For such a robot to work, it would need to be smaller than a human cell, yet sophisticated enough to communicate with them. To achieve this, the researchers needed to create a computer that is based on the body’s own building blocks – DNA.
The Weizmann Institute scientists were able to create a genetic device that operates autonomously inside bacterial cells. Despite this being a major breakthrough, the researchers still have a way to go in order to apply this technology for nanobots that operate inside human cells, which are more complex than their bacterial counterparts.
Many diseases in the human body cause some genes to be modified inside the cells. The microscopic device “scans” the cell to see if all genes in it are expressed as they should be, since a malfunctioning molecule will cause a disruption in gene-expression. For instance, cells affected by cancer express a malfunction in genes related to cell-growth, causing them to expand rapidly and creating tumors.
Making damaged cells self-destruct
The device is pre-programmed with information about the cell and if the information it finds inside the cell matches its programming, it creates a protein that emits green light. The researchers, Prof. Ehud Shapiro and Dr. Tom Ran of the Biological Chemistry and Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Departments, say that in the future, the light emitting protein could be replaced with one that can cause cells to self-destruct if the cell is diagnosed as damaged.
Full story via No Camels
A Canadian Christian teaching English to children in Africa hears that someone in Israel is in desperate need of a kidney; he packs his bags, gets on a plane and without thinking twice donates of his own kidney. This is no fairy tale, but the true story of Trevor Brown.
Brown, 24, teaches English to Kenyan children. Two years ago his friend told him he had donated his kidney in Israel. Any other person would have felt a few words of praise were enough, but not Brown, he decided to follow in his friend’s footsteps. “I desperately wanted to do something for someone,” he said. “A large part of that is connected to my faith.”
Following his request, the friend put him in contact with a volunteer in Israel, and she in turn connected him to Haifa resident Piaz Abu-Samra, 53, a father of seven, in desperate need of a kidney transplant, after being on dialysis for more than a year because of terminal kidney failure.
“I underwent preliminary tests abroad, and it turned out my kidney was a match,” Brown said. A month later he arrived in Israel and moved in to Abu-Samra’s house.
“He is a splendid man, and he has such great kids. I felt I was doing the right thing,” Brown explains. “My family didn’t like the idea, but at the end of the day they respected my decision and did not fight the donation.”
“I met an amazing person who came to save me,” Abu-Samra emotionally recants. “At first we wrote each other through the internet. When I saw that he was serious, I sent him a flight ticket, and he came. He is an amazing man, a real idealist.”
While Abu-Samra was waiting for his surgery at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Zehava Pelach, 46, a supermarket cashier, was also awaiting for a kidney transplant after suffering renal failure for more than eight years.
Her husband David quickly volunteered to give her one his own kidneys, but sadly he wasn’t a match.
At the beginning of the week, the head of the hospital’s Transplant Unit, Prof. Eitan Mor, came up with the idea of orchestrating a cross-transplant – the Canadian will donate his kidney to Zehava, and her husband will donate his kidney to Abu-Samra.
“I didn’t hesitate for a second,” David, 48, said, “I was up for donating my kidney to Zehava from the get go, but our blood types don’t match. We have been married for 25 years, and it was clear to me that I needed to relieve her of the pain of dialysis. I was very concerned, but the moment the idea came up, I agreed.”
Wednesday, all three went under the knife and the transplant went ahead successfully.
In the interview, following the operation, the three joined each other in an emotional meeting, and they are currently recuperating in adjacent rooms.
“Trevor is an amazing person, I have no words to describe what he has done for us,” Zehava said. “When we get out of here, we will all go out together to celebrate this miracle.
“It is important people know there it is possible to donate a kidney. That is the reason god gave us two,” she concludes.
Prof. Mor summarizes: “Undoubtedly, a donation from a live person is preferred to a donation from someone who is deceased. The matching is mostly based on the blood-types of the patient and benefactor, but today we know how to successfully complete transplants even between those that do not share a blood type by inducing an anti-body neutralizer.”
In a development that may have implications for alcohol drinkers, researchers at Hadassah Hospital have connected a particular gene to cirrhosis, or potentially life-threatening liver scarring.
The research team, led professor Rifaat Safadi, the head of the hospital’s Liver Unit, found that people with a type of overexpression of a gene called Neuroligin 4 were predisposed to cirrhosis, which has many causes, including certain diseases and the consumption alcohol and some medications.
“We located a gene whose overexpression in the NK cells of the immune system exposes to the body to cirrhosis,” Safadi said. “When cirrhosis of the liver develops, the NK cells in the immune system, in their healthy form, kill the scar-tissue cells. We found that the overexpression of this gene put a mechanism into operation that kept these cells from their anti-scarring work.”
The tendency of some people to develop advanced cirrhosis has been a hot topic for investigation among liver-disease researchers in recent years.
The Hadassah study – which involved taking blood samples from dozens of patients with cirrhosis and comparing their NK cells to those of a control group of healthy people – came on the heels of related research. Several years ago, the same research team found that intact NK cells are good for the liver and prevent cirrhosis. The discovery, published in The Journal of Hepatology in February 2006, was also reported by a group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health in the United States.
Safadi’s research team has also found a connection between the expression of Neuroligin 4 and insulin reception by cells throughout the body: Where there is insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes that involves insulin receptors not working properly, the expression of Neuroligin 4 increases.
The findings were published in November 2012 at a conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Boston. Team member Dr. Johnny Amer was awarded the young researchers’ prize at the conference.
The Hadasit Technology Transfer Company of Hadassah Hospital has already patented Neuroligin 4 in hopes of using it to develop treatments to prevent liver disease. The gene has previously been connected with morbidity conditions and one of its mutations has been connected with the development of autism. Researchers next plan to investigate whether mutations of the gene also increase the risk of developing cirrhosis.
Scientists have successfully trialled a simple breath test to detect stomach cancer, using a new type of sensor made of nanomaterials.
The first trial of the device is small, involving 130 patients with a range of different stomach complaints, but it proved to be more than 90% accurate in differentiating between cancer and other diseases. It was also over 90% accurate in detecting which were early-stage cancers and which were advanced.
It has been known for some time that cancers can give off odours that may not be detectable to the human nose. A study published by German researchers in 2010 described how dogs had been trained to sniff out lung cancers – although they accepted it was possible the dogs were picking up the smell of drugs used to treat patients rather than the disease.
The stomach cancer breath test takes the concept into more measurable and probably useful territory. Stomach cancer can be detected by an endoscopic examination, which involves inserting a flexible tube through the nose and into the digestive system, but this is not pleasant. A breath test could be routinely used by a GP to rule out cancer.
The scientists, from Israel and China, describe in the British Journal of Cancer how their sensors detected the chemical profile of the cancer with a high degree of accuracy in the air that the patients exhaled.
Professor Hossam Haick, lead researcher from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, said: “The promising findings from this early study suggest that using a breath test to diagnose stomach cancers, as well as more benign complaints, could be a future alternative to endoscopies – which can be costly and time-consuming, as well as unpleasant to the patient.
“Nevertheless, these results are at an early stage and support the concept of a breath test to detect stomach cancers but further validations are needed. Indeed, we’re already building on the success of this study with a larger-scale clinical trial.
“Around 7,000 people develop stomach cancer in the UK each year and most of these are in their advanced stages when they are diagnosed. But if found to be accurate enough, the nanomaterial breath test presents a new possibility for screening a population for stomach cancer, which would hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease.”
Kate Law, the director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said the test could lead to earlier detection of stomach cancer, which could save lives. “The results of this latest study are promising – although large-scale trials will now be needed to confirm these findings,” she said.
“Only one in five people are able to have surgery as part of their treatment as most stomach cancers are diagnosed at stages that are too advanced for surgery. Any test that could help diagnose stomach cancers earlier would make a difference to patients’ long-term survival.”
Source: The Gaurdian
Although Israel is fourth among Western countries in the prevalence of colorectal cancer and 15th in the death rate from the tumor, the number of cases here has declined in the last two decades. This improvement, by 17 percent in men and 13 percent in women is largely due to early diagnosis and treatment, thanks to more publicity and education about it.
However, there has been no improvement in the Arab population, with the prevalence in colorectal cancer in that sector remaining steady after a decline five years ago.
The figures were provided on Monday by the Israel Cancer Association, which, together with the Health Ministry and other countries around the world, marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March.
Half of all older Israelis undergo screening for the cancer – 41% by simple testing of occult blood in the stools (which is 100% accurate), and the rest via invasive colonoscopies.
According to the ministry’s Israel Cancer Registry and National Center for Disease Control, 3,247 Israelis were diagnosed last year with colorectal cancer. Among them 1,437 Jewish men, 1,392 Jewish women, 154 Arab men, 127 Arab women and 137 others.
Death rates rise significantly after age 60, especially after 75, and in immigrants from Europe and the Americas, in both men and women. Survival rates, largely due to early diagnosis and treatment, is around 67% for both sexes. The number of deaths from this widespread type of cancer was 1,363 in 2010, when the last figures were available.
On March 11, between 2 and 3 p,.m. on Army Radio, the ICA will run an open line with experts available to answer questions from listeners.
Public service announcements will be broadcasted, and messages published in newspaper throughout the month. Information can be obtained from the ICA’s Telemeida line at 1-800-599-995.
A free seminar on the subject will be held at ICA headquarters in Givatayim on March 12, starting at 9.30 a.m.
According to recent research, the consumption of a lot of fiber from vegetables, fruits and whole grains and pulses reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. A sedentary life style and alcohol increases the risk.
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