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August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

Israeli Researchers: Smartphone App May Help Parkinson’s Patients [video]

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Many patients in the latter stage of Parkinson’s disease are at high risk of dangerous, sometimes fatal, falls. One major reason is the disabling symptom referred to as Freezing of Gait (FoG) — brief episodes of an inability to step forward that typically occurs during gait initiation or when turning while walking.

Patients who experience FoG often lose their independence, which has a direct effect on their already degenerating quality of life. In the absence of effective pharmacological therapies for FoG, technology-based solutions to alleviate the symptom and prolong the patients’ ability to live independently are desperately being sought.

CuPID is a project three years in the making and the product of an eight-member European Union-funded consortium including researchers at Tel Aviv University. It strives to provide personalized rehabilitation for patients with Parkinson’s disease who experience FoG or other gait disturbances.

CuPID is a home-based, personalized rehabilitation tool in the form of a Smartphone app that harnesses wearable sensors, audio biofeedback, and external cueing to provide intense motivational training tailored to each patient. The results are monitored remotely by medical professionals, who provide quality care while enhancing patient compliance.

The CuPID app just completed its pilot run and is being fine-tuned for more widespread use. It utilizes small sensors placed on a patient’s shoes that measure a person’s gait in “real-time.” If certain deviations from a pre-set norm emerge, an audio message alerts the patient to change his or her walking pattern immediately to avoid a dangerous situation.

Tel Aviv University Prof. Jeffrey Hausdorff said:

FoG is a leading cause of disability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. It often occurs during ‘walking transitions’ associated with turning, starting, stopping, and moving in open spaces. It can also occur when people approach narrow spaces, such as doors or elevators, and in crowded places. Recognizing such situations is a very powerful key for prevention — and this is one of the features of this program.

Prof. Hausdorff and his team at Tel Aviv Medical Center conducted a pilot study on 40 subjects: 20 patients with Parkinson’s disease who used the CuPID app and 20 patients who carried out conventional exercises and did not use the app. The results are promising and the investigators are currently exploring the possibility of a larger follow-up study to further demonstrate the app’s efficacy. Tel Aviv University Dr. Anat Mirelman, who co-directed the project, explained that FoG episodes resemble a short-circuit in the brain, rendering it unable to generate the appropriate stepping pattern, often leaving the patient in an untenable and frustrating situation. The app is designed to circumvent that difficulty. She said:

FoG reduces patients’ independence. Patients become afraid of walking by themselves and this leads to self-imposed restrictions in mobility. When their feet get stuck to the ground, their bodies lunge forward — it’s very frightening. People often end up in wheelchairs, and this is a vicious cycle, as it places more reliance on the assisted-living infrastructure.

“The program now integrates the expertise of a patient’s physical therapist, who establishes what is considered a patient’s ‘normal’ or ‘strong’ walking pattern,” said Prof. Hausdorff. “It’s unobtrusive and has the potential to reduce dependence on Parkinson’s medication that has detrimental side effects. How much or how often the app is used depends on how advanced the disease is, but since the system is so small and non-invasive, it can be used just about anywhere.”

Israeli Mental Health Services Moving to HMOs

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

More than 25 years after legislators recommended the change in one of “those committees,” Israelis might actually be able to obtain timely local mental health care.

Responsibility for mental health services is being transferred from the Health Ministry to each of the four Health Maintenance Organizations (kupat holim services).

The decision was announced Monday by Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman, who had opposed the very same move the last time he served in the post. This time, he told reporters at a news conference held on the sidelines of a health conference at the Dead Sea, “the situation is not good and the alternatives are worse.”

In 1989, the State Commission to Improve the Health System headed by then-Justice Shoshana Netanyahu (Supreme Court) recommended the change.

The National Health Insurance (Bituach Leumi) Law of 1994 was intended to carry it out, adding both geriatric and psychiatric care to that year’s “basket” of health care services.

It didn’t happen, however, because the well was dry: there was only enough money for general medical care. Geriatrics and mental health were placed on the back burner.

With the change taking effect July 1, there will also be an annual budget of NIS 1.9 billion available to address mental health care. Patients will be asked to pay a 25 percent co-pay for specialist services, and if they prefer to see a private mental health professional, the cost will be NIS 130.

The four HMOs will offer mental health diagnostic services, psychiatric assessment, counseling, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, individual, family and group care, home visits and other needed care. Collateral family sessions will also be available to help family members learn how to deal with disturbed loved ones.

As usual, the Histadrut Labor Federation has announced a dispute over the action. Various groups in the mental health field are also expressing their concerns over the way the change is being carried out.

But Litzman said the move is absolutely necessary in order to improve the quality, accessibility and availability of mental health services in the nation.

Under the new structure, mental health therapy will be recognized as part of medical treatment and family practitioners – pediatricians for children – will make referrals for care to existing or new mental health clinics. Those in need of acute services will still be able to go directly to outpatient clinics and hospital or psychiatric emergency rooms when necessary, Litzman said.

American Tourist Dies in Tragedy at Masada

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

An American woman visiting Israel has died while touring Masada National Park. Her name has not yet been released for publication.

The young woman, in her twenties, fell to her death while hiking around the wind-swept mountain fortress, according to Magen David Adom paramedics.

“She was showing no signs of life and there were injuries across her body,” said paramedic Uri Tzachi, who spoke with The Jerusalem Post. Tzachi said he found the woman lying near the base of a cliff when he arrived on the scene.

Paramedics who pronounced her dead at the scene said the woman also showed signs of heat stroke, Tzachi added. MDA said it appeared the woman had fallen from a height of approximately eight meters (about 26 feet).

A heat wave throughout Israel was especially intense throughout the Dead Sea area. A thermometer in the MDA ambulance showed the temperature in the vehicle reading 118 degrees.

At least 25 teenage female tourists from the United States were also evacuated to hospital from the same area due to dehydration. It’s a common occurrence for those who are unused to dealing with the dry, hot desert conditions in southern Israel.

Mazal Tov to 65-Year-old Mother of ‘Illegal’ Baby

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

A 65-year-old Bnei Brak woman has given birth to her first child after being impregnated by in-vitro fertilization outside of Israel, where the process is illegal beyond the age of 54.

The Chassidic woman, Hana Shahar, and her unnamed 5.9-pound baby boy are doing fine after a Caesarean section operation at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv.

Shahar has been childless during her 46-year-old marriage.

She is the second-oldest woman ever to have give birth, two years younger than a Spanish woman who gave birth shortly before she was 67.

Statistically, the dangers from pregnancy increase dramatically when a woman approaches the age of 50, but some women in the 50s have been able to give birth without problems.

Hana Shahar and her husband obviously are overjoyed.

The baby, God willing, will be named at the Brit circumcision next week.

Obesity Becoming ‘National Security Issue’ Says US General

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

An American armed forces commander in charge of recruiting says obesity is becoming an issue of “national security.”

U.S. Maj.-Gen. Allen Batschelet, director of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, says 10 percent of those who come to enlist are turned down due to their weight.

Moreover, if the trend continues, Batschelet warns there won’t be enough qualified potential soldiers in the U.S. military because up to half of young Americans are likely to meet criteria for obesity by the end of this decade.

“Just under three in 10 young people 17 to 24 can join the Army today – and the other armed services for that matter – and the single biggest disqualifier is obesity,” Batschelet said in an interview with CNN. “Ten percent of them are obese and unfit to the point that they can’t join the service. It’s really very worrisome.

“We think by 2020 it could be as high as 50 percent,” he continued, “which means only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the Army. It’s a sad testament to who we are as a society right now.”

According to a report in the Journal of American Medicine, more than one third of adults in the U.S. meet criteria for obesity, and rates are rising.

“I don’t know that’s fair to call it a crisis just yet,” Batscheler said, “but I think it’s quickly approaching one. It really becomes a national security issue.”

In the State of Israel, the issue is rarely if ever raised, because most recruits begin the draft process at age 16, while they are in the 10th or 11th grade of high school.

Since military service is mandatory in Israel, the draft is just another step in growing up for most teens. The first part of that process is a comprehensive medical and psychoeducational evaluation to determine the potential recruit’s military “profile.”

It is this evaluation that tells the army personnel whether or not the recruit is actually fit for duty. Those who are deemed to be questionable for any reason are then placed on a “B” list and scrutinized more closely.

Obesity could be considered such a factor – but it is more likely that such a recruit will simply be referred to the local HMO clinic nutritionist for closer followup. Males will most likely end up peeling off those pounds in basic training, assuming there are no other medical conditions; females will be followed up at the clinic and then at the base, where basic training, counseling and a lot of exercise will likely help her to get back on track.

Weight is not considered a reason to skip military service in the State of Israel, where chocolate spread is a typical bonus with bread at breakfast and midday snack times. Fresh vegetables and fruit are always available as well, of course…

Israeli Scientists Testing Cannabis Treatment for Diabetes

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Israeli scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have tracked down a specific chemical compound in the cannabis plant, a cannabinoid called “cannabidiol” that researchers say can be used to treat diabetes.

The best source for cannabidiol, or CBD as it is called, appears to be hemp – a plant with no potential for abuse and which has no psychoactive properties.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is the researcher known for discovering CBD as well as his collaboration with researcher Dr. Ruth Gallily, also from Hebrew University. It was Mechoulam who discovered receptors for cannabinoids not only in the brain, but elsewhere as well, in other body tissues. The discovery opened up an entirely new area of research into how coucannabinoids could be modified to fit different receptors, and thereby treat different illnesses.
Meanwhile, the discovery is already heading to market. An Israeli company called ISA Scientific has recently signed a worldwide collaboration and licensing deal with Yissum, the technology-transfer company of Hebrew University, as well as Hadasit, the technology-transfer company of Hadassah Medical Organization of Jerusalem, and KIR, the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research in the UK.

The agreement backs the creation and development of specific therapies using cannabidiol (CBD) by the inter-disciplinary research team headed by Mechoulam. KIR director and immunologist Sir Marc Feldman is also involved in the effort, as are Hadassah researchers and physicians Chaim Lotan, Lolan Weiss and Ronen Durst.

Phase I clinical trials on dosing and safety are now underway in Israel, according to ISA Scientific CEO Mark J. Rosenfeld. “Arrangements for Phase 2 trials on treating diabetes and chronic pain are in process,” he said in a statement.

Rosenfeld added that the firm’s Israeli research and development team had been working on the issue of an oral delivery system. Very little CBD reaches the bloodstream when taken by mouth, according to an article posted to the Israel21c news website, necessitating a more efficient system. The problem was solved “with propietary nanotechnology” currently being integrated into the firm’s clinical trials.

According to Rosenfeld, CBD seems to have no major side effects, and apparently does not affect activities such as work, school, sports or driving. More to the point, the company says in a statement on its website that it is working towards creating a way to “control diabetes into the medical market place.

“CBD may even help prevent diabetes.”

ISIS Fighters in Syria May Be Felled By Lesions (Not Legions)

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

To everything in its season, and so the tide has turned once more in the Middle East. What bombing could not end, God’s Mighty Hand may accomplish with a tiny fly.

Fighters for Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organization, are now being attacked by a terrible skin disease called Leishmaniasis.

Two types of the disease have been identified in the region: Leishmaniasis major, and Leishmaniasis tropica. Both are carried and transmitted by parasites hosted on sand flies in the environment.

Although an article by Hadassah Medical Center says the disease cannot be transferred from person to person, researchers found in a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2003 that such transmission may indeed be possible, since parasites can jump.

An outbreak of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL) in the Galilee region of northern Israel in 2003 was discussed in the article which noted 33 cases in four villages and in the city of Tiberias were diagnosed between 1996 and 2003. The disease, which spread through parasites and sand flies, had mutated from its predecessor, Leishmania major and other tropical diseases.

CL due to Leishmania major as opposed to MCL and VL (two other forms) was defined as being zoonotic and much more difficult to treat. The cutaneous lesions were said to last much longer and the disease was described as life-threatening if it progressed to visceral leishmaniasis (VL). The study found that rock hyraxes found in northern Israel around Lake Kinneret were the most probable reservoir hosts for the parasites that carry the disease.

If that is true, then so too is it likely that ISIS fighters are facing a difficult time because it was mentioned that the parasites also jump from person to person, as well from the living animals around them.

More to the point, the disease is caused by poor hygiene and bad living conditions; it has affected at least 100,000 people in Syria, according to the latest reports. It can result in open flesh wounds, ulcers, an enlarged spleen and liver, anemia and ultimately lead to death.

Although it’s pretty easy to treat, there are very few medics and trained medical professionals left in Syria and ISIS-controlled Iraq who know how to manage it.

Volunteers with the Doctors Without Borders organization of course know how to handle it – but since ISIS is deeply dedicated to kidnapping, torturing and murdering those helping hands, it’s not likely they are going to see any help from them. Ditto for Syrian government troops for the same reason.

Ironically, a new project was launched last year by the Israeli Pharmaseed research company to track down a treatment for this disease.

Four partners were recruited for the project. Two of the four — the Dead Sea and Arava Science Centers – identified 70 plant extracts that may be relevant for fighting the parasite.

The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, meanwhile, will test the efficacy of the extracts on leishmaniasis samples.

Pharmaseed is coordinating the project and is responsible for safety tests, and for assessing the potential efficacy of the extracts being tested.

Jordan University of Science and Technology Prof. Nabil Hailat will carry out advanced live and clinical trials (on humans) in Jordan, which should yield the test results.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/isis-fighters-in-syria-may-be-felled-by-lesions-not-legions/2015/04/07/

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