A delegation from the Jordanian Red Cross came to Jerusalem on Wednesday to tour Bishvilaych, a nonprofit medical clinic for haredi and Modern Orthodox Jewish women in the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood.
Many traditionally religious women feel uncomfortable about being examined by male doctors and discussing intimate matters with them – and according to the heads of the clinic, haredi and Israeli Arab women are known to have relatively high mortality rates of breast cancer because they are hesitant to go for a mammography. Bishvilaych sees Muslim women as well as observant Jewish women.
The Jordanian visitors told Bishvilaych founder and CEO Sara Siemiatycki and medical director Dr. Diana Flescher that they were planning to open a similar clinic for women in the Hashemite kingdom soon.
At the facility – which moved some time ago from the capital’s Geula neighborhood – the head of the Jordanian team, Leila Toucan Abu al- Ouda learned how the women medical staffers daily diagnose and treat observant patients of all faiths.
The Bishvilaych heads said that one of their challenges was increasing awareness of breast cancer and other diseases among religious women, and of the need for early detection.
Siemiatycki told her guests that she was glad to be hosting them, as they and her clinic shared the problems of dealing with modesty and medical care for observant women.
“We will be happy to help you during the establishment of your center to advance the field of women’s health in the whole world,” she said.
Bishvilaych, which translates to the feminine form of “For You,” claims to be the only holistic wellness facility for religious women in Israel.
In 2008, Flescher told The Jerusalem Post that the model of the Jerusalem center “could easily serve other populations such as Arab Israeli women who have large families, tend to give their own health low priority and – for reasons of modesty – prefer women doctors to examine them and discuss intimate matters.”
She stressed then that Bishvilaych was not a replacement for the public health fund services to which every Israeli is entitled.
“We are not affiliated [with] any health fund, but our female physicians refer patients for tests and visits to specialists,” she said. The clinic offers personal attention, a holistic view of the patient and a focus on health education and disease prevention.
Siemiatycki noted in that same interview that “haredi women generally give higher priority to the needs of their husbands and many children, and put themselves at the bottom of the totem pole. As a result, breast cancer, for example, is diagnosed much later in haredi women than in their secular counterparts.”
In her first move as Israel’s new health minister, Yael German (Yesh Atid) instructed the ministry staff to reconsider the ban on accepting blood donations from gay men.
The form filled out by every blood donor in Israel states that gay men who have had sex with other men are prohibited from donating blood.
People who have tested positive for HIV, used drugs or been exposed to mad-cow disease, among other constraints, are also prohibited from donating blood.
After the Passover holiday, a Health Ministry advisory committee on intravenous medicine headed by Professor Noga Mani, formerly the head of the Hadassah blood bank, will convene to discuss the issue revisited by German, formerly the mayor of Herzliya.
“The committee will call on relevant professionals as well as the leaders of the gay-lesbian community, hear their opinions and examine the possibility of changing the clause,” the ministry stated yesterday.
Magen David Adom, the emergency-services organization responsible for Israel’s blood banks, began to monitor and limit gay donors in the 1980s following the discovery and spread of AIDS. In the questionnaire given to donors, any man who has had sex with another man since 1977, the year HIV was first discovered in humans, is disqualified.
Many other countries also limit blood donations from gay man. The U.S. Red Cross disqualifies would-be donors who had sex with another man even before 1977, while New Zealand does not accept blood from men who have had sex with other men during the previous five years.
In many countries, including the UK, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, a one-year time frame is enforced. In South Africa the time limit is six months, while several countries including Italy, Spain and Mexico have no limitation whatsoever.
Israel’s LGBT community raised the issue back in 2004. The last debate on it was held a year ago, at the behest of Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich and gay activists in the Labor party, but the staff at the Health Ministry opted to leave the clause unchanged.
Health Ministry and MDA officials continue to define gays as a high-risk group for HIV infection, especially since the rise in recent years in HIV infection in the local gay community.
In recent years, an average of four blood samples out of a total of 300,000 donations per year have been found to be infected with HIV. Last year, 13 blood samples were found to be HIV-positive.
The Labor party’s gay organization welcomed the move, calling it a positive step, while noting that a number of Health Ministry committees had already examined the subject in the past, and that they had all eventually decided to leave the clause untouched.
“We hope that this time the committee will decide to set a time limit for [the clause], if not to cancel it altogether, similar to the trend in enlightened states,” the group said.
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.
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Leading scientists from Britain’s top universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh will be collaborating with Israeli scientists from the Weizmann Institute and Hebrew University on cutting edge research in stem cell. The projects include developing stem cell treatments for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, looking for a regenerative therapy for Type 1 Diabetes, and finding ways to persuade the immune system not to attack stem cells.
Commenting on the announcement of the awards, the UK’s Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould said, “Britain and Israel are both world leaders in regenerative medicine. This project gets our scientists working in joint research projects, so that together they can find cures for some of the world’s most awful diseases. This will be a powerful symbol of what Britain and Israel can achieve together, and an important step in building the right partnership between our countries in science and tech.”
Leading Israeli stem cell scientist Professor Jacob Hanna, a project leader on a successful bid from the Weizmann Institute, said “Stem cell research brings great promises and has seen remarkable breakthroughs in the last years. The generous funding for my project by the BIRAX initiative enables me to address several remaining critical questions in stem cell research and to strengthen scientific ties with internationally renowned British stem cell scientists. I am confident the new collaborative contacts fostered by the British Embassy and BIRAX will prove critical for advancing our research and will lead to other long lasting collaborations for many years to come.”
Esteemed British scientist Professor Lord Winston has backed the project, and said “These projects, playing on the academic strengths of both countries and of the highest scientific quality, will not only have a major impact in this increasingly important area of medical science, and will be likely to benefit many people suffering from common diseases affecting the brain, such as dementia as well as heart function and other illnesses.”
The project has been overseen by the UK-Israel Life Sciences Council, a body of 19 leading scientists from the UK and Israel launched by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in November 2010 to improve science collaboration between the two countries. Mr Hague said then that “science is rightly one of the cornerstones of the relationship between Britain and Israel – our countries are scientific superpowers. Both are countries that have built up our economies and our identity through being leaders in science and technology.”
Apoptosis is a process of programmed cell death that takes place in our bodies as a way of stopping abnormal cells. Cancer cells usually bypass this process because of genetic mutations. This means the cancer cells survive, but healthy cells die.
The scientists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Weizmann Institute of Science looked at the interaction of two proteins involved in cell death and found regions in those proteins that take one of the critical steps to begin the process.
Using this knowledge, the researchers worked in cell cultures and succeeded in triggering the death of human cancer cells.
“We have just begun to uncover the hidden potential in the interaction between these proteins,” said Assaf Friedler, one of the researchers and a professor at Hebrew University’s Institute of Chemistry. ”This is an important potential target for the development of anti-cancer drugs…”
The following video provides a close-up view of apoptosis:
The findings, led by Hebrew University graduate student Chen Hener-Katz and involving a collaboration between Prof. Assaf Friedler of the Hebrew University and Prof. Atan Gross of the Weizmann Institute, were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in an article titled ”Molecular Basis of the Interaction between Proapoptotic Truncated BID (tBID) Protein and Mitochondrial Carrier Homologue 2 (MTCH2) Protein.”
The discovery by Prof. Gross of the MTCH2 protein as well as its relationship to tBID, allowed the research team to develop a technique that mimics apoptosis.
Programmed cell death, or Apoptosis, is a critical defense mechanism against the development of abnormal cells like cancer, according toHealthCanal.com. “Cancer cells usually avoid this process due to mutations in the genes that encode the relevant proteins,” it continues. “The result is that the cancer cells survive and take over while healthy cells die.”
”These protein segments could be the basis of future anti-cancer therapies in cases where the mechanism of natural cell death is not working properly,” said Prof. Friedler, head of the school of chemistry at the Hebrew University. ”We have just begun to uncover the hidden potential in the interaction between these proteins. This is an important potential target for the development of anticancer drugs that will stimulate apoptosis by interfering with its regulation.”
The potential ramifications of this discovery was described in the Weizmann Institute’s 2010 Update on Cancer Research: “Scientists can use this newly gained knowledge to devise novel therapeutic methods. If clinicians could regulate the production and activity of MTCH2, they would be able, for instance, to ‘turn on’ mitochondria apoptosis in cancerous cells and turn it ‘off’ in the brain cells of patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.”