the researchers have signed a partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, as well as with the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, Yissum, in order to find investors and continue with clinical trials.


HIV-1 buds (in green)

Weizmann Institute of Science: Antibodies could neutralize the virus

At the Weizmann Institute of Science, research led by Dr. Ron Diskin has shown that rare antibodies may be able to neutralize the virus. Antibodies are proteins produced by blood plasma cells that help the immune system to identify and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.

Only 10-20 percent of people naturally produce HIV-fighting antibodies, with which Diskin is experimenting. If such antibodies could be reproduced, they could one day be used both in treatment (thereby replacing conventional ART) and in a potential vaccine. “Antibody-based treatments for other diseases, primarily cancer, are already in use,” Diskin said in a statement.

Although it is still unclear how effective HIV antibodies are on a wider population, the path of investigation seems promising.

Technion: Predicting the virus’ hidden paths 

Looking for a new strategy to fight the virus, Assistant Prof. Akram Alian of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology chose to focus on how the virus enters the host cell. Normally, HIV targets healthy cells through favored pathways, but when ART blocks these entry points, the virus will look for alternative ways to access the cell, which could lead to “a new kind of viral resistance,” Alian hypotheses.

Alian and his team are “trying to map the HIV-1 rerouting landscape and capture different host virus complexes to see if we can target inescapable pathway nodes,” he recently told NoCamels. “If we can do this, then we can predict the hidden, alternative routes that the virus takes and from there develop a drug that targets the critical nodes of the host cell’s proteins, so there is no way for the virus to reroute and take a different pathway.”


Gilead’s Stribild is one of the antiretroviral treatment (ART) drugs used to treat HIV.

Ben Gurion University: Blocking HIV’s ability to reproduce

Prof. Ran Taube of Ben Gurion University has been investigating the instances in which HIV remains ‘latent’ in the body even after the patient has undergone treatment.

ART cannot treat the virus itself; rather, it prevents HIV from making copies of itself (a process called transcribing) and spreading to other healthy cells. However, if transcription inhibitors block the virus’ ability to reproduce, as Taube’s research shows, ART will not be effective. Thus, fully understanding the mechanism by which HIV latency occurs may enable researchers to develop more comprehensive therapies that could ultimately treat the virus itself.

Considering HIV/AIDS was unknown to scientists 34 years ago, research into the field has made tremendous progress and enabled people with the disease to live decades with a relatively high quality of life. If researchers can make similar progress in the next 34 years, the disease may be curable and possibly eradicated.

The White House Commemorates World AIDS Day

The White House commemorates World AIDS Day

Photos and infographics: Ted Eytan; Wikipedia Commons/CDC; Wikipedia Commons/Jörgen MoorlagThomas SplettstoesserWikipedia Commons/UNAIDS ReportStéfan, National AIDS Trustjacinta lluch valero

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ElMindA’s Revolutionary Assessment Device For Parkinson’s Attracts World’s Top Investors Wed, 25 Nov 2015 11:28:35 +0000

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This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Fresh from its recent award as one of the 49 most innovative startups in the world by the World Economic Forum, Israeli biotechnology firm ElMindA, developers of the world’s first FDA-approved neural functional assessment tool to visualize serious brain trauma and illnesses, announced last week that it had received $28 million in a Series C financing round.

ElMindA had to turn away investors anxious to put their money into what could be the next big Israeli med tech exit, according to investment experts familiar with the firm.

SEE ALSO: Mind-Blowing: Brainsway’s Magnetic Pulses Helmet Relieves Depression


ElMindA technology presented to US President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel in 2013

The list of investors who did get into the funding round reads like a who’s who of the global investment world. Among the investors: Chinese global investors Shanda Group, Wexford Capital, which has some $6 billion of assets under management in hedge funds and private equity funds companies, investment bank WR Hambrecht & Co, asset manager Palisade Capital Management, crowdfunding pioneers OurCrowd (among the first to invest in ElMinda), the Kraft Group (owner of the New England Patriots, but also a heavy investor in health-tech), and Swiss investment house Healthcrest AG.

The money will go toward enhancing ElMindA’s proprietary Brain Network Activation system, and preparing the system for commercial and clinical adoption, following BNA’s 2014 FDA clearance in the US and European CE Mark approval for brain function assessment.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Who Made It Their Life Goal To Beat Parkinson’s Disease

While most brain monitoring systems require the invasive insertion of a sensor inside the head, ElMindA’s BNA takes its measurements using a sensor-laden futuristic-looking “helmet” that contains dozens of electrodes that measure activity through the skull. The sensors are able to measure the electronic activity of the brain at different points, with each sensor recording the activity associated with a specific brain function – thought, memory, activity, etc.

The data is analyzed by specially developed algorithms based on patented signal processing and pattern recognition techniques that can connect between signals, revealing three-dimensional images of Brain Network Activation patterns which represent high resolution functional neural pathways. The data can aid doctors in the profiling of brain function and changes in functionality, and can assist follow-up of changes in disease progression and/or response to therapeutic interventions.

To read the full article, click here

Photos courtesy of ElMindA

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Is Sushi Healthier Than Ice Cream? Not Necessarily, Diabetes Researchers Say Sun, 22 Nov 2015 17:08:49 +0000

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Which is more likely to raise blood sugar levels: Sushi or ice cream? According to a new Israeli study, the answer varies from one person to another. The study, which continuously monitored blood sugar levels in 800 people for a week, revealed that the bodily response to similar foods was highly individual.

SEE ALSO: Could Personalized Diets Prevent Diabetes And Heart Disease?

The study, called the Personalized Nutrition Project, was led by Prof. Eran Segal and Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute. It was published in the November 19 issue of the scientific journal Cell, and has since stirred up the medical community, which might have to rethink dietary recommendations.

“We chose to focus on blood sugar because elevated levels are a major risk factor for diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome,” Segal said in a statement. “The huge differences that we found in the rise of blood sugar levels among different people who consumed identical meals highlights why personalized eating choices are more likely to help people stay healthy than universal dietary advice.”


Indeed, the scientists found that different people responded very differently to both simple and complex meals. For example, a large number of participants’ blood sugar levels rose sharply after they consumed a standardized glucose meal, but in many others, blood glucose levels rose sharply after they ate white bread, but not after glucose.

New dietary recommendations? 

According to Elinav, “our aim in this study was to find factors that underlie personalized blood glucose responses to food. We used that information to develop personal dietary recommendations that can help prevent and treat obesity and diabetes, which are among the most severe epidemics in human history.”

The study was unique in its scale and in the inclusion of the analysis of gut microbes, collectively known as the microbiome, which had recently been shown to play an important role in human health. Study participants were outfitted with small monitors that continuously measured their blood sugar levels. They were asked to record everything they ate, as well as such lifestyle factors as sleep and physical activity. Overall, the researchers assessed the response of different people to 46,000 meals.

Taking these multiple factors into account, the scientists generated an algorithm for predicting individualized response to food based on the person’s lifestyle, medical background, and the composition and function of his or her microbiome. In a follow-up study of another 100 volunteers, the algorithm successfully predicted the rise in blood sugar in response to different foods, demonstrating that it could be applied to new participants.

gut bacteria, small intestine,

Gut bacteria

The scientists were able to show that lifestyle also mattered. The same food affected blood sugar levels differently in the same person, depending, for example, on whether its consumption had been preceded by exercise or sleep.

SEE ALSO: It’s Official: One Glass Of Wine A Day Improves Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes

In the final stage of the study, the scientists designed a dietary intervention based on their algorithm; this was a test of their ability to prescribe personal dietary recommendations for lowering blood glucose level responses to food. Volunteers were assigned a personalized “good” diet for one week, and a “bad” diet – also personalized – for another. Both good and bad diets were designed to have the same number of calories, but they differed between participants. Thus, certain foods in one person’s “good” diet were part of another’s “bad” diet.

The “good” diets indeed helped to keep blood sugar at steadily healthy levels, whereas the “bad” diets often induced spikes in glucose levels —all within just one week of intervention. Moreover, as a result of the “good” diets, the volunteers experienced consistent changes in the composition of their gut microbes, suggesting that the microbiome may be influenced by the personalized diets while also playing a role in participants’ blood sugar responses.

Video: Courtesy

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Scientists Claim Alzheimer’s Is A Set Of Different Diseases That Should Be Treated Separately Sun, 15 Nov 2015 13:29:45 +0000

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Roughly 5.3 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and every 67 seconds someone in the US develops the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is among the 10 leading causes of death but at this time, the medical community has found no way to prevent, cure, or even slow it.

That’s why some scientists say it might be time to look at Alzheimer’s differently. Deciphering the mechanism that underlies the development of Alzheimer’s disease in certain families but not in others, researchers at the Hebrew University have proposed that the malady is actually a collection of several diseases that should be classified and treated separately – with a variety of different approaches.

SEE ALSO: People Who Treat Alzheimer’s Patients Should Have Creative Hobbies


Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are debilitating conditions that result in degeneration or death of cells in the nervous system. Cases are typically diagnosed during the patient’s fifth through seventh decade of life. The late onset of the disease raises the following question: Why do individuals who carry disease-linked mutations show no clinical signs until they reach their fifties or sixties? One possible explanation is that as people age, the efficiency of the mechanisms that protect younger people from the toxic aggregation of proteins declines, thus exposing them to the disease. Indeed, previous studies clearly indicate that the aging process and this aggregation of proteins plays a key role in enabling neurodegenerative disorders to onset late in life.

The secret protein that’s responsible for the manifestation of Alzheimer’s

Since neurodegenerative disorders stem from abnormal protein folding (the process by which a protein assumes its functional shape), the researchers believe that an aging-associated decline in the activity of proteins that assist other proteins to fold properly may be one mechanism that exposes the elderly to neurodegeneration. Such abnormality can also occur due to an infectious misfolded protein or a genetic mutation. The study suggests that Alzheimer’s symptoms should be distinguished according to these underlying mechanisms, hence should be regarded as different diseases.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Stop Brain From Aging To Prevent Alzheimer’s

The international research team, led by Prof. Ehud Cohen and Dr. Tziona Ben-Gedalya of the Hebrew University, also discovered that the malfunction of a protein called “cyclophilin B,” which helps nascent proteins to attain their proper structures, can also be responsible for the manifestation of Alzheimer’s.

Health News: Researchers Identify Protein That May Be Key In Alzheimer's Treatment

According to Cohen, “this study indicates that Alzheimer’s disease can emanate from more than one mechanism, suggesting that it is actually a collection of diseases that should be classified.”

The new insights derived from his study may reinforce the efforts to develop novel therapies to the different subtypes of Alzheimer’s disease, providing new hope for those who suffer from this incurable disorder.

Cohen stresses that “it is essential to carefully characterize and classify the mechanisms that underlie Alzheimer’s disease, in order to allow for the development of novel therapies that can be prescribed to the individual patient according to their relevant disease subtype.”

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Israeli Study Reveals Secret Brain Cells That Could Cause Depression Thu, 05 Nov 2015 14:45:59 +0000

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

A paper by Israeli brain researchers suggests a new direction for studying and treating depression.

Prof. Raz Yirmiya, who heads Hebrew University’s psychoneuroimmunology laboratory, is the senior author of a new paper, “Depression as a microglial disease,” published in the October issue of Trends in Neurosciences.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Shed Light On Depression By Curing Mice

Brain - Technology News - Israel

The paper urges a new focus in depression research away from neurons, the cells that make up the brain’s thinking faculties and allow it to control the body, and toward brain cells called microglia.

About 10 percent of brain cells are microglia, which serve as a kind of infrastructure for the brain, holding neurons in place, passing oxygen and other nutrients to them and fighting brain infections.

Microglia play a special role in repairing brain damage and trauma to neurons, the researchers note.

“Our views on microglia have dramatically changed over the last decade,” Yirmiya said in a Thursday statement by Hebrew University.

“We now know that these cells play a role in the formation and fine-tuning of the connections between neurons [known as synapses] during brain development, as well as in changes [to] these connections throughout life. These roles are important for normal brain and behavioral functions, including pain, mood and cognitive abilities.”

SEE ALSO: Brainsway’s Magnetic Pulses Helmet Relieves Depression

According to Yirmiya, who wrote the paper together with fellow Hebrew University researchers Neta Rimmerman and Ronen Reshef, “Studies in humans, using post-mortem brain tissues or special imaging techniques, as well as studies in animal models of depression, demonstrated that when the structure and function of microglia change, these cells can no longer regulate normal brain and behavior processes and this can lead to depression.”

Major depression “afflicts one in six people at some point in their life,” the university’s statement on the new research noted, and is “the leading global cause of disability – surpassing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer and HIV/AIDS combined.”

Melancholy by Edvard Munch

‘Melancholy’ by Edvard Munch

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here

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Will IBM’s Super Computer ‘Watson’ Treat Cancer? Tue, 03 Nov 2015 15:50:30 +0000

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Could IBM’s artificially intelligent super computer ‘Watson’ Treat Cancer? Its programmers at IBM’s research lab in Haifa, Israel, say ‘Yes’.

Under development at IBM since 2005, the idea of the super computer Watson was conceived initially as a computer that could compete on the TV contest Jeopardy! – yes, that was actually the project. Such challenges were not foreign to IMB, which designed Deep Blue, a computer that beat reigning chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. However, Jeopardy! presented an number of problems that IBM had not solved before. Not only would such a computer have to be able to respond to natural speech, but it had to do so in a matter of seconds. Watson’s predecessor, a system named Piquant, could answer correctly to about 35 percent of the questions it was asked, and often required several minutes to respond.


Watson’s ability to gauge his level of confidence for each answer was especially important for Jeopardy! because contestants are penalized when they answer incorrectly.

Led by researcher David Ferrucci, the Watson team developed Deep QA, the software that enables Watson to understand questions in natural language and search for relevant answers among the millions of sources uploaded onto its hard drive. Specifically for Jeopardy!, dictionaries, taxonomies, scholarly journals, and the full text of Wikipedia were uploaded to Watson. Once he gathers the relevant information (yes, IBM refers to Watson as a ‘he’), his DeepQA software assesses the quality of the sources it searches, and can deliver the hypothesis with the highest degree of confidence, and explain his reasoning.

Since winning the million dollar Jeopardy! championship, Watson has made other celebrity appearances as an inspirational chef for Bon Appetit magazine and as Bob Dylan’s companion in IBM’s latest advert.

A New Wave of Computing?

However more than a PR personality, Watson is spurring a new wave of computing. As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty explained in an interview with Charlie Rose, “the first generation of computers, they counted things. The second generation, you had to program them. Everything you know today is programmed. What Watson represents, we use the word cognitive, it’s a system that learns.” In other words, digitalized information from any field can be uploaded onto Watson and he can understand it, independently.

Some skeptics, including Prof John Searle of UC Berkeley, have claimed that Watson does not in fact think like a human, while ‘singularists’ like Ray Kurzweil, as well as the father of modern computer science, Alan Turing, have forecasted the day when machines surpass human intelligence. However, the team at IBM maintains that Watson will not replace human decision making, but rather assist it. And to prove their point, they are applying Watson’s brain to healthcare, and more specifically, to treating cancer.

Teaching A Computer To See

Two hours north of Tel Aviv, researchers in IBM’s lab in Haifa have been working on Watson’s Health Cloud, a platform of health services powered by Watson’s computing power. In trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York, Watson is already analyzing medical records of oncology patients and comparing them against cancer case histories, recent medical research, and ongoing training from physicians to provide evidence-based treatment options.

Now a team led by Technion alumna Flora Gilboa-Solomon, along with partner labs in the US and Australia, is developing Watson’s capacity to read and understand medical imaging. Using computer vision technology, as well as the machine learning algorithms already built into Watson, the team is building what IBM calls their Medical Sieve, a system which will be able to read mammograms, ultrasounds x-rays, and MRI images – and pick out anomalies.

SEE ALSO: How Elephants’ Genes Are Fighting Cancer In Humans

Radiologists, unlike clinicians, analyze hundreds of patients’ images a day, without ever seeing the individuals themselves. Yet their heavy workload has led to an alarmingly high error rate. A 1997 study reported a 23 percent error rate when experienced radiologists analyzed a collection of normal and abnormal x-rays with which no clinical information was supplied, and 20 percent error rate when clinical details were available.

A more recent study suggested radiologists’ ability to focus and detect fractures diminished at the end of the work-day. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) in the UK reported that the National Health System’s (NHS) “chronic shortage” of specialists who can interpret CT and MRI scans has led to delays “in diagnosing cancer and other serious illnesses.” The RCR President, Dr Giles Maskell, commented in the report that “although most of these X-rays and scans will not show serious abnormalities, some will show findings which would allow an expert to diagnose cancer or another serious condition at a stage at which it could be cured.”

“This is where Medical Sieve steps in and contributes considerably to reducing diagnosis time and clinician fatigue,” says Gilboa-Solomon. “The need for Big Data analytics to help sift through all this medical data is clear.”


Specifically in the case of melanoma, IBM estimates that manual detection methods are only 75 to 84 percent accurate. Watson, by contrast, is capable of spotting the skin cancer with an accuracy rate closer to 95 percent, according to the team’s latest research.

“With the number of examinations and tests increasing dramatically from year to year and the number of MDs specializing in radiology going down, we need to help radiologists work with greater volumes while maintaining diagnostic quality and accuracy,” said Dr. Sharbell Hashoul, a radiologist and a member of the research team developing Medical Sieve.

SEE ALSO: Cure For Terminal Cancer’ Discovered With Breakthrough Immunotherapy

Though the Medical Sieve will not be commercially available for another few years, Watson has made their API available to developers, enabling them to build apps and services using Watson’s computing power. So far, nearly 800 organizations have signed up with IBM, including the Israeli startup Talkitt, which is designing technology that will help people with speech disabilities to communicate. In addition, IBM has set aside $100 million for a venture fund that will invest in companies developing cognitive applications.

Given all research and development put into Watson, a cognitive computer could be as ubiquitous as a now, old-fashioned PC.

Photos: Wikipedia Commons/ Clockready/ DASHBot

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Bestselling Author Dan Ariely Launches Cool Card Game To Make Us Less Irrational Mon, 02 Nov 2015 07:25:40 +0000

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Dan Ariely, the professor of Behavioral Economics behind bestselling titles like “Predictably Irrational” has come up with a new way to help us make better, less irrational decisions: a 3.5” x 7.5” card game. Launched on Kickstarter, the game has already flown off the virtual shelves, garnering $114,000 in funds and far surpassing its goal of $15,000.

The card game is played like Trivial Pursuit, but without the board or those silly triangle pieces that mysteriously disappear over time. The 75 individually illustrated cards describe different social experiments and ask the player, in multiple choice format, what was the outcome.

“One of the goals of our game was to seed a discussion about the lessons from different social science experiments,” Ariely said, on the game’s Facebook page. “We hoped that after players predicted different results, there will be a discussion around the table – what does this all say about us, and how can we make better decisions?”


A bit old fashioned, you might say. But wait until you hear the experiments.

One card reads:

People were presented with two female portraits, and asked to say which one they thought was more attractive. [Sounds like a Harvard dorm-room game, doesn’t?] After they selected the photo they liked, they were given the card they selected and asked to look at it and explain why they preferred this woman. However, the cards were switched, and the people received the card of the OTHER woman (the “wrong card”) instead.

What percentage of the participants detected the manipulation, and what percentage didn’t?

Because it’s a Dan Ariely’s experiment, you know that the percentage of people that didn’t spot the switch must be high. But just how high was it?

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely

The answer is on the back of the card, the whole set of which can be purchased through Ariely’s Kickstarter page for $24. Launched last week, chances are that the total money raised will surpass the stretch goal of $180,000 before November 20th when the campaign ends. The funds will be used for further research at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, where Ariely hopes that behavioral economics will become more of an applied social science based on experiments, rather than traditional economics, which deals more with the study of policy.

In other words, Microeconomics 101 could be replaced with a card game.

Photos: Dan Ariely

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Medical Breakthrough: Israeli Researcher Predicts Where Cancer Will Spread Sat, 31 Oct 2015 15:38:32 +0000

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An innovative technology developed in Israel may soon be able to predict the spread of cancer from one organ to another, potentially saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

The technology, developed at Israel’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, has been proven in preliminary laboratory trials, and is now entering into advanced testing using cells from patients undergoing surgery.

SEE ALSO: Cancer Vaccine Triggers Response In 90% Of Cancer Types


Assistant Professor Dr. Daphne Weihs has developed a unique biomechanical method for the early detection of metastatic cancer (a cancer that has already spread). At the metastatic stage, the original, primary tumor expands, invades and takes over more and more nearby tissue. A tumor that has become very aggressive “knows” how to send metastases to more distant tissues through the lymph and circulatory systems.

Metastases (secondary tumors) are usually more dangerous than the primary tumor because it is difficult to identify them at their inception. When they are detected at an advanced stage, treating them medically is more complicated and the medical prognosis is typically not good.

SEE ALSO: How Elephants’ Genes Are Fighting Cancer In Humans

Dr. Daphne Weihs

Dr. Daphne Weihs

According to the National Cancer Institute, 1.6 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the US over the past year; 590,000 people died from the disease last year.

“Most cancer-related deaths are caused by metastases rather than by the primary tumor, and therefore vast resources are invested in developing methods for early detection of metastases,” Weihs said in a statement.

Attempting to save more lives, the research team led by Weihs has been working on identifying the secondary tumors early on.

“During or immediately after a biopsy or surgery on a malignant tumor, our system will enable the medical team to quantitatively evaluate the likelihood of the presence or development of tumor metastases in other organs, and to propose which organ or organs are involved,” Weihs said in a statement. “Such knowledge will make it possible to act at a very early stage to identify and curb these metastases and, moreover, to prevent the primary tumor from metastasizing further.”

“A vital step toward a more effective treatment”

How will the team successfully predict the location of the secondary cancer? Following a series of studies, Weihs has developed a novel process of three-dimensional biomechanical imaging, using unique gel capsules that simulate the texture of healthy cells.

“With this system, we allow the cells being tested to ‘grip’ the designated gels that simulate the stiffness of healthy tissue,” she explains. “Monitoring the change in the shape of the cells, the internal arrangement inside them, and the forces that they exert on the gel, enables us to reveal the differences between metastatic cells and benign cells and to identify the cells’ process of adaptation to changing environments in the body. This is a vital step toward the prediction of metastases and their identification in the early stages that allow more effective treatment.”

She emphasizes that her prediction is “based on identifying the biomechanics of the primary tumor cells, and does not require us to know the specific genetic makeup of the tumor.”

The clinical trials are currently being carried out in collaboration with Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel.

cancer cells

Photos: Courtesy of the Technion

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