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June 26, 2016 / 20 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘research’

Israeli Scientists Create Robo-Locust at Tel Aviv University

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

A team of Israeli scientists at Tel Aviv University are inventing the Robo-Locust.

No, really.

Lead researcher Professor Amir Ayali of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Life Sciences told Reuters he was inspired by the locust’s jumping mechanism.

“The locust, being a large insect that has wonderful jumping performance, offered itself as a wonderful inspiration for this specific idea of a jumping miniature robot,” Ayali explained.

The little robot could possibly be used in the future for surveillance, and maybe for emergency response systems. But additional funding is needed for further development; the research team began the project with just $200,000 USD. More is needed to move ahead.

Made with steel springs, carbon rods and new three-dimensional printed plastic pieces, it is only four inches long (10 cm) and weighs less than one ounce (23 gr). But despite its tiny size, this robot can jump 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) into the air, for 1,000 jumps, due to its lithium battery.

Its motor, structure and energy storage all combine to create the capability of withstanding the long jump, and high acceleration, Ayali said. Because the parts are relatively inexpensive, he estimates the cost per robot at about $100 USD.

The researcher is hoping to develop mechanisms of swarming capabilities in the robotic systems. He is being encouraged by Hungarian-born Dr. Gabor Kosa of TAU’s Faculty of Engineering, who also dreams of a swarm of robo-locusts.

Kosa has a broader vision — a swarm installed with GPS navigation systems, cameras and solar panels for renewable energy – a swarm that can enter enemy territory for surveillance operations.

Kosa is hoping to build a robotic system capable of multiple jumps, with a robo-locust that can spread its wings, and fly.

Hana Levi Julian

Air Quality Improves With New Haifa Bay Environmental Project

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

The air quality in the area around the Haifa Bay has improved over the past year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The region saw an 11 percent drop in air pollution levels coming from the industrial sector, the agency announced Tuesday, reaching a 65 percent drop since 2009. The first quarter report of a new action plan for the region said 77 percent of the biggest Haifa Bay factories are also now mandated to comply with stricter emissions controls.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav called it an “historical day.” For the first time in the history of the state, said the mayor, “a government representative has assumed not only the authority but also the responsibility of the state to correct the distortions and even the crimes committed in the Haifa Bay.”

The figures were presented in the first quarterly report of the National Action Plan for the Haifa Bay Area, a five year plan budgeted at NIS 330 million.

The government approved the project in September, tasking the program to improve the air quality in the region while reducing environmental risks. In addition, the program is being used to promote research, increase accessibility to data and beef up supervision, enforcement and monitoring of environmental issues in the area.

Hana Levi Julian

‘Smart’ Drug Created by Israeli, US Researchers

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and University of Colorado have created a dynamic new “smart” drug that is sensitive to the degree of inflammation, using a highly novel new approach.

The three describe a novel creative development of an anti-inflammatory engineered protein in the recent edition of the Journal of Immunology.

The uniqueness of this anti-inflammatory molecule can be found in a singular property; while it is injected as a non-active drug, excessive inflammation will activate it. Most other anti-inflammatory agents effectively inhibit inflammatory processes, but in a non-specific manner, and in areas that include sites of necessary normal inflammatory processes. The beauty of this invention lies in the use of a known natural biological code, says Dr. Peleg Rider, a researcher with the BGU Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences. “We mimicked a natural process that occurs during inflammation. The protein is actually a chimera comprised of two domains, both originating from the potent inflammatory cytokine family of IL-1.

“The first part of the protein holds the functional part of the molecule inactive, as occurs in normal living cells, and is connected to a potent natural inhibitor of IL-1.

“Upon encountering inflammatory enzymes, the molecule is cleaved and the functional part becomes active”, Rider explains.

The development is important since inhibition of inflammation in a non-specific manner reduces our natural ability to fight infections. This is a common side-effect of anti-inflammatory biologic therapeutics.

When a non-specific agent is used, any patient who suffers from local inflammation might then also be exposed to opportunistic infections at distant sites, such as lungs — risking, for example, tuberculosis.

This risk is mainly of concern to immuno-suppressed patients as well as older patients and patients undergoing chemotherapy as part of an anti-cancer treatment course, Rider said. He and BGU’s Dr. Eli Lewis and Prof. Charles Dinarello of the University of Colorado used a mouse model of local inflammation to demonstrate that leukocytes, which infiltrate inflammatory sites, indeed activate the chimeric protein, which in turn reduces local inflammation.

The activation of the protein correlated with the amount of inflammatory stimuli. Side effects are avoided because upon resolution of inflammation, the activation of the protein is also reduced.

The new chimeric molecule is protected by patent, owned by BGN Technologies, the technology transfer office of Ben-Gurion University and by the University of Colorado.

The research was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Economy’s Chief Scientist’s Office’s Kamin program.

Hana Levi Julian

Haifa U Research Confirms, ‘Think Good & It Will Be Good!’

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Haifa has confirmed what the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, always told his followers in the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic movement: “Tracht gut un zein gut!” (Think good and it will be good!)

The study led by Professor Dana Yagil from the university’s Department of Human Services, found that “suppressing positive interpersonal emotions is detrimental to employees as well as to customer satisfaction.”

“The expression of natural positive emotions is well received by the other party,” Yagil observed, adding that it is “likely to contribute to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.”

The findings were published in the journal Motivation and Emotion. “Suppression of positive interpersonal emotions is contrary to natural behavior in social interactions,” Yagil said. Among service employees working in call centers, marketing and sales, employees are often expected to maintain a neutral demeanor. Yagil found that neutrality comes at a “price,” however.

Some 246 participants of various ages, employed in customer relations, were included in the study.

The findings indicated that suppressing negative emotions was linked to positive customer satisfaction; suppressing positive emotions increased the sense of employee inauthenticity, which in turn increased customer dissatisfaction.

Hana Levi Julian

Ancient Leviathan Fossils Found in Arava Valley

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The land that runs along the edge of the southern end of the Dead Sea, near a certain section close to Masada, is soft and white. Although there are steep mounds of chalky white deposits that seem to stand guard along a path that moves inward towards the cliffs that rim the sea, they too are brittle, delicate and soft. They crumble at a touch.

One can climb those mounds, reach the top and then slide down just for fun. Desert tour guides sometimes take their private clients there to do just that – especially if there are children along for the tour.

The entire area, you see, was actually an ancient seabed. So it should come as no surprise that the remains of what may have been the Leviathan were found in southern Israel, researchers announced Tuesday.

Thirty fossilized remnants of the Elasmosaurus, described by Dr. Sarit Ashckenazi-Polivoda in an interview with The Jerusalem Post as the “cousin of dinosaurs” were found in the Arava Valley between 2012 and 2014.

During the period from which the fragments came – some 85 million years ago – the area was covered in ocean water 200 meters deep, the researcher said. “All of Israel was under water until 20-30 million years ago,” she told the Post. “The sea had a lot of algae and plankton that bloomed then, that attracted a lot of fish that fed on the algae, which the reptile ate.”

No one knows how or why the creatures from that period became extinct, but they disappeared about 66 million years ago, she said. Global changes such as volcanic eruptions that warmed and cooled the environment and caused changes in the ocean, as to the fish and algae, certainly could have contributed.

A dinosaur footprint was also found in Jerusalem in the 1980s, she said, and a 75 million-year-old reptile skeleton was found in the Negev in 2005.

The Elasmosaurus remains are currently on display at Hebrew University.

Hana Levi Julian

New Diagnostic for Pro Football Players Suffering from Mild ‘Unreported’ Concussions

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

According to a Ben Gurion University of the Negev research group, professional football players for the first time have been found to have brain damage from mild “unreported” concussions. Published in the current issue of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Neurology, the Ben Gurion study could improve decision-making about when an athlete should “return to play.”

The new, enhanced MRI diagnostic approach was, for the first time, able to identify significant damage to the blood-brain barrier (BBB) of professional football players following “unreported” trauma or mild concussions.

Dr. Alon Friedman at the Ben-Gurion University Brain Imaging Research Center discovered the new diagnostic approach. “Until now, there wasn’t a diagnostic capability to identify mild brain injury early after the trauma,” he said.

“In the NFL, other professional sports and especially school sports, concern has grown about the long-term neuropsychiatric consequences of repeated mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and specifically sports-related concussive and sub-concussive head impacts,” he added.

The paper describing the new diagnostic was published by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center. It details using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) for detection and localization of vascular pathology and blood-brain barrier breakdown in football players. 

“The goal of our study was to use our new method to visualize the extent and location of BBB dysfunction in football players using Dynamic Contrast-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DCE-MRI) on a Phillips 3-T Ingenia. Specifically, it generates more detailed brain maps showing brain regions with abnormal vasculature, or a ‘leaky BBB,’ ” said Dr. Friedman.

Study participants included 16 football players from Israel’s professional football team, Black Swarm, as well as 13 track and field athletes from Ben-Gurion University who served as controls. All underwent the newly developed MRI-based diagnostic.

“The group of 29 volunteers was clearly differentiated into an intact-BBB group and a pathological-BBB group,” Friedman explains. “This showed a clear association between football and increased risk for BBB pathology that we couldn’t see before. In addition, high-BBB permeability was found in six players and in only one athlete from the control group.”

Friedman also indicated that repeated, mild concussive events might impact some players differently than others. This level of diagnosis of individual players can provide the basis of more rational decision-making on “return to play” for professionals as well as amateurs of any age, he pointed out. 

“Generally, players return to the game long before the brain’s physical healing is complete, which could exacerbate the possibility of brain damage later in life,” says Friedman.

A decade of research in the BGU Laboratory for Experimental Neurosurgery has shown that vascular pathology, and specifically dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), plays a key role in brain dysfunction and degeneration, and may be an underlying cause of neurodegenerative complications after brain injuries.  

The BBB is a highly selective permeable membrane that separates circulating blood from extracellular fluid. It protects the brain by preventing many dangerous substances from penetrating, and therefore is not meant to be damaged.

Medical researchers, including Friedman’s group at BGU, are working to discover ways to find drugs that will target the BBB and facilitate its repair, ultimately allowing for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases.

The Ben Gurion University study was supported by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program and the Israel Science Foundation.

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Israeli Scientist Finds Omega-3 Reduces Smoking

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Want to stop smoking, for real, and you just can’t seem to manage it on your own but hate the thought of patches and “chemicals” ?

A new study conducted by an Israeli scientist  has found that Omega-3 reduces a smoker’s craving for nicotine, thereby making it easier to quit the unhealthy habit.

The study was headed by Dr. Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, head of the addictions program at University of Haifa’s school of criminology and the department of psychopharmacology laboratory at Bar Ilan University.

Subjects participating in the study were asked to take five capsules per day for 30 days of Omega-3 950 produced by Solgar. A second group, used as controls, received placebos. Neither group was asked to stop smoking.

The groups included 38 smokers ages 18 to 45 who somked at least 10 cigarettes per day during the past year, and an average of 14 cigarettes per day. The average subject had been smoking for at least 11 years.

Levels of nicotine craving and consumption were measured using a series of scales at the beginning of the study, after 30 days of treatment and after 60 days (30 days after stopping the Omega-3 capsules.)

“The substances and medications currently used to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with,” Shenkar observed.

“The findings of this study indicated that Omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly,” she added.

Among myriad other health problems, smoking also reduces the levels of essential fatty acids in the brain – especially that of Omega-3. When the body is deficient in Omega-3, the cellular structure of nerve cells is damaged, and it interrupts neurotransmission in areas of the brain involved with feeling pleasure and satisfaction, Shenkar explained.

These areas are essential in reward and decision-making, and are very important in the process of the development, maintenance and relapse of the addict and inability to stop smoking.

“In simpler terms, Omega-3 deficiency makes it harder for the smoker’s body to deal with its craving for another cigarette.

The findings of the new study show that while no difference was found between the groups at the beginning of the study, after thirty days the smokers who had taken Omega-3 reduced their cigarettes by an average of two a day (an eleven-percent decrease), even though they were not asked to change their smoking habits in any way. No less important, they showed a significant decrease in nicotine craving. After another thirty days of not taking anything, cigarette cravings increased slightly but still remained significantly lower than their initial level. In other words, the craving to smoke cigarettes did not return to the baseline level even a month after stopping to take the supplement. The group receiving the placebo did not show any significant changes in their craving levels or in the number of cigarettes they smoked a day during the sixty days.

“Earlier studies have proven that an imbalance in Omega-3 is also related to mental health, depression and the ability to cope with pressure and stress,” Shenkar emphasized. “Pressure and stress, in turn, are associated with the urge to smoke. It is also known that stress and tension levels rise among people who quit smoking. Despite all this, this connection between all these factors had not been studied until now.”

The finding that people who were not interested in stopping to smoke showed such a significant change reinforces the assumption that taking Omega-3 can help smokers to regulate their addiction and reduce their smoking, Shenkar pointed out.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-scientist-finds-omega-3-reduces-smoking/2014/11/10/

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