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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

Ben Gurion U. Students’ Cancer Therapy Wins Boston Competition

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

The student team from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has won the Best Health and Medicine Project category in the prestigious 12th annual iGEM 2015 Giant Jamboree competition with their cutting-edge biological cancer therapy called “Boomerang.”

IGEM is considered one of the most important ventures in the global sphere of science. Nearly 4,600 students competed in this year’s event in Boston.

The BGU project Boomerang is based on advanced methods of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. It has many applications that rely on the special characteristics of cancer cells to identify and alter cells as well as treat the disease at the molecular level.

The name “Boomerang” mirrors the actions in which the synthetic system uses cancer cells’ own genetic alterations against them.

As a cancer therapy, Boomerang works as a modular system. It can cause disruption of genes essential for cancer survival or activate suicide genes so that the cancer or tumor kills itself. Boomerang can also produce color proteins for cancer cell detection so that the edges of a tumor are visible to ensure complete surgical removal.

In addition to winning the grand prize in the Best Health and Medicine Project in the “Overgraduate” category (graduate level), the BGU team was a first runner-up in the overall competition, the first Israeli team to reach this level in iGEM.

The BGU team also won the Best New Basic Part Award for developing and submitting the best new functional DNA sequence to this year’s competition.

Israeli Researchers Develop Method to Profile Potential ‘School Shooters’

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Ben-Gurion University (BGU) researchers have developed a personality profiling technique that automates the identification of potential school shooters by analyzing personality traits that appear in their writings.

“School shooters present a challenge to both forensic psychiatry and law enforcement agencies,” explains Prof. Yair Neuman, a member of the BGU Homeland Security Institute.

He said in an article published in Frontiers in Forensic Psychiatry:

There is currently no clear consensus or clinical diagnosis that can be used for screening shooters. Finding a single shooter in a large population, as well as a lack of clinical diagnosis before an occurrence adds to the complexity.

The study details the text-based computational personality-profiling tool, which uses “vector semantics.” This involves constructing a number of vectors representing personality dimensions and disorders, which are analyzed automatically by computer to measure the similarity with texts written by the human subject.

“For example, an investigator may want to measure the extent in which narcissism is manifested in a text,” Neuman explains. “First, we define a vector of words representing this personality such as ‘arrogant,’ ‘manipulative,’ ‘egocentric,’ and ‘insensitive.’ The computer measures the distance between the vector of words comprising our target text and those representing narcissism in a high-dimensional semantic space. The closer the vectors appear, the higher the writer’s narcissistic ranking.”

In this study, BGU researchers selected writings by six shooters involved in a number of high-profile scenarios worldwide, including the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007. Then they analyzed and compared these with writings by 6,000 bloggers and tasked the computer to identify the shooters.

Although pinpointing a single person wasn’t the goal, the tool was able to significantly reduce the pool of suspects to only three percent of the original sample, which included the writings of all six shooters. This shows that using intelligent technology can significantly reduce the effort needed to identify shooters or even solo terrorists.

The methodology is automatic, which also enables screening a massive number of texts in a short time, which could aid in detection.

“While ethical considerations are inevitable, we can definitely imagine a situation in which parents give the school permission to scan their teenagers’ social media pages under certain limitations. In this context, using our automatic screening procedure, a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist who is trained may automatically get red flag warnings for students whose texts express a high level of potential danger,” explains Neuman.

He added:

The proposed methodology does not pretend to solve the enormous difficulties in profiling and identifying school shooters, but modestly adds another tool to the tool kit of forensic psychiatry and law enforcement agencies.
We believe our methodology can gain more validity with the ranking/prioritization process of suspects, similar to the automatic identification of sexual predators created to prioritize an investigation.

Research: Holocaust Trauma is Genetically Transmitted

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

A new medical study has just proved the trauma of the Holocaust is transmitted genetically through the generations.

This is a known fact to mental health experts and anyone else who works in the field. It is an unstated reality to anyone who is a descendant of a Holocaust survivor. In fact, anyone who has been touched in any way by the trauma of the Holocaust is forever traumatized by that nightmare in a real, visceral manner. Ask them. Or just look at their eyes.

But now medical research has caught up with this reality. Scientists at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center have tracked down the genetic changes in which the trauma is forever inscribed.

The findings will have deep implications for the Jewish world which cannot be addressed in this article.

The study examined “epigenetic inheritance” – the theory that says environmental influences such as smoking, stress and weight loss can create genetic changes in one’s children and grandchildren.

The Mount Sinai study focused on a gene associated with the regulation of stress hormones which is known to be affected by trauma.

The study, which included 32 test subjects and 22 of their adult offspring, focused on Jewish men and women who survived the Nazi concentration camps, witnessed or experienced tortured, or were forced to hide from the Nazis during World War II. The control subjects were Jewish families who did not live in Europe during the rule of the Nazis.

Scientists found epigenetic markers on the same part of the gene in both the survivors and their children. That correlation was not found among Jewish families who did not live in Europe during World War II.

The researchers also found that children of Holocaust survivors were three times more likely to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if they were exposed to a traumatic event, than demographically similar Jews whose parents did not experience the Holocaust.

The findings were published in the most recent edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry. Dr. Rachel Yehuda, who led the study, said, “The gene changes in the children could only be attributed to Holocaust exposure in the parents.”

Children of Holocaust survivors were found to have the same neuroendocrine and hormonal abnormalities as Holocaust survivors and other people suffering from PTSD. The researchers thus concluded that the risk for conditions such as PTSD was associated with having a parent who had PTSD.

The transmission of trauma from one generation to the next is a known phenomenon to social workers and other therapists in the field of psychotherapy. Dr. Yehuda, however, was able to quantify it in physical, neurochemical terms.

What sparked the research, however, was the desire to document that which she and others were seeing over and over at a clinic for survivors at Mount Sinai.

“Offspring were reporting that they had been affected by the Holocaust in many different kinds of ways, but in a very coherent and cohesive pattern,” she said.

“They talked about feeling traumatized by witnessing the symptoms of their parents. And they talked about being traumatized by some of the expectations that the Holocaust had placed on them, such as that they are the reason their parents survived and therefore there was a whole set of things that they would now have to accomplish so that all the people that died… they could give their lives meaning.”

Administrative Detention Temporarily Cancelled for Hunger-Striking PIJ Terrorist

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

The High Court of Justice temporarily cancelled the state’s order of administrative detention late Wednesday night following a deterioration in the medical condition of Mohammed Alla’an.

It is unclear, however, how long that situation will last, and under what conditions it might be reinstated, if at all.

Mohammed Alla’an was resedated Wednesday eveneing upon the recommendation of physicians at Barzilai Medical Center following a worsening in his medical condition.

“Alla’an is in stable condition and is receiving the treatment that is necessary to address the medical problems that became apparent during this evening,” a hospital spokesperson said in a statement.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist hunger striker who became unconscious last week after starving himself for more than 60 days, may have caused himself permanent brain damage.

Doctors at Barzilai Medical Center said in a statement Wednesday that Alla’an has been diagnosed via an MRI imaging study with brain damage due to nutrient deficiency.

It is not yet clear whether the damage is reversible, however. Alla’an remains hospitalized in serious condition at present.

Alla’an awakened from his “coma” on Tuesday after receiving IV fluids and “essential medications,” and spending several days on a respirator, which has since been withdrawn. He is conscious and breathing independently.

Attorneys for the State of Israel told the High Court of Justice the government would release the detainee if his brain damage is irreversible. The offer is contingent upon his proven inability to return to the activity for which he was held on administrative detention.

The government offered to release Alla’an last week in exchange for his agreement to remain abroad for a period of four years, but he rejected the offer just before he became unconscious.

The hospital has told media that Alla’an is showing difficulty “communicating with his surroundings.”

Although he allegedly received an offer from the court – via his attorneys – to release him on November 3, when the administrative order expires, Alla’an had “not yet responded,” according to Sawsan Zaher of the Adalah legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Rambam Medical Team Saves Life of Arab Teen in Hebron

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

In a dramatic race to treat a critically injured Palestinian Authority Arab youth, an emergency medical team from Rambam rushed to a hospital in eastern Jerusalem with the equipment that would save his life.

When 18 year-old Muhammad Jabri from the Judean city of Hebron went out to celebrate the end of high school, the evening ended with a near-fatal motor accident that left him critically injured.

The teen was treated intially at a local hospital in Hebron and then he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in eastern Jerusalem.

But when Jabri’s condition suddenly began to deteriorate, the doctors realized that his lungs were damaged beyond their capacity to resuscitate him. At this point Dr. Abed El-Rauf Bey, Head of the ICU, urgently contacted Dr. Tzvi Adler, a senior Cardiac Surgeon in the Cardiac Surgery Department at Rambam hospital in Haifa.

A team from Rambam had recently come to Augusta Victoria with an ECMO machine to administer temporary external cardiac and respiratory support to one of their patients. This same ECMO machine, Dr. Bey realized, was the key to saving young Jabri as well.

“Immediately that same night, an ambulance set out from Rambam to eastern Jerusalem, carrying the ECMO machine and a medical team led by Dr. Adler,” said a spokesperson for Rambam Medical Center.

Arriving at the hospital, they connected the youth to the ECMO, then carefully transported him to Rambam.

“His condition was precarious when he arrived here,” recalls Dr. Adler. “but the ECMO gave his lungs a rest and his body the chance to recuperate.”

After a little over two weeks in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Rambam, Jabri is now out of danger and ready to return to the hospital in eastern Jerusalem.

“We expect he will make a full recovery,” says Assistant Professor Gil Bolotin, Director of the Cardiac Surgery Department. “Our department cooperates with hospitals throughout Israel, extending this life-saving equipment wherever it is needed.”

Medical Marijuana to be Available at Pharmacies

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Israelis soon will be able to take a doctor’s prescription for marijuana to the local pharmacy, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Monday.

He noted that pharmacies issue prescriptions for other drugs that are considered narcotics and that procedures are well-supervised. A case in point is Ritalin. A person wanting to fill a prescription for the drug, which when ground up and sniffed can be extremely dangerous, has to wait at the counter until the pharmacist opens the safe.

“I will fight an aggressive war not to allow this to get out of control,” said Litzman, who in effect is the Health Minster, a title he does not accept because the Hareidi Yehadut Torah (United Torah Judaism) party does not want to be part of a “Zionist” Cabinet.

He said that making marijuana available at pharmacies awaits court approval concerning tenders for growers of “grass.”

Litzman said that there procedures overseeing prescriptions for marijuana will be issued either through law or administrative orders.

Health Ministry Prof. Boaz Lev added that officials will make it possible for more doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use.

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.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-researchers-smartphone-app-may-help-parkinsons-patients-video/2015/06/25/

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