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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘research’

Pew Research Study: Jews Are World’s Most Educated Religious Group

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Jews are the world’s most educated religious group, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

The study, published Tuesday, found that Jews worldwide have an average of four years’ more education than others.

Jewish women in the 25 to 34 age group have an average of more than 14 years of formal schooling, with nearly 70 percent also having attended higher education. Jewish men in the same age group have an average of 13.4 years of formal schooling, with 57 percent having also had some higher education.

American Jews have the highest rate of higher education, at 75 percent, and an average of 14.7 years of education. Jewish Israelis averaged 12 years of education, with 46 percent also attending higher education.

The next-most educated religious group is the Christians, who average about nine years of education.

The global average is less than eight years, with Muslims and Hindus rating as the least educated with each having about 5 and a half years of formal education.

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli Scientists Find Algae Yields The World’s Cleanest Energy Source

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that algae can yield mass quantities of hydrogen, “the world’s cleanest energy source.”

The scientists revealed in the findings of back-to-back studies published in Plant Physiology and Biotechnology for Biofuels, that microalgae produce hydrogen, a clean fuel of the future. The researchers also suggested in their studies a possible mechanism to jump-start mass production of this environmentally-friendly energy source.

The research was led by Dr. Iftach Yacoby, head of TAU’s renewable energy laboratory, and Rinat Semyatich, Haviva Eisenberg, Iddo Weiner and Oded Liran, his students at the School of Plant Sciences and Food Security at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences.

Researchers in the past believed that algae only produce hydrogen in the course of a single micro burst at dawn, lasting just a few minutes. But Yacoby and his team used highly sensitive technology to discover that algae produce hydrogen from photosynthesis all day long.

Armed with this discovery, the team harnessed genetic engineering to increase algae’s production of this clean energy source by 400 percent.

Laboratory tests revealed that algae create hydrogen with the assistance of the enzyme hydrogenase, which breaks down when oxygen is present. The researchers discovered effective mechanisms to remove oxygen so hydrogenase can keep producing hydrogen.

“The discovery of the mechanisms makes it clear that algae have a huge underutilized potential for the production of hydrogen fuel,” Yacoby said. “The next question is how to beef up production for industrial purposes — to get the algae to overproduce the enzyme.”

Some 99 percent of the hydrogen produced in the United States comes from natural gas. But the methods used to draw hydrogen from natural gas are toxic — and wasteful — he said.

“I grew up on a farm, dreaming of hydrogen,” said Yacoby. “Since the beginning of time, we have been using agriculture to make our own food. But when it comes to energy, we are still hunter-gatherers. Cultivating energy from agriculture is really the next revolution. There may be other ways to produce hydrogen, but this is the greenest and the only agricultural one.

“The world burns in just one year energy it took the earth over a million years to produce,” Yacoby continued. “We must stop being hunters and gatherers of energy. We must start producing clean energy — for our children and for our children’s children.”

Yacoby is now researching synthetic enzymes capable of increasing hydrogen production from microalgae to industrial levels.

Hana Levi Julian

Tel Aviv U Research: Enzyme Treatment of Gene May Reverse Effects of Alzheimer’s

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

A Tel Aviv University study published last month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests a new possible culprit in causing Alzheimer’s: the APOE gene. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, APOE has two faces: a healthy form called APOE3 and a disease-related pathological form called APOE4. Now, according to a TAU press release, researchers have developed a novel mechanism and approach with which to convert the “bad” APOE4 to the “good” APOE3.

The research was led by Prof. Daniel (Danny) M. Michaelson, Director of the Eichenbaum Laboratory of Alzheimer’s Disease Research and incumbent of the Myriam Lebach Chair in Molecular Neurodegeneration at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences, together with Anat Boehm-Cagan, the Eleanore and Harold Foonberg Doctoral Fellow in Alzheimer’s Disease Research, and in collaboration with the commercial company Artery Ltd., based in California.

For the last 20 years, researchers have focused on amyloid beta peptides and the “plaque” they sprout in diseased brains as the main target of Alzheimer’s research. But the pace of progress in treating — not to mention curing — the debilitating, neurodegenerative disease has been painfully slow.

Prof. Michaelson said that “APOE4 is a very important and understudied target. It is expressed in more than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s patients. Anti-APOE4 treatments are thus expected to have a major impact on the patient population.”

He explained that “the normal APOE gene provides the interface that moves lipids — naturally occurring molecules that include fats, cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins and other components essential to the health of cells — in and out of cells, whereas the healthy APOE3 does so effectively, the bad form — APOE4 — is impaired.”

Prof. Michaelson and other groups have discovered in earlier research that the bad APOE4 and the good APOE3 differed in their interactions with lipid cargo, so that, for example, the good APOE3 is associated with substantially more lipids than APOE4.

The researchers devised an experimental approach to measure the “bad” features of APOE4, utilizing genetically manipulated mice expressing either good or bad forms of APOE. Mice with APOE4 exhibited impaired learning and memory, damaged brain synapses, and an accumulation of phosphorylated tau and a-beta molecules — two pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. Could there be a way of turning the bad gene good?

“Once this model was established and the pathological effects of APOE4 could be reproduced in mice, we could test therapeutic approaches and tackle APOE4 itself,” Prof. Michaelson said. “Because we know that APOE4 carries fewer lipids, we looked at the means of counteracting the lipidation deficiency.”

“We focused on an enzymatic machinery called ABCA1 that loads lipid cargo onto APOE4,” he continued. “We found that the impaired lipidation of APOE4 could be successfully reversed by activating ABCA1. Most importantly, we discovered that this increased lipidation of APOE4 reversed the behavioral impairments and brain damage seen in non-treated APOE4 mice.”

In the course of administering the treatment, the researchers found that mice which prior to treatment exhibited disoriented behavior and seemed “lost,” following treatment were able to locate a submerged island in the middle of an artificial pond. Mice who had forgotten familiar objects — like Coca Cola bottles — suddenly exhibited sharp object recognition.

“Is there really a magic bullet? One treatment that covers all aspects of Alzheimer’s? Not likely,” said Prof. Michaelson. “Therefore there is a need to define specific subpopulations and to develop treatments targeted at genetic risk factors of the disease, like APOE4, which affects more than half of the Alzheimer’s population.”


Israeli Researchers Discover Genetic Evolutionary Signature Associated to Autism

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

By Ilana Messika

Israeli researchers say that the discovery of a unique evolutionary signature in genes associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) could lead to a better understanding of the genetic nature of the syndrome. That, in turn, could lead to a range of targeted therapies for the condition.

“[Our discovery will] aid in better understanding the biological mechanisms involved in autism development,” said Dr. Idan Menashe, the lead researcher and co-author of The Unique Evolutionary Signature of Genes Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder, published in Behavior Genetics, a prominent medical industry journal. Speaking to Tazpit Press Service (TPS), Menashe said the discovery would allow scientists to focus on a specific biological target when developing future therapies for autism.

In a study conducted with Mr. Erez Tsur, and Prof. Michael Friger of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, the researchers found that 651 gene sequences taken from autistic individuals held common characteristics of autism-associated genes in contrast to other disease-related genomes. They said the finding provides an important opening towards understanding the genetic basis of the syndrome.

“The results of this research will help us to target more genes when we test for ASD and consequently expand the spectrum of identified cases,” Menashe said.

According to their research, the genes in question are longer than both healthy genes and genes that are afflicted with other types of abnormalities. In addition, the genes are less susceptible to the evolutionary process of negative selection: ASD are 20 percent less likely to mutate in expected ways over the course of multiple generations compared to other samples of genes.

“Some cases of autism are due to ‘de-novo’ mutations, which are mutations that were developed after fertilization, in the developing fetus,” Dr. Menashe explained.

“Second, some inherited mutations only cause autism when they are associated with other genetic or non-genetic risk factors. Therefore, if the mutations occur in the DNA without any other risk factor, they will not lead to autism and will possibly be passed on to future generations,” he stated.

Currently, ASD is diagnosed according to specific behavioral criteria that are defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-V). The main characteristics shared by all children with autism are deficits in social communication, and restricted repetitive movements or behaviors.

The ‘Genetic Chip’ is a genetic examination to test few cases of autism already exist. However, although genetics plays a significant role in the disease’s development, there are strong indications for some cases of autism, that other non-genetic factors also contribute to the disorder.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Israeli, US Scientists Discover Link to Prevent Breast Cancer Metastasis [video]

Monday, September 19th, 2016

A study led by Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Noam Shomron of the Sackler School of Medicine has discovered that delivery of a combination of genetic therapy with chemotherapy to a primary tumor site is extremely effective in preventing breast cancer metastasis.

The research was carried out at TAU in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led at MIT by Dr. Natalie Artzi, and the students of both principal investigators. Data on human genetics were provided by Prof. Eitan Friedman of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Chaim Sheba Medical Center.

In a TEDxTalk event in August of this year, Dr. Shomron discussed the study with a group of colleagues.

The findings were also published in the September 19, 2016 online issue of Nature Communications.

One in eight women worldwide are diagnosed annually with the disease. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.

Hana Levi Julian

Israeli Scientists Find Protein in Blood to ID Alzheimer’s Disease

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Researchers at Tel Aviv University, Technion, Rambam Medical Center and Harvard University discovered a new biomarker to identify cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

The new study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that levels of “activity-dependent neuroprotective protein” (ADNP) can be easily monitored in routine blood tests. Moreover, ADNP levels in blood tests correlate with higher IQ in healthy older adults.

The research was led by Prof. Illana Gozes, the incumbent of the Lily and Avraham Gildor Chair for the Investigation of Growth Factors. She is also former director of the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and a member of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience. It was also spearheaded by Dr. Gad Marshall, Dr. Aaron Schultz, and Prof. Reisa Sperling of Harvard University, and Prof. Judith Aharon-Peretz of Rambam Medical Center – The Technion Institute of Technology. TAU PhD student Anna Malishkevich also participated in working with the team.

Investigators analyzed blood samples taken from 42 healthy adults, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) patients and Alzheimer’s disease patients at Rambam Medical Center in Israel. After comparing the DNP expression in the blood samples, the researchers prepared plasma samples and once again compared the protein levels.

Significant increases in ADNP RNA were seen in patients ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s disease. ADNP levels tested in plasma and serum samples, as well as white blood cell RNA levels, distinguished between cognitively normal elderly, MCI and Alzheimer’s disease participants.

“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.

“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. We have found a clear connection between ADNP levels in the blood and amyloid plaques in the brain,” she said.

The researchers are currently exploring larger clinical trials to better determine the ability of ADNP to predict cognitive decline and disease progression.

Hana Levi Julian

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

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israeli-scientists-create-robo-locust-at-tel-aviv-university/2016/01/06/

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