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Posts Tagged ‘development’

Broader Lessons from Genetic Studies of the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the influential paper published by a Mount Sinai physician, Dr. Burrill Crohn, and his colleagues that for the first time characterized a disease associated with severe inflammation of the intestine. Patients with what was later named Crohn’s disease develop diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, and often lose weight. Crohn’s is now classified as an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks its own healthy tissue in the gastrointestinal tract, causing chronic inflammation. It affects young individuals, and, even though it is not curable, it can be treated and controlled by medications and surgery.

Epidemiology and origination of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s is considered to be a complex disease with both genetic and environmental risk factors. There is extensive evidence to support the role of genetics in the development of Crohn’s disease. Having a relative with Crohn’s disease is the greatest risk factor for other family members. Also, studies of twins have shown that identical twins, who share almost 100% of their genetic information, were more likely to both have the disease than fraternal twins.  The differences in the prevalence of Crohn’s in various racial and ethnic groups further indicate that genetic factors contribute to the risk, even though shared cultural factors, such as diet and lifestyle, might also explain these differences. Specifically, the prevalence of Crohn’s disease in European countries ranges between 1 and 12 per 100,000 individuals, whereas this disease was until recently virtually unknown in the developing countries.

The major genetic risk for Crohn’s disease identified so far is conferred by 3 rare mutations in the NOD2 gene. NOD2 plays an important role in the immune system, as it enables immune cells to recognize bacterial molecules and stimulates an immune reaction. While the frequency of these mutations ranges between 1% and 4.5% in the general population, about 40% of Crohn’s disease patients carry at least one copy. This translates to a 2 to 4-fold risk of developing the disease in carriers of one copy and a 10 to 40-fold risk in those who carry multiple copies of these mutations. Recent advances in the field of genetics have allowed identification of an additional 160 genetic variants associated with Crohn’s disease in individuals of European ancestry. However,  a sharp increase in the occurrence of the disease in children of immigrants from the developing countries who move to Western countries, as well as the well- established effect of smoking on Crohn’s disease risk, suggest a prominent role for environmental factors as well, most likely diet and lifestyle.

Crohn’s Disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

Interestingly, Jews of European descent (Ashkenazim) have a 4 to 7-fold increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease compared to non-Jewish Europeans. Genetic risks alone could not explain why the prevalence of Crohn’s disease is so much higher in Ashkenazim than in surrounding populations. To investigate this phenomenon, researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have recently conducted the largest study which compared 1,878 Ashkenazi Jews with Crohn’s disease to 4,469 Jews without the disease, using DNA samples to evaluate their genetic make-up. They discovered five new genetic risk regions associated with Crohn’s disease in Ashkenazim. Armed with this new information, they can begin to pinpoint additional causal genetic mutations, discover the nature of the malfunctions they create,  and hopefully eventually develop new treatment approaches. That study also demonstrates the value of genetic studies in isolated populations, like Ashkenazi Jews.

 

The Role of Commensal Bacteria in Crohn’s Disease Risk

One possible explanation for the origination of Crohn’s disease is the hygiene hypothesis which suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents causes the immune system to wrongfully recognize its own non-pathogenic microorganisms as imminent risks and to act against them, causing substantial damage. This notion is particularly interesting in light of accumulating evidence suggesting that the identity and relative abundance of members of bacterial communities, or microbiota, normally residing in the human body and referred to as “commensal”, or non-harmful, bacteria, can be associated with different disease states. Microbial cells that live on (skin, eyes) and inside the human body (digestive system) may outnumber the quantity of human cells by 10-fold. This means that we may be carrying more bacterial genes than our own. Some commensal bacteria are essential for our health and provide a wide range of metabolic functions that the human body lacks. They help break down, absorb and store nutrients that otherwise cannot be digested, fight pathogenic bacteria, and play an important role in the development of the immune system.

Saudi Will Shoot Down Israeli Planes to Iran

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The US has passed a message on to Israel that Saudi Arabia informed them they will shoot down any Israeli planes that flies over their territory on the way to attacking Iran’s nuclear weapon development facilities.

Some Israeli officials believe the idea for the message was instigated by the US in order to place additional pressure on Israel to not attack.

Yoram Ettinger: Israel’s Economic Culture Praised Despite Global Financial Gloom

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

While the global economy deteriorates and its ripple effects erode Israel’s economic indicators (e.g., unemployment increased to 7%), there is cause for optimism in the Holy Land:

–Frans Van Houten, the CEO of the Dutch giant, Philips Global recently told Globes Business Daily (Aug. 2, 2012): “Israel’s economic and organizational culture is consistent with Philips’ requirements…. Philips owes part of its enhanced performance [2nd quarter’s earnings – 17% above projections] to Israel’s excellent engineers in the imaging, data processing and data storage areas.  Philips has expanded its Israeli presence and acquisitions since 1999, when it acquired part of Israel’s Elscint, then Israel’s CDP and CDC…. Philips will expand its current 600 employee research & development center.”

–Marcos Battisti, head of Intel Capital in Europe and Israel, hired additional investment directors in Israel, expanding Intel’s pursuit of Israeli start ups.  Since 1991, Intel Capital invested in 60 Israeli companies, collaborating with Intel’s four research & development centers and two manufacturing plants in Israel (Globes, July 26).

–Israel’s Kayak raised $91MN in a Wall Street IPO led by Morgan Stanley (Globes, July 23).  Abingworth Ventures, 7 MedHealth Ventures, Arch Ventures, MPM Capital and F3 invested $38MN in a round of private placement by Israel’s Chiasma (Globes, July 24).  Battery Ventures and Bessemer Ventures led a $12MN round of private placement by Israel’s Vayyar Imaging (Globes, Aug. 3).

–Is Israel a future energy superpower?  Walter Russell Mead, Editor at-large of the Washington, DC-based bimonthly magazine The American Interest, which specializes in global economy and international affairs, July 2, 2012: “Canada and Russia are moving to step up energy relations with Israel….Israel and Canada have just signed an agreement to cooperate on the exploration and development of what could be vast shale oil reserves beneath the Jewish State…. The Russian Gazprom and Israel have announced plans to cooperate on gas extraction…. Drillers working in Israeli waters have already identified what seems to be 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil, in addition to over a trillion cubic feet of gas. Israel’s undersea gas reserves are currently estimated at about 16 trillion cubic feet and new fields continue to be rapidly found…. Another sensible target for Israeli energy diplomacy would be India… eager to diversify its energy sources…. According to the World Energy Council, a leading global energy forum, Israel may have the 3rd largest shale oil reserves in the world: something like 250 billion barrels (US – well over 1 trillion barrels; Canada – 2 trillion barrels)…. OPEC’s power to dictate world prices is likely to decline as Canadian, US, Israeli and Chinese resources come on line… An energy-rich Israel… is also going to be a more valuable ally…. The impact of Israel’s energy wealth is dramatic.  On President Putin’s visit to Jerusalem he donned a Kippah (skullcap) and went to pray at the Western Wall.  Turning to the Wall, he said: ‘here we see how the Jewish past is etched into the stones of Jerusalem….’  In the meantime, we wonder if there was an 11th Commandment at Sinai: ‘Thou shalt drill, baby, thou shalt drill.’”

Originally published at http://www.theettingerreport.com/Overseas-Investments/Israel%E2%80%99s-Economic-Culture-Praised-by-Philips-Globa.aspx 

Should the US Remilitarize Military Procurement?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

The US military is facing potentially catastrophic funding cuts due to last year’s so-called “sequestration” deal between the President and the Republicans in Congress. If Congress and the President fail to agree on future tax and spending policy, on January 1, 2013 automatic cuts will automatically begin, which will result in an almost $50 billion dollar cut from the 2013 defense budget. It is also estimated that over the course of the next ten years the act will, in theory, cut as much as $492 billion from the defense budget.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has described these cuts as “catastrophic.” Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D Hawaii) has agreed with Panetta, calling them “devastating and disastrous.”

Pressure has never been greater to ensure that the defense procurement system works at maximum efficiency. Ideally, this means that the procurement system should provide the armed services with high quality, reliable and affordable weapons and equipment, on schedule and without unplanned cost increases.

Unfortunately, at present there is little sign that either the Obama administration or Congress are ready to make the dramatic, comprehensive reforms that are needed for America’s complex and confusing Federal Acquisition Regulations which govern the procurement system. Today’s economic problems, however, are serious enough so that they might open the way for reforms that would make a significant difference to the way the system works.

Ever since the early days of the Reagan build-up in the early 1980′s, there has been a lively and, at times, nasty debate over military procurement reform. The bureaucratic system, which the US Department of Defense uses to design, develop and produce the seemingly infinite number of military weapons and equipment required, is widely recognized as broken. Almost all new weapons and new equipment are delivered to our troops late, and these items almost always seem to end up costing far more than originally planned. Often, a new weapon which had been in development for years, is cancelled because the leadership of the Defense Department decides that it has grown too expensive, as shown below. The cancellation then results in wasted billions that have already been spent .

In the 1950′s, the Pentagon may have had some significant problems, but the procurement system itself was not one of them. As one former Air Force General said, “Procurement decisions were made by the highest ranking officer technically qualified to make the decision.”

In the early 1960′s, under then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a new management system was put into place. McNamara removed authority for major procurement decisions from the Army, Air Force and Navy and gave it to senior political appointees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). Essentially, the decision-making power was given to a group of civilian political appointees and analysts who owed their positions to McNamara and no one else. These civilians were known as the “Whiz Kids.” Their ideas were neatly summed up by Charles Hitch, McNamara’s Comptroller of the Defense Department when he said, “We regard all military problems … as economic problems in the efficient allocation and use of resources.”

By reducing the role of the men and women in the military to the mere fulfilling of a set of economic, statistical requirements, Secretary of Defense McNamara not only eliminated the role of traditional warrior virtues in the conduct of US military operations, he also removed officers with real-world experience from the procurement process. Many of the failures experienced by the US military since the McNamara era have been due to the excessive use of business management principles and techniques instead of reliance on strategy and doctrine based on military experience.

The McNamara system has undergone several minor reforms since the early 1960′s, notably the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. This legislation strengthened the role of the nation’s senior military officer, namely, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It made him the principal military advisor to the President and thus no longer just the “first among equals.” Regrettably, the Goldwater-Nichols Act Act failed to give the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs solid authority over the procurement process. Even worse, as former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman put it, “The intention of the legislation was to get uniformed people completely out of procurement.”

Two Versions of American History

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

http://fresnozionism.org/2012/07/two-versions-of-american-history/

Here are two versions of American history:

One is that the nation came into being based on the principles of the Enlightenment, in which liberty was a supreme value. Rights like freedom of speech and religion were enshrined in its Bill of Rights. About 70 years after its founding, it was torn by a remarkably bloody war in which the idea that human slavery was acceptable was soundly defeated, and that abominable institution was ended. Thanks to its commitment to free enterprise, it expanded to both sides of the continent, providing unprecedented opportunities for prosperity and development. Great universities were established, and culture and science thrived.

During WWII, the US turned its mighty industrial power toward defeating the murderous regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. 417,000 Americans died in that war. Afterwards, the US took the lead in establishing international institutions (like the UN) designed to prevent war and spread freedom and prosperity throughout the world.

After the war, the US opposed the attempts of the Soviet Union to export its totalitarian communism. Ultimately, due to a great extent to US efforts, the USSR collapsed and numerous European countries that had become satellites obtained their freedom.

The Civil Rights movement brought about the end of segregation in the south, as well as other forms of institutionalized racism against African-Americans. Laws were passed guaranteeing voting rights, fair housing, forbidding discrimination in employment, etc. on the basis of race, sex, disability, etc.

The invention of the microprocessor and the development of the computer and communications industry, arguably producing an economic revolution as important as that of the steam engine, began in the US, and innovation continues here.

Another view is that the US was built, from the beginning, on exploitation. Its early economic development was based on slave labor, and since the beginning is has ripped through the natural resources of the continent in the most greedy way possible. Anything that stood in the way of expansion — like indigenous native Americans, who were slaughtered wholesale — was destroyed.

Even after the end of slavery, African Americans were exploited for their labor while being treated abominably. Other industrial workers were paid just enough to keep them alive, and attempts at unionization were met by bullets.

At the beginning of WWII, Japanese citizens were forced into internment camps. The US was the first nation to use atomic weapons, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. After the war, the US opposed indigenous liberation movements throughout the world, using military force to defend the colonialist world order in places like Vietnam.

The US continues to exploit and oppress third-world peoples, especially where there are important resources, like oil. Racism is inseparable from our culture.

In recent years, economic inequality has soared, and inflation-adjusted middle-class income has dropped since the 1960′s while a small group of super-rich have become astronomically wealthy. Despite its overall wealth, the US has a worse health care system than most other developed nations. Powerful interests prevent actions from being taken to reduce the emission of pollutants, greenhouse gases, etc., which foul the entire planet.

Neither of these stories is 100% correct and complete (but they are not ‘equally good’, either).

No nation is perfect, and they all have skeletons in their closets (just ask the Belgians about the Congo — and we won’t even bring up the British, upon whose exploitative empire the sun never set). But the US does have a commitment to such things as individual rights (as expressed in the Bill of Rights), equality of opportunity, social mobility, democracy, rule of law, etc. Many other nations — perhaps most of them — don’t even pay lip service to these ideals, much less exemplify them.

Where do you start? Do you accept the idea that the US is based on fundamentally sound principles and is an overall force for good in the world? That our job is to fix the problems, but continue on the same general path laid down by the Founding Fathers?

Or do you start with the second story — I’ll call it the ‘anti-American’ one — and conclude that our country is evil, responsible for most of the misery in the world, and must be destroyed or at least completely turned upside down to save it?

Israeli Scientists Find Way to Delay Cell Death

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Israeli Researchers have discovered a protein that is central to delaying cell death, which “could lead to new approaches to treating cancer.”

The findings, led by Hebrew University graduate student Chen Hener-Katz and involving a collaboration between Prof. Assaf Friedler of the Hebrew University and Prof. Atan Gross of the Weizmann Institute, were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in an article titled ”Molecular Basis of the Interaction between Proapoptotic Truncated BID (tBID) Protein and Mitochondrial Carrier Homologue 2 (MTCH2) Protein.”

The discovery by Prof. Gross of the MTCH2 protein as well as its relationship to tBID, allowed the research team to develop a technique that mimics apoptosis.

Programmed cell death, or Apoptosis, is a critical defense mechanism against the development of abnormal cells like cancer, according to HealthCanal.com. “Cancer cells usually avoid this process due to mutations in the genes that encode the relevant proteins,” it continues. “The result is that the cancer cells survive and take over while healthy cells die.”

”These protein segments could be the basis of future anti-cancer therapies in cases where the mechanism of natural cell death is not working properly,” said Prof. Friedler, head of the school of chemistry at the Hebrew University. ”We have just begun to uncover the hidden potential in the interaction between these proteins. This is an important potential target for the development of anticancer drugs that will stimulate apoptosis by interfering with its regulation.”

The potential ramifications of this discovery was described in the Weizmann Institute’s 2010 Update on Cancer Research: “Scientists can use this newly gained knowledge to devise novel therapeutic methods. If clinicians could regulate the production and activity of MTCH2, they would be able, for instance, to ‘turn on’ mitochondria apoptosis in cancerous cells and turn it ‘off’ in the brain cells of patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”

Israeli Vows to ‘Bike for the Fight’ Against Cancer

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

A new initiative – Bike for the Fight – will raise money for the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), a North American organization funding grants to top Israeli cancer researchers and scientific institutions, by biking for three months across the United States, according to a report by NoCamels.

Started by Tom Peled, a 24 year student at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya who lost his father to cancer in 2011 after an 8 year battle,  the venture will see Peled bike from Los Angeles and through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and ending in New York City.  The mission will begin on August 1.

The recipients of ICRF funds are used to fund research into the development of life-saving early diagnostic devices and new drugs for such cancers as leukemia, bone marrow cancer, breast and ovarian cancer, and others.

Peled has attracted the support of Hillel, Maccabiah 2012, and Microsoft Israel, which is creating a special app for the project, as well as President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Biking for the Fight has already raised NIS 41,000 by selling campaign bracelets, and signed up hundreds of people for organ donation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israeli-vows-to-bike-for-the-fight-against-cancer/2012/06/24/

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