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Autonomous car nano-optics co TriEye raises $3m

The Israeli company has developed SWIR sensors to provide autonomous cars heightened visual capabilities in restricted visual conditions at significantly reduced cost.

Israeli startup TriEye has announced the completion of a $3 million seed round led by Grove Ventures. Following the investment Grove Ventures managing partner Dov Moran has become chairman of TriEye. The Tel Aviv-based company will use the funds to expand development of its systems, hire more employees and strengthen its global presence.

TriEye has developed a revolutionary visual sensory solution based on short-wave infra-red (SWIR) that has far-reaching implications for several industries including self-driving cars. The system provides an efficient sensory solution for difficult driving conditions including darkness, rain, mist and dust. The company says that SWIR based cameras allow much higher reliability and precision compared with other sensory solutions but are not used in vehicles because of their high cost.

TriEye has developed SWIR sensors to provide autonomous cars heightened visual capabilities in restricted visual conditions at significantly reduced cost. The technology has been developed after many years of research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by Prof. Uriel Levy, one of the world’s leading nano-optics experts.

TriEye cofounder and CEO Avi Bakal said, “The company is offering capabilities that in the past were only accessible to defense and aerospace industries and at a minimal cost compared with the past. This capability improves the safety of advanced driver-assistance systems and is a major step forward to the extensive adoption of the technology by the carmakers.”

Read the source article at globes.co.il

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A higher calling: How Israeli marijuana research changed the world

As much of the world debates how to address marijuana use, the vast majority of American states have legalized it or allow it for medical purposes. Global pharmaceutical companies and hospitals seeking effective treatments using cannabis should look to Professor Raphael Mechoulam, a scientist at Hebrew University. Mechoulam, a pioneer in the field, was the first to isolate, analyze and synthesize the major psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis and has developed a number of revolutionary marijuana-related treatments.

Today, roughly 147 million people use medical marijuana for effective relief of various ailments, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, cancer treatment side effects and Parkinson’s. Experts believe these numbers will grow exponentially in the coming years, and Mechoulam is now widely recognized as the godfather of medical marijuana, the high priest of his field.

Mechoulam began studying marijuana as a young professor in 1964. He learned that researchers had isolated morphine from opium over 150 years ago and cocaine from coca leaves a century prior, yet no one had tried to understand cannabis and its psychoactive and non-psychoactive ingredients. Mechoulam and his colleagues became their own test subjects and after a few months not only understood marijuana’s ingredients, but found a way to test its medicinal properties.

Not long after Mechoulam’s human experiments with THC, the major psychoactive compound in cannabis, he applied for a grant with the US National Institutes of Health, but the response was not exactly welcoming. “Cannabis is not important to us,” he recalls an NIH official telling him. “When you have something relevant, call us… marijuana is not an American problem.” At the time, not a single US lab was working on it.

In 1965, the NIH changed its tune at the insistence of a member of Congress, who was concerned about his son’s recreational use. Mechoulam had just isolated THC for the first time and discovered its structure. Dan Efron, head of pharmacology at the National Institute of Mental Health, promised Mechoulam financial support for further research. In return, the professor sent the NIH the entire world supply of synthesized THC, about 10 grams, which the NIH used to conduct many of the original cannabis experiments in the United States.

Today, thanks to Mechoulam’s research over the past half century, doctors around the world prescribe marijuana for a variety of disorders. Mechoulam’s work catapulted Israel to the top of the field of medical marijuana testing.

“Israel is the marijuana research capital of the world,” says Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for the Health, Medical & Wellness unit at CNN.

Globally, there is an obstacle to wider acceptance of medical marijuana: doctors themselves. Mechoulam believes that use of the drug is not standard practice because most physicians are not yet familiar with it and because most doctors are uncomfortable with a medicine that can be consumed by inhaling its smoke. But Mechoulam has played a major role in dispelling misconceptions about cannabis.

“The problem is that for many years, marijuana was put on the [same] scale as cocaine and morphine,” Mechoulam says. “This is not fair. All drugs, starting from aspirin to valium, [have] side effects. One has to know how to use them.”

Until recently, pharmaceutical companies weren’t enthusiastic about applied research on the drug. The legal ambiguity around cannabis and the difficulty of filing patents on a plant that has existed forever limit their ability to make money.

“It is still widely believed that cannabinoids are drugs and they make you crazy, make you mad, that they don’t have therapeutic value and they are addictive,” says Manuel Guzman, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Complutense University in Madrid and one of the world’s leading scientists studying the effects of cannabis on cancer cells. But, according to Guzman, that’s “based on ignorance. Knowledge takes time to get absorbed by society and the clinical community.”

At the federal level, cannabis is still illegal in the United States, which prevents serious and ongoing research on THC and on CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. But 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for some medical uses, and according to polling data, a majority of Americans now favor legalization for recreational purposes. Elsewhere in the world, there is even more momentum. Israel, Canada and the Netherlands all have medical marijuana programs. Uruguay has legalized pot and Portugal has decriminalized the drug.

All of this gives reason for optimism about the future of medical marijuana research, according to Mechoulam, who is now investigating the drug’s effects on asthma. It is clear that his groundbreaking life’s work and “never, ever give up” attitude are slowly changing the minds of his peers. “If a Nobel Prize was given on cannabis research,” Dr. Guzman says, “Rafi would be the leading candidate.”

The writer is the author of Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World (Gefen Publishing) and a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

Read the source article at Jpost

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Peering into the human brain with a world-renowned neurobiologist

From emojis to cookie cutters, the heart is emblematic of love and passion.

The perception of the heart as the generator of emotions dates back millennia and is still heard today in the language we use to describe the heartbreak of unrequited love and the heartache of profound misery. Even memory is relegated to our blood-pumping organ, when we remember new information by heart.

At some point, we learn that in fact it is the brain, not the heart, which generates and controls the polyphony of our emotions, the essence of our creativity, the outpouring of our wildest imaginings. Language, thought, movement, behavior and belief all originate in the brain.

However for many of us, there is yet another leap of understanding to be made before we can begin to grasp the triumphs and aspirations of modern day neuroscience.

“The brain is a sophisticated machine – it is built from nerve cells that carry electrical and chemical activity,” explains world-renowned neurobiologist Idan Segev, a professor of computational neuroscience at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “To understand ourselves, we need to understand this amazing machine.”

Segev emphasizes the importance of constructing a mathematical model or a computer simulation of the brain. Based on experimental data, such a model will reveal not only how memories are formed and how emotions are conjured, but also the causes of brain diseases.

“A detailed and accurate computer model of the brain may generate the activity that signifies Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s,” Segev explains, “and when we see the characteristics of the condition in the computer model, we will then be able to find ways to fix the model. This will suggest ways that we can fix the problems in a real brain.”

His vision is to have “simulated-based medication,” or drugs that will be suggested by and tested on the computer model, before entering the pharmacopeia.

It is Segev’s hope that a computational model of the brain, if accurate enough, will ultimately lead to an understanding of human emotions and, most importantly, human creativity. Then we will be able to find ways to release the rich creative potential that, he believes, is hidden within all of our brains.

“Eventually,” he says with a wry smile, “we will understand everything.”

According to Segev, “it is our creativity that is the most prominent capability that sets us apart from other animals.”

For the past 200,000 years, he explains, we have not undergone any significant genetic change. We have the same genome and therefore the same brain as our ancient homo sapiens ancestors. Throughout most of this period, we have focused on the challenges of survival, and it is our creativity (the good, the bad and the ugly) that has made us into the species that dominates the world today.

For the earliest artistic examples of our creative genius, Segev points to the Le Chauvet cave paintings in France, and the Altamira cave paintings in Spain, both dated at around 30,000 to 35,000 years old.

Even older is the Lion Man, an intricate 30-cm sculpture in mammoth bone, dated at around 35,000 to 40,000 years old, which was discovered in a German cave. Recent research has revealed that it would have taken 400 hours of skilled craftsmanship to produce it. And the recent identification of organic matter, perhaps blood, in its mouth hints at primeval religious belief.

So, what is it that enables the human brain to reach such creative heights? And what is it that makes our brains so different from that of other animals? Segev suggests that it is neither size nor the number of brain cells – though the number of these neurons is important, and at 100 billion per human brain, that’s pretty impressive. Gorillas have about a third of this number and elephants have almost three times as many. But in terms of the ratio of brain size to body weight, we trump them all.

What really matters, Segev believes, is the interconnections between all these cells.

There are around 100 trillion synapses, or points of contact between neurons, in the human brain. However, not all of these synapses are always active – they change, both in the strength of existing connections as well as in the forming of new ones.

Everything we do changes the pattern of connections and, consequently, the electrical activity in the brain that codes for new memories.

Remember being told that you only use 10 percent of your brain? Segev was only seven when his teacher shared with him this supposed fact and he found it perplexing. In truth, we use all of our brain cells all of the time.

Segev refers to this realization as one of two “light bulb moments” that set him on the road to becoming a neuroscientist.

The second was at the age of 17, when he read about an experiment that demonstrated that a kitten only learns to see if it is able to move around, otherwise it will grow up blind! Sight and movement, it seems, are intimately connected in the brain; movement is essential for a correct interpretation of the visual signals we experience.

In the human brain we have particularly intense long-range connections between different regions, and an extraordinary complexity of connections locally, with a single neuron in direct communication with about 30,000 other cells in its neighborhood or with cells projecting from further away.

But even this is not enough to explain creativity. Segev suspects that the secret of creativity also has something to do with the fact that our nerve cells have a unique, “spontaneous” background electrical activity, an incessant electrical murmuring.

This background electrical noise means that the brain responds in a slightly different way to identical inputs. Within this variability, Segev sees the possibility of a mechanism of creativity – in other words, you think differently although you receive a repeated input. Such randomized behavior of nerve cells will no doubt make constructing a computer model of the brain even more difficult.

Undaunted, computational neurobiologists are already building a digital simulation of several cubic millimeters of rodent brain, something around the size of a pinhead.

But even these humble beginnings are complex and expensive and require the cooperation of scientists from many fields.

Segev is a member and founder of several interdisciplinary groups. He was the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at the Hebrew University, which blossomed into the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC).

Segev is also part of the Human Brain Project, a 10-year initiative with a billion- euro budget and 100 laboratories, most of them in Europe, collaborating. The HBP affords him complete access to the IBM Blue Gene computer, which is capable of around six trillion operations a second. Although the computer actually sits in Lugano, Switzerland, Segev and his students can log on from their ELSC lab.

On the day I meet Segev, he has just heard that a proposal to the US National Institutes for Health for a collaborative venture focused on human neurons had received a grant of $19.4 million for a five-year project.

This project will bring together a group from the prestigious Allen Institute in Seattle, Washington, with four other groups – from Sweden, Hungary, Amsterdam and Segev’s, at the Hebrew University.

“You have really come at a special time,” he says.

The important thing now, he insists, is to shift from working with rodents to working with human cells and neuronal circuits.

“The human brain is so much more sophisticated.”

Using fresh, living human brain cells for research may sound like a good idea, but getting a hold of them is another story.

Segev recently received a phone call from Prof. Natan Bornstein, an old army buddy of his. Bornstein, a neurologist, had moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to become director and coordinator of the neurological- neurosurgical-neuroradiological service at the new neurology department at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Just a few minutes’ drive from the Edmond J. Safra campus on Givat Ram at the Hebrew University, this hospital is now a major center for brain surgery.

It turns out that perfectly good, healthy brain cells are thrown away every day at the department. When deep brain tumors are removed, small pieces of normal tissue are cut out to provide access to the tumor, and the healthy cells are tossed.

In October, Segev received ethical permission to use this healthy tissue in research at the Hebrew University. The first batch will soon arrive from Shaare Zedek and will be shared among the five groups at the Hebrew University. The prospect marks the beginning of a new era as research shifts from rodent brain cells to human ones.

Segev’s enthusiasm for his research is palpable. Speaking to him, you feel as if every sinew of his lean frame is focused on furthering our understanding of ourselves.

And then he says, “But there is something I am really, really interested in!” And the conversation turns in a completely different direction.

He proceeds to tell me about a new online, open access, science magazine for kids, “Frontiers for Young Minds.” The magazine is actually an offshoot of another project that has essentially changed the culture of science.

Currently, the process for getting a paper published in a scientific journal begins by it being sent to a publication’s editors, many of whom are not scientists, who reject 50-60 percent of submissions before sending them to a peer reviewer. The reviewers then reject a further 90 percent.

Segev’s main criticism is that “the culture is to find faults in a paper and reject rather than to help the authors improve their work.”

The idea of changing this approach came to Segev about 10 years ago while at a conference in Brazil with fellow researcher Henry Markram.

The two went on to set up “Frontiers,” an open access series of journals, where scientists post their papers online and reviewers, out of a pool of over 50,000 scientists, choose to review them. The reviewer then becomes a partner with the researchers and can suggest improvements and extensions to the research. When the paper is finally published online, the reviewers are named as part of the paper because they are seen as active participants in the research process.

An outgrowth of this initiative was a science magazine for kids. Its format was inspired by Bob Knight, professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. He insisted that, for a scientific journal for kids, the reviewers should be kids. The articles are written by leading scientists worldwide who are then grilled and challenged by kids, until the article is deemed to have sufficient clarity to be published online. Segev is currently setting it up in Hebrew for Israeli children.

The hub of Segev’s multitude of projects is a modest office on the ground floor of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at Givat Ram. With no pretensions of architectural distinction, its long windowless corridors with exposed pipework recall a passageway to a ship’s boiler room. But take a deep breath before you open the door to Segev’s office and prepare for a visual experience that feels like stepping into a futuristic movie.

It is neither the dusty shelves laden with books nor the mounds of papers that cover the desk that will claim your attention. Nor is it the bare walls apart from a small picture of a neural network or the whiteboard scrawled with snatches of things mathematical and neurological that will hold you in awe.

On the far side of the room, wall-to-wall windows look out onto a rocky plateau below where the shimmering façade of the new Suzanne and Charles Goodman Brain Sciences Building stands. Designed by eminent British architect Lord Norman Foster, the four-story structure will soon become the new home of Segev’s lab and the pioneering, interdisciplinary ELSC.

Overlaid with gleaming 21st-century filigree, this esthetic delight hints at pattern and order, embedded in randomness. “They are Henry Markram’s neurons – or rather, from his rat brains,” explains Segev, “and we at ELSC had the idea of this neuron trellis wrapping round the building.”

Looking at this innovative building, one can’t help but wonder about the potential output of the creative power of Segev and his team working within.

Read the source article at Jpost

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Scientists go to zoo, find that cell size, not body size, affects lifespan

Researchers in Israel, Canada, and Germany have found that animals with larger pancreatic cells tend to age faster, while those with smaller such cells seem to live longer.

They came to this “shockingly beautiful and unexpected” correlation, said Yuval Dor, who studies developmental biology at The Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, after studying the pancreases of 24 mammalian species, from the smallest, a shrew, to the tallest, a giraffe. T

The findings were published on Monday in the journal Developmental Cell.

Previously, scientists had thought that after birth, most mammals’ organs, including the pancreas, grow by cell proliferation — meaning the number of cells grows. However, Dor and his colleagues made a chance observation while at work: they needed a higher magnification to look at pancreatic cells of newborn mice through a microscope than they did to look at those of adults. This suggested that the volume of each cell had substantially grown from infant to adult life.

Illustrative photo of mice (Pixabay)

“This was surprising because the assumption was that post-natally, the pancreas grows by increasing the number of cells, just as most organs do,” said Dor. This was not the case in mice, where the cells grew both in number and in size.

So, the researchers then looked at the same cell type in humans. There, they found cell replication — i.e., the number of cells were higher as the individual grew older, but the cells were not larger in size. Thus, humans belong to the group of mammals that have small cells.

This got them curious, so they ventured to neighboring labs, at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and Kimron Veterinary Institute. There, they examined pancreases from a variety of mammals, from tiny Etruscan shrews to tigers.

By analyzing the data, the scientists found a strong negative correlation between the size of individual pancreatic cells and lifespan. Mammalian species that aged faster had larger cells, whereas species that lived longer had smaller pancreatic cells.

In humans, the cells do not expand in size but in number, and as expected, humans live for a very long time, said Dor. When comparing the pancreas cells of mice and the naked mole rat — two mammals that are more or less of the same physical size — they found that mice, which live just some three years, had large pancreatic cells, whereas the mole rat had small cells. Mole rats live some 30 years, by the way.

Similarly, rats, with large cells, live for around three years, whereas fruit bats, which are also similar in physical size to rats, but have smaller cells, live for some 25 years, he said.

“We don’t understand why this is,” he said. But the finding was “interesting and fun.”

The researchers believe that a protein that functions at the junction between cell size and lifespan, called mTOR, may be the molecular mechanism that is responsible for the correlation they found.

The researchers have some theories as to why this correlation may exist, Dor said. It could be that this study gives a molecular “face,” or backing, to an evolutionary theory of aging, which suggests that aging is the unintended consequence of mechanisms that are advantageous during reproduction age.

Bigger cells in mice, for example, allowed them to grow faster in a shorter time span, leading to a shorter time to sexual maturity and reproduction. But this comes at a cost of faster aging and earlier death.

“This might explain why some mammal species sacrifice longevity for the rapid early organ growth associated with cell growth instead of replication: you get the selective advantage in early life but you pay the price later on,” Dor said. More research needs to be done, however, he added.

But why did the researchers study the pancreatic cells? “Because that is what we study,” Dor said. Cells of other organs in these animals should also be researched, he said, to find if patterns are similar, or if this phenomenon is specific to pancreatic cells alone.

It would be also helpful, he said, “to understand the molecular basis” of the finding. “Why do we grow older with bigger cells?” Also, is this phenomenon typical of just mammals or of other animals as well, such as reptiles and frogs and birds?

The study, “Postnatal exocrine pancreas growth by cellular hypertrophy correlates with a shorter lifespan in mammals,” was published by Shira Anzi and Miri Stolovich-Rain, with senior investigators including Dor, Muli Ben Sasson and Ran Kafri, of Toronto University.

Read the source article at The Times of Israel

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Could robots replace psychologists, politicians and poets?

Someday soon, people will be able to “hack” other human beings and not only their computers, cars or bank accounts, according to Hebrew University Prof. Yuval Noah Harari, author of global bestsellers Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

“To hack a human being you need a lot of computing power and a lot of data, especially biometric data about what happens inside the human and especially inside the brain of that human. We never had that capability before,” said Harari.

The Haifa-born historian-philosopher was the final speaker in a three-day international conference, “What Makes Us Human: From Genes to Machine,” held at Hebrew University’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, June 4-6.

Harari told attendees it will be possible to hack humans through a combination of advances in computing power, such as artificial intelligence (AI), and advances in brain science.

Some of the potential results he described are pretty scary.

Harari suggests that hacking humans could lead to the end of democracy as we know it (“Democracy is based on the idea that nobody knows me better than myself”) and to the creation of “a useless class of people from the viewpoint of the economic and political system” when robots outperform people on the job.

No profession will be absolutely safe from automation, Harari warned.

Even careers requiring emotional intelligence — such as doctors, lawyers and teachers – could be overtaken by robots, at least in theory. That’s because AI will have the capability to recognize and imitate the biochemical patterns of human emotions.

Mind science remains a mystery

But even if AI could make robots intelligent enough to be psychologists, politicians or poets, they’d still be missing something essential: consciousness, a key ingredient that mammals use together with intelligence to solve problems.

“There has so far been zero development in computer consciousness,” said Harari.

“Consciousness is not an organ or a metaphysical idea like the soul or the spirit,” he explained. “Consciousness is the direct subjective experience that is the most real thing for any human being – fear or love or pain or pleasure. The stream of such experiences is what we call the mind.”

Prof. Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Photo: courtesy

And while brain science has advanced, mind science remains a mystery.

Current scientific theory holds that the mind emerges from the brain, yet nobody knows “how billions of neurons firing in a particular pattern in the brain get translated into pain or fear or love” in the mind, said Harari.

“We have no idea how subjective experiences help the brain’s calculations. What is the mathematical contribution of feelings?” he asked. “Some scientists say it’s meaningless to talk about the mind and enough to talk about the brain. But … brain science can’t ignore mind science.”

Without simultaneously examining both we cannot understand, for example, the connection between the sensation of pain and the mental reaction of suffering. Someone can be in immense physical pain without suffering, or can suffer immensely from a minor pain.

New tools must be invented to explore the mind’s unknown horizon, Harari stated.

“You can’t observe the mind with the technology of today. You can only observe your own mind but not in a systematic or objective way,” he explained.

When people practice the ancient art of meditation with the aim of paying closer attention to the workings of the mind, they quickly discover “how stormy the mind is, how difficult it is to focus attention and control the thoughts that come into the mind,” said Harari, whose next book is entitled 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

Other topics addressed by international lecturers at the conference included ancient genes and human evolution, brain organization from cells to networks, the coexistence of humans with machine intelligence, computational properties of human neurons and human mental ability, brain bases for language and logic, biological and virtual brains, the human brain and perceptual awareness, and super intelligence.

For more information on the “What Makes Us Human: From Genes to Machine” conference, click here.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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Israel study paves way for women to skip difficulties of first pregnancies

A woman’s body learns from difficulties in a first pregnancy and adapts to try to avert such difficulties in subsequent pregnancies, Israeli researchers said.

The researchers, at Hadassah Medical Center and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, say their six-year study on the role of certain cells during a women’s pregnancy period may pave the way to develop new drugs to decrease complications in childbirth.

Their research on the “trained memory” of the “natural killer” cells that fight viruses and tumors, they said, found that the cells in charge of helping fetuses implant in the womb and avoid diseases such as preeclampsia or intrauterine growth retardation are more active during a second pregnancy, because they remember the first and are thus better trained to do their job the second time round.

“It is a known clinical fact that second pregnancies are more efficient than first,” Prof. Simcha Yagel, the head of the division of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hadassah Medical Center, who was on the research team, said in a phone interview with The Times of Israel. Fetuses generally implant better in a second pregnancy; the babies are born bigger and the pregnancy is less prone to diseases such as preeclampsia, a complication that raises blood pressure and causes other damage in the mother.

He said that the new study, published in the journal Immunity, provides a cellular and molecular explanation for this phenomenon.

“If we know why the second pregnancy is better than the first, then maybe we can do something to help women with high risk first pregnancies — like after in vitro fertilization or who are older,” based on this molecular research, he said.

Illustrative image of a baby holding hands (boonchai wedmakawand; iStock by Getty Images)

The study, which lasted more than six years and was based on hundreds of samples of mucous membranes, was led by Moriya Gamliel and conducted with Dr. Debra Goldman-Wohl, together with Prof. Ofer Mandelboim of the immunology and cancer research department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Yagel.

For their work, the researchers studied Natural Killer (NK) cells — these are cells that are present in the immune system of all of us, men and women, and that are in charge of fighting viruses and tumors.

However, there are also NK cells that are found in the lining of the uterus at the beginning of a pregnancy. These cells are not belligerent, said Gamliel. Rather, they have turned their “swords” into “shovels” and have become “shields,” whose role is to help with the development of the fetus, she said in a statement.

In a pregnancy, these NK cells have two missions, explained Yagel. Their primary role is to help build a successful implantation of the fetus, he said, with the secondary role being that of stopping viruses and other illnesses. Some 70 percent of the cells in the lining of the uterus are NK cells.

Illustrative image of an embryo (Zffoto; iStock by Getty Images)

Their role in the pregnancy is “very important,” he said. They likely originate from the bone marrow of the mother or are present in the endometrium of the uterus – and are triggered into operation at the start of a pregnancy, helping the fetus to survive.

The researchers set out to study if there are differences in the NK cells of first pregnancies versus second ones, and looks like they hit the jackpot. They found a “unique population” of NK cells that is unique to second and repeated pregnancies — which were characterized by a higher number of the receptors — NKG2C and LILRB1– they expressed. They called these cells the “Pregnancy Trained” NK cells.

“For many years researchers thought that NK cells didn’t have a memory,” said Yagel. “But our research found that they do have memory.” During the study, the researchers found that in each recurrent pregnancy — that is, not the first pregnancy but in subsequent ones — the NK cells remember the first pregnancy experience and improve their function the next time. There was no difference however between the performance of these cells between the second and subsequent pregnancies, Yagel said.

The NK cells in a second or third pregnancy remember the first pregnancy and are “better prepared” for the job, he said. They act faster and more effectively. They wait for the trigger “to produce the goodies needed for a successful pregnancy.” This memory remains both between pregnancies and during pregnancies, he said.

The first pregnancy “paves the way for the second one,” Yagel said. The findings are somewhat counterintuitive, he said, as one would expect the first pregnancy to get the best shot, paving the way for the others. It is still not clear “why nature, or God, built us in this way,” he wondered.

The key then, is to get through the first pregnancy, and others will be better.

This insight may help researchers find a way to “skip” the difficulties of the first pregnancy and help train the NK cells from the start, he said, paving the way for the development of new drugs to treat diseases of poor implantation.

Read the source article at The Times of Israel

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Rivlin has personal interest in Hebrew University celebration

Of the numerous ceremonies and receptions that President Reuven Rivlin hosts for an incredible number and variety of organizations and institutions in Israel and abroad, the one closest to his heart was arguably the meeting of the International Board of Governors of the Hebrew University, which this year is celebrating the centennial of the laying of its 14 corner stones on the barren hills of Mount Scopus.

Rivlin is not only a law graduate of the Hebrew University, but has an honorary doctorate from the university as well as a second-generation connection. His late father Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin began his academic career at the university in 1927, two years after it was officially opened – working initially as an assistant teacher, and moving through the ranks until he was finally appointed as a full professor.

Yossi Gal, the university’s Vice President for External Relations, declared on Tuesday that the Hebrew University has a tradition for innovation and a signature for excellence.

He then listed some of the achievements of its faculty and alumni, including their prize winnings: eight Nobel Prize laureates; 20 Wolf Prize laureates; 20 Emet laureates – including three more announced last week; 50 Rothschild Prize laureates; and 241 Israel Prize laureates – winning in every field in which the prize has been awarded.

Most of the prize winners who are still living were grouped together in the front rows of the reception that was held on the lawns of the presidential complex.

Acknowledging that their achievements were huge individual successes resulting from decades of hard work and creativity, Rivlin said that the Hebrew University was part of the support system from which their excellence grew. “We are proud of you and we are proud with you,” he said.

He also declared the Hebrew University to have been “a huge step” towards the creation of the State of Israel, and a leading partner in creating not only a better Israel, but a better world.

In the latter context, he listed many of the initiatives and discoveries of HU researchers which are helping agriculture, staving off hunger, enabling water management, curing disease and more.

“You are an impact for good,” he said.

He also credited the Hebrew University with turning Jerusalem into a university town like Cambridge and Oxford.

“Jerusalem is the crown of the Jewish people,” he said, “and the Hebrew University is the jewel in the crown.”

Rivlin noted that not only have he and his father been connected to the university, but that his wife Nechama had worked there in the university libraries for close to 40 years.

Read the source article at Jpost

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Hebrew University Researchers to Collaborate with GRAIL

June 12, 2018-Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced a strategic collaboration with GRAIL, Inc., a healthcare company whose mission is to detect cancer early, when it can be cured. Under the agreement, GRAIL will sponsor a research program led by Professor Yuval Dor of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine.

Professor Dor, working with Dr. Ruth Shemer, Dr. Tommy Kaplan, and Professor Benjamin Glaser from Hadassah Medical Center, is creating a method to determine the tissue origins of circulating DNA, using epigenetic “identity marks” from the DNA that are typical to each cell type, termed DNA methylation.

In the new partnership, GRAIL and the Hebrew University team will collaborate to generate methylation data from multiple cell types to understand how to interpret the source of blood-based signals.

Dr. Yaron Daniely, CEO and President of Yissum, welcomed the agreement. “We are excited to enter this collaboration with GRAIL, which underscores the promise of Professor Dor’s research at Hebrew University and supports our vision of bettering the lives of people around the world through collaborations between industry and academic organizations.”

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The man who just can’t stop inventing

Oded Shoseyov’s lackluster grades failed to get him into the undergraduate chemistry program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. So he audaciously persuaded a committee of professors to take a chance on him.

It was a good gamble: He would later become a professor of protein engineering and nano-biotechnology at the same university, and one of its most prolific inventors and serial entrepreneurs.

Shoseyov, now about to found the 12th company spun out of his research, has a knack for turning crazy concepts into commercially viable products such as printed meals, human collagen, transgenic eucalyptus trees for the paper industry, and a pooper-scooper that turns dog droppings into odorless powdered fertilizer.

“I wasn’t a particularly good student but I was always curious about science. As a kid, I had a chemistry and electronics lab and I built things with my brother,” Shoseyov tells ISRAEL21c from his lab at the Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Science and Genetics at Hebrew University’s Rehovot campus for agriculture, food and environment.

He is the eighth generation of his family in Rehovot, a city of 150,000 about 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. A major academic and biotech hub, Rehovot also has a rich farming tradition.

“My great-grandfather was one of the founders of Rehovot. What is now the main street, Rehov Herzl, was his vineyard,” Shoseyov relates. “We still own a vineyard of about 50 acres. Situated in the middle is a boutique winery, Bravdo, established about 19 years ago.”

Prof. Oded Shoseyov sampling a product of his Bravdo winery. Photo: courtesy

The name of the winery pays homage to its founding partner, Hebrew University Prof. Ben Ami Bravdo, a leading scientist of modern viticulture under whom Shoseyov studied for his PhD on the biochemistry of wine and grape flavor.

After a post-doc at the University of California at Davis in 1987 to 1990, Shoseyov accepted a position with Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture and founded its first protein-engineering lab.

Cellulose is everywhere

For the past 15 years, Shoseyov has focused on nano-biotech, especially nanocellulose.

This lightweight transparent nano-fiber is stronger than steel and has infinite potential as the basis for super-durable fabrics, shoes, touchscreens, packaging, paints, buildings, medical implants and much more. It’s derived from plant cellulose, a polysaccharide (sugar) that is the most abundant polymer on earth.

“Cellulose is everywhere,” says Shoseyov, whose first breakthrough back in 1993 was developing and cloning a protein that binds to cellulose in order to create composite materials.

At that point he was naively ready to publish a paper before patenting his invention. Luckily, he mentioned this during a casual lunch with George Aaron, cofounder of an Israeli-American pharmaceutical company for which Shoseyov had done some consulting.

Alarmed, Aaron put down his fork and phoned Yissum, Hebrew University’s tech-transfer company. He hastily arranged to get Shoseyov’s protein patented before the paper was published, gave the budding scientist $150,000 to do a proof of concept, promised him 4% equity in a commercial venture based on his invention, and asked Yissum to negotiate any licensing agreements.

“We didn’t even write the agreement on a napkin but they fulfilled it,” says Shoseyov.

CBD Technologies, the protein-engineering company founded in December 1993 as a result of that café conversation, merged with FuturaGene 13 years later and was sold for $100 million to Brazilian paper company Suzano in 2010. The R&D center remained in Rehovot Science Park.

Shoseyov’s technology accelerates the growth rate of transgenic eucalyptus trees used for making paper. (Transgenic plants are enhanced with DNA from other organisms.)

“It was the first commercial transgenic tree ever approved,” says Shoseyov.

“I realized it was one thing to do research and publish a paper but we can find ways to use the data for economic benefit. So I’ve done that now more than 10 times,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

Human collagen from tobacco, food from a printer

Another offshoot of his university laboratory is regenerative medicine company CollPlant.

Recombinant human collagen fibers extracted from Shoseyov’s proprietary transgenic tobacco plants are six times tougher than the body’s own tendons and ligaments.

CollPlant’s first two CE-approved products are for healing diabetic foot ulcers and treating tendinitis.

“We have now developed a bio-ink based on our collagen that is suitable for use in 3D printing, ”Shoseyov reports, and he has collaborations in place to develop 3D-printed human corneas, kidneys and lungs.

Meanwhile, Shoseyov is establishing his 12th company, Chef-it, with fellow Hebrew University Prof. Ido Braslavsky.

“It’s really a revolution,” says Shoseyov. “For the first time we can print the food and cook it at the same time.”

The Chef-it computerized platform enables 4D printing and cooking of personalized meals using ingredient cartridges including one containing calorie-free nanocellulose fiber as a self-assembling binder in place of starch, eggs, gluten or gelatin.

A wide variety of dishes can be baked, fried or grilled, and tailored according to taste preferences and dietary restrictions. Printed and cooked layer by layer, they can take virtually any form.

“You could make a plant-based burger with fries in the middle,” says Shoseyov. “I’m talking about things that are not possible with regular cooking methods.”

In about 18 months he hopes to have beta sites up and running in Israeli workplaces. Hospitals and restaurants may follow.

In the future, he envisions individual Chef-it users programming the machine to prepare food in time for the kids to come home from school. “You could use a smartphone app to send a print command to each of your children to order exactly what they want and need for their personal diet and taste,” he explains.

70 by 70

There’s no question those chemistry professors at Hebrew University are happy they accepted Oded Shoseyov in 1978. His first year of university, after his service in the artillery corps, Shoseyov made the dean’s list.

He has won several awards, authored or co-authored more than 180 scientific publications, invented or co-invented 50 patents, and was recently chosen by the Founders Studio for its “70 by 70” feature saluting outstanding Israelis.

In addition to overseeing the 20 graduate students in his lab, teaching classes and maintaining an active role in his businesses, Shoseyov enjoys running, mountain biking and singing in a quartet.

“My inspiration is Leonardo da Vinci, the most interdisciplinary scientist ever — a chemist and medical doctor, engineer and artist,” says Shoseyov, the father of a daughter and two sons from his first marriage and stepfather of two daughters with his present wife, Yaeli Pintchuk, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.

Other nanotech companies Shoseyov helped found are SP Nano, Melodea(nano-crystalline cellulose from paper sludge for structural foam, composites and adhesives), Valentis Nanotech (nano-bio-based transparent films for food packaging and agriculture), Paulee CleanTec (transforming pet and human waste into sterile powdered fertilizer), GemmaCert (fast cannabis plant analysis), Biobetter (producing therapeutic antibodies on tobacco plants), Cannabi-Tech (standardization tools for medical cannabis products) and BondX (environmentally friendly bio-additives for the paper industry).

He also serves on the boards of PlantArcBio and UBQ Materials.

Most of his firms’ offices are in Rehovot Science Park. At the two companies headquartered in the North, he delegates more of the responsibilities.

“I’m always ready to give my ideas up to other people because I have probably more than I can take care of myself. I believe if you really want to take something to the next step it’s important to collaborate with people from different disciplines,” Shoseyov says. “I’m lucky to work with very good people so it’s not all on my shoulders.”

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

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Sculpted head of mystery biblical king found in Israel

An enigmatic sculpture of a king’s head dating back nearly 3,000 years has set off a modern-day mystery caper as scholars try to figure out whose face it depicts.

The 5-centimeter (2-inch) sculpture is an exceedingly rare example of figurative art from the Holy Land during the 9th century B.C. — a period associated with biblical kings. Exquisitely preserved but for a bit of missing beard, nothing quite like it has been found before.

While scholars are certain the stern bearded figure wearing a golden crown represents royalty, they are less sure which king it symbolizes, or which kingdom he may have ruled.

Archaeologists unearthed the diminutive figurine in 2017 during excavations at a site called Abel Beth Maacah, located just south of Israel’s border with Lebanon, near the modern-day town of Metula.

Nineteenth-century archaeologists identified the site, then home to a village called Abil al-Qamh, with the similarly named city mentioned in the Book of Kings.

During the 9th century B.C., the ancient town was situated in a liminal zone between three regional powers: the Aramean kingdom based in Damascus to the east, the Phoenician city of Tyre to the west, and the Israelite kingdom, with its capital in Samaria to the south.

Kings 1 15:20 mentions Abel Beth Maacah in a list of cities attacked by the Aramean King Ben Hadad in a campaign against the Israelite kingdom.

“This location is very important because it suggests that the site may have shifted hands between these polities, more likely between Aram-Damascus and Israel,” said Hebrew University archaeologist Naama Yahalom-Mack, who has headed the joint dig with California’s Azusa Pacific University since 2013.

Yahalom-Mack’s team was digging through the floor of a massive Iron Age structure in the summer of 2017 when a volunteer who arrived for the day struck pay dirt. The layer where the head was found dates to the 9th century B.C., the epoch associated with the rival biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

In a rare move, archaeologists and curators at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem rushed to put the piece on public display. A detailed report is set for publication in the June edition of the journal Near Eastern Archaeology.

Eran Arie, the Israel Museum’s curator of Iron Age and Persian archaeology, said the discovery was one of a kind. “In the Iron Age, if there’s any figurative art, and there largely isn’t, it’s of very low quality. And this is of exquisite quality.”

The royal figurine is made of faience, a glass-like material that was popular in jewelry and small human and animal figurines in ancient Egypt and the Near East.

“The color of the face is greenish because of this copper tint that we have in the silicate paste,” Yahalom-Mack said. But a crucial clue for identifying it as a Near Eastern monarch was its “very interesting hairdo,” she said.

The bearded figure’s hair is pulled back in thick locks that cover the ears, and is held in place by a striped diadem of gold. Its hairstyle looks similar to the way ancient Egyptians depicted neighboring Near Eastern peoples in art.

“The guy kind of represents the generic way Semitic people are described,” she said.

Because Carbon-14 dating cannot give a more exact date for the statue’s creation other than sometime in the 9th century, the field of potential candidates is large. Yahalom-Mack posited it could be kings Ben Hadad or Hazael of Damascus, Ahab or Jehu of Israel, or Ithobaal of Tyre, all characters appearing in the biblical narrative.

“We’re only guessing here, it’s like a game,” she said. “It’s like a hello from the past, but we don’t know anything else about it.”

As scholars debate whether the head was a stand-alone piece or part of a larger statue, the Hebrew University team is set to restart digging this month at the spot where the mystery king’s head was found.

Read the source article at abcnews.go.com

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Hebrew University Included in top 100 of Times Higher Education ranking

The UK magazine Times Higher Education, which publishes an annual ranking of global universities, has placed Hebrew University of Jerusalem among the top 100 most powerful global university brands. This marks the first time since 2014 that an Israeli university has been included in this list, the university said in a statement.

The World Reputation Rankings 2018 surveyed more than 10,000 leading academics from 137 countries, the statement said. They were asked to name 15 universities that are the best for research and teaching, based on their own experience. Hebrew University is the only Israeli university listed in this year’s rankings.

The rating lists The Hebrew University in the 91-100 band, together withBoston University, University of Copenhagen, France’s Ecole Polytechnique, the University of Helsinki and the India Institute of Science, among others. This is the first time India has snagged a spot on the list since 2011, Times Higher Education said.

“To be judged among the Top 100 most powerful university brands is a great source of pride for everyone at Hebrew University and for Israel as a whole,” said Hebrew University’s president Asher Cohen in the statement.

“Success in our field is never an accident,” he added, it is “achieved by a relentless pursuit of excellence, creativity and a deep commitment to our enduring values.”

US universities this year continued to dominate the table, with Harvard University taking the top spot for the eighth consecutive year, and 43 other US institutions finding places in the top 100. MIT- Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University were ranked second and third, respectively, followed by University of Cambridge and University of Oxford, which ranked fourth and fifth. The University of California, Los Angeles, is among the top 10 for the first time since 2014, ranking a joint ninth together with the University of Chicago.

UK universities claimed nine places, down from 10 last year; Australia had three institutions among the top 100, and Germany had six.

Read the source article at The Times of Israel

News

Beautiful New Stalactite Cave Discovered During Work for New Water Pipeline to Jerusalem

A previously unknown stalactite cave was discovered this week deep underground in the Jerusalem Hills, thanks to the digging of a fifth water pipeline to Jerusalem and some luck.

The karstic cavern contains hundreds of limestone stalagmites and stalagmites in all sorts of forms. Based on the humidity and amount of water inside, the cave is apparently still active: The stalactites are continuing to grow, one drop at a time.

The complex of stalactite caves serendipitously found during this tunnel project has gummed up the works before.

Inside the cave on Thursday. Emil Salman

The pipeline project, the largest water project underway in Israel at this time, includes excavating a 13-kilometer tunnel below the Jerusalem Hills, between Moshav Kisalon and the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. The first cave was discovered after as the tunnel work began, about a year ago.

The work on the pipeline had to be held up until the cave could be sealed with concrete. They then continued, but on Sunday the tunnel-boring machine broke into an open space, partly filled with water, and had to be shut down as water poured into the drill-head.

The newly discovered cave is 3.5 kilometers from the start of the tunnel, and about 280 meters below the surface. It is not small, about 14 meters long and some 2,000 square meters in size, and is likely to hold up further boring into the rock by at least a month and a half. The original schedule had the tunneling machine reaching Ein Karem next year.

Most of the cave will be sealed with concrete. Emil Salman

The project is being carried out by the Mekorot national water company, which called in experts from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Cave Research Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

However evocative and beautiful some of the formations in this cave may be, given the circumstances it will not be made accessible to the public. Most of the cavern will be filled with concrete so the tunneling can continue.

The public can take comfort in the many other stalactite caves found in the chalky Jerusalem Hills, including the vast and multiply-named Avshalom Cave/ Soreq Cave/Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve near Beit Shemesh, which were also found by chance during development work in 1968.

The limestone cavern on Thursday. It will not be open to the public. Emil Salman

 

Read the source article at Haaretz

News

Startup Says It’s First to Copy Spider’s Silk Spinning Process

As territorial and cannibalistic creatures, spiders have defied our attempts to domesticate them for the purpose of harvesting their silk. But because a strand of spider silk is as much as six times stronger than steel and five times lighter, scientists have long searched for ways to replicate or mimic the production of this natural protein fiber.

Trying to imagine all the possible real-world applications of readily produced spider silk can lead to fantastical ideas. It turns out, some scientists calculated a few years ago, that Spider-Man’s famous feat of stopping a runaway subway train with spider webs is not as far-fetched as it seems.

In the quest for synthetic spider silk, humans have produced remarkable new materials. But at each milestone, the copycat fiber has had at least one major deficiency. Real spider silk is not only strong, unbelievably elastic, and able to withstand extreme temperature, it is also biodegradable and biocompatible, a fact that’s especially important for medical applications.

Advances in genetic engineering have allowed scientists to produce spider silk proteins using base materials like plants, yeast, or goat milk. But these biopolymers, however close to the original, are just building blocks. The truly hard part is spinning the silk proteins into fibers the way spiders do. Academic and corporate researchers have managed to force the proteins to bind using chemical processes.

A spider silk startup in Jerusalem called Seevix Material Sciences Ltd. says that for all progress made in the field in recent years, it alone has replicated the process of creating spider silk.

Chemical inducement yields degraded fiber, Seevix’s CEO Shlomzion Shen said in an interview with Calcalist. Seevix has developed a way to make the silk proteins “spontaneously self-assemble,” Ms. Shen said. “It is a biomimetic approach in which we copy what nature is doing.”

Ms. Shen declined to provide additional details on the technological innovation citing the need to protect trade secrets. But she said that the breakthrough is the result of 10 years of research conducted at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University by her chief technology officer Shmulik Ittah.

Seevix’s fibers are a tenth of a millimeter long and 100 nanometers in diameter, she said. The dimensions and the properties are “the same as the individual fibers that are bundled together to make spider webs.”

The three-year-old startup is experimenting with different applications, adding the tiny fibers to nylon, rubber and other substances to create new and superior composites.

Heroic slinging from Spider-Man notwithstanding, the most immediate use for Seevix’s synthetic spider silk is in medicine, specifically in tissue engineering and cell growth.

The company’s first commercial product, called SVXgro, can be used as a scaffolding for cells and tissues in the process of regeneration. A company in Japan, Kurabo Industries Ltd., signed an agreement in March to market and sell SVXgro to pharmaceutical firms and research institutions working in this field of medicine.

The product has yet to receive regulatory approval for use in treatment.

Ms. Shen said the financial terms of the deal are confidential, adding that Seevix has formed “partnerships with several large companies across many industries.”

With a price of $300 for one milligram of fiber, Seevix’s proposition is “very profitable,” Ms. Shen said. The startup has raised around $7 million to date, mostly from private investors, according to Ms. Shen.

Read the source article at calcalistech.com

News

High Exposure: Canon Inc. Acquires Briefcam

May 9, 2018 – Today, the Japanese giant, Canon Inc., announced its acquisition of BriefCam, the industry’s leading provider of Video Synopsis® solutions, which is based on technology developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The acquisition demonstrates the dynamism of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s research and innovation and comes on the heels of other high-profile startup exits whose technologies were based on research conducted at Hebrew University and licensed through its technology transfer company, Yissum.

BriefCam turns video surveillance into actionable intelligence and dramatically shortens the time-to-target for security threats while increasing safety and optimizing operations. Its remarkable technology was developed by co-founder and Chief Scientist, Professor Shmuel Peleg, from the Hebrew University’s School of Computer Science and Engineering.

President of the Hebrew University, Professor Asher Cohen said, “We are happy and excited to be a home for talented and trailblazing researchers. This is just another example of how science and academia are creating initiatives that make our world a better and safer place.”

“With the acquisition of BriefCam we are once again witnessing the incredible global and commercial value of the cutting-edge research at the Hebrew University,” said Dr. Yaron Daniely, President and CEO of Yissum.   “We are proud to be the bridge between the researchers and industry that facilitates innovation to reach and succeed in the marketplace.”

BriefCam has been deployed by law enforcement and companies around the world. In 2013, BriefCam played an integral role in capturing the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombings. Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, offered his gratitude to BriefCam in a letter noting, “BriefCam played an important role in helping law enforcement officers identify and ultimately locate the suspected terrorists. In the days following the Boston Marathon bombings, thousands of photographs and videos, many taken with cell phones, were provided to law enforcement officers. Utilizing software developed by BriefCam, law enforcement officers and investigators were able to quickly review the photographs and videos and locate images of the two suspected terrorists. Undoubtedly, your company and its analytical product greatly facilitated the relatively speedy capture of one terrorist and the death of the other.”

For decades Hebrew University has been a leader in scientific innovation with its technologies gaining worldwide acclaim. Last year, Mobileye, the global leader in the development of vision technology for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving, was acquired by Intel for $15 billion in the largest exit of an Israeli company to date. Earlier this year, OrCam, which harnesses the power of artificial vision by incorporating pioneering technology into a wearable platform to improve the lives of individuals who are blind, visually impaired, and have reading difficulties, was valued at $1 billion. These are some of the most visible examples of the innovation taking place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and they illustrate the Hebrew University’s unparalleled role in creating, fostering and advancing the Start-Up revolution in Israel.

 

News

Hebrew University’s Yissum launches ag-tech accelerator

Yissum Technology Transfer Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in collaboration with its seed investment fund AgrInnovation, today announced the launch of HUGrow, a new food and ag-tech accelerator. The accelerator will focus on emerging technologies based on research conducted at Hebrew University.

HUGrow is the third acceleration track of HUstart, the Hebrew University’s Entrepreneurship Center. Eight projects were selected to participate in the accelerator’s first cohort, four of which are general ag-tech and four of which are water and food-tech oriented. The announcement comes as the AgriVest conference, an initiative of The Trendlines Group, GreenSoil Investments, and Israel New Tech, is underway in Tel Aviv. Yissum and AgrInnovation are among the sponsors of the conference, which showcases Israeli ag-tech and food-tech.

Yissum president Dr. Yaron Daniely said, “HUGrow equips entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and tools to seek investments for their early stage innovations.”

The two-stage program includes three months of weekly meetings offering top-level entrepreneurial training from a successful and professional team of lecturers, mentors, and business leaders. During this period, entrepreneurs will also develop a detailed work plan to cover any critical gaps in the technology, followed by up to six additional months of development work.

Daniely added, “A proof of concept transforms early-stage technologies into great investment targets for incubators, investors, and corporations. HUGrow will leverage the unparalleled experience, expertise and infrastructure of Hebrew University to transition these technologies into fundable assets.” “We aim to provide our entrepreneurs with the expert advice and mentoring that can transform their ideas into marketable early stage innovations and encourage experienced entrepreneurs and corporate partners to join this exciting initiative.”

Read the source article at globes.co.il

News

Hidden Text Found on ‘Blank’ Dead Sea Scrolls

Previously hidden text on fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls is now readable, revealing a possible undiscovered scroll and solving a debate about the sacred Temple Scroll. The discoveries came from a new infrared analysis of the artifacts, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced yesterday (May 1).

The newfound writing came from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, which are in the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible), and the Book of Jubilees, a text written at the same time as the Hebrew Bible that was never incorporated into the biblical books, the archaeologists said.

Researchers presented the newly revealed words at an international conference, called “The Dead Sea Scrolls at Seventy: Clear a Path in the Wilderness,” in Israel. [Gallery of Dead Sea Scrolls: A Glimpse of the Past]

Local Bedouins and archaeologists discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s in caves near Qumran in the West Bank, located near the northern edge of the Dead Sea. Excavations in the following decades turned up tens of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments that were dated to 2,000 years ago, the IAA said.

Researchers work to conserve the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority's lab.
Researchers work to conserve the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s lab. Credit: Israel Antiquity Authority

There were so many small and fragile fragments that archaeologists placed them in boxes to be studied at a later date. Now, that time has come: IAA researchers are digitizing the scrolls so that they can be studied and shared with the public without damaging the originals.

During one of these digital scans, Oren Ableman, a scroll researcher at the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Unit and a doctoral student in the Department of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noticed something peculiar on a few dozen fragments that had been discovered in Cave 11 near Qumran.

These fragments looked blank to the naked eye. But, by using infrared imaging, Ableman discovered that they held Hebrew letters and words, he said in a statement. Ableman then deciphered the script and even connected the fragments to the manuscripts that they had likely been attached to before crumbling away.

A fragment of Deuteronomy (right) next to the same fragment seen with infrared imagery (left).
A fragment of Deuteronomy (right) next to the same fragment seen with infrared imagery (left). Credit: Israel Antiquity Authority

Some of the more interesting fragments include the following:

-A fragment from the Temple Scroll, a text that gives instructions for how to conduct services in the ideal temple. Scholars have debated whether there are two or three copies of the Temple Scroll from Cave 11. The discovery of the text on this fragment suggests that there are, indeed, three copies.

-A fragment from the Great Psalms Scroll. This fragment contains part of the beginning of Psalm 147:1, and the end of the verse is preserved in a larger fragment from the same cave. The newfound fragment shows that the ancient Psalm is slightly shorter than the Hebrew text used nowadays.

-Another fragment has letters written in paleo-Hebrew, an ancient Hebrew script. This fragment could not be attributed to any known manuscripts and could belong to an unknown manuscript.

The Great Psalms Scroll seen next to the newfound fragment containing Psalm 147:1.
The Great Psalms Scroll seen next to the newfound fragment containing Psalm 147:1. Credit: Shai Halevi/The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

 

Read the source article at Live Science

News

Lab-grown meat co FutureMeat Technologies raises $2.2m

The Israeli company is developing a distributive manufacturing platform for the cost-efficient, non-GMO production of meat directly from animal cells.

Jerusalem-based biotechnology lab-grown meat company Future Meat Technologies has announced a $2.2 million seed investment round co-led by Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods. Tyson Foods is a Fortune 100 company, and one of the world’s largest food producers. Future Meat Technologies is developing a distributive manufacturing platform for the cost-efficient, non-GMO production of meat directly from animal cells, without the need to raise or harvest animals.

In addition to Tyson Ventures, the Neto Group, one of the largest food conglomerates in Israel, S2G Ventures, a Chicago-based venture capital fund, BitsXBites, China’s first food technology venture capital fund, and Agrinnovation, an Israeli investment fund founded by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of The Hebrew University, participated in this round. New York-based HB Ventures also joined the round.

Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies focuses on developing a new generation of manufacturing technology that enables the cost-efficient production of fat and muscle cells, the core building blocks of meat.

Future Meat Technologies expects to use the funds to establish its engineering activities and increase its biological research. The company is currently recruiting engineers, chefs and scientists.

“It is difficult to imagine cultured meat becoming a reality with a current production price of about $10,000 per kilogram,” said Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, the company’s founder and Chief Scientist. “We redesigned the manufacturing process until we brought it down to $800 per kilogram today, with a clear roadmap to $5-10 per kg by 2020.”

Tyson Foods EVP Corporate Strategy and Chief Sustainability Officer Justin Whitmore said, “This is our first investment in an Israel-based company and we’re excited about this opportunity to broaden our exposure to innovative, new ways of producing protein. We continue to invest significantly in our traditional meat business but also believe in exploring additional opportunities for growth that give consumers more choices.”

Animal fat produces the unique aroma and flavor of meat that “makes our mouth water,” noted Nahmias, and Future Meat Technologies is now the only company that can produce this fat, without harvesting animals and without any genetic modification. “I want my children to eat meat that is delicious, sustainable and safe,” said Nahmias. “This is our commitment to future generations.”

Future Meat Technologies CEO Rom Kshuk said, “Global demand for protein and meat is growing at a rapid pace, with an estimated worldwide market of more than a trillion dollars, including explosive growth in China. We believe that making a healthy, non-GMO product that can meet this demand is an essential part of our mission Cultured meat production may also be eco-friendlier than traditional meat production. “We want to feed the world while protecting the environment.”

Future Meat’s technology is based on Prof. Yaakov Nahmias’ research at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is licensed through Yissum. Dr. Yaron Daniely, President and CEO of Yissum, noted that Israel is a leader in cultured meat technologies. “Hebrew University, home to Israel’s only Faculty of Agriculture, specializes in incubating applied research in such fields as animal-free meat sources. Future Meat Technologies’ innovations are revolutionizing the sector and leading the way in creating sustainable alternative protein sources.”

Read the source article at globes.co.il

News

The Goal: Printing the Perfect Burger from Cellulose

Israeli food tech company Chef-it is about 18-24 months away from disrupting the fast food burger industry, according to Oded Shoseyov, Chef-it’s co-founder. The startup’s secret weapon: cellulose.

Chef-it is developing a machine that can instantly “print” a juicy burger from a cartridge containing plant-based proteins, fats, and flavor components and the aforementioned cellulose, a common fiber that can be manipulated into a variety of textures, including that of beef muscle and fat. Chef-it’s technology uses infrared light to simultaneously cook the food as it prints.

Oded Shoseyov. Photo: Tal Azoulay
Oded Shoseyov. Photo: Tal Azoulay

According to Mr. Shoseyov, a professor of plant molecular biology, protein engineering and nano-biotechnology at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Chef-it can imitate the flavor effect of different cooking styles, such as grilling, baking, and frying.

A prototype of this machine, located at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment in Rehovot, in central Israel, currently takes 10 minutes to print a single burger, Mr. Shoseyov told Calcalist in an interview Tuesday. Chef-it’s team is hard at work bringing the printing time down to three minutes, he added.

The company’s first target markets include coworking spaces, offices, and food trucks, Mr. Shoseyov said. The company successfully printed its first burger six months ago and is expecting to hit the market within two years.

A fast and convincing alternative to meat, Chef-It is setting out to deliver products that are environmentally-friendly and potentially healthier than traditional processed foods. Cellulose, Mr. Shoseyov says, has a zero glycemic and caloric value.

Along with Scientific co-founder Ido Braslavski, Mr. Shoseyov began the research behind Chef-It’s technology in 2013. In 2016, the company received a $282,000 (NIS 1 million) grant from Israel’s government innovation investment arm. Currently employing a team of eight, the company is in the process of raising a $2 million funding round, which Mr. Shoseyov said is expected to complete within two months.

The global meat industry is ripe for disruption, being one of the world’s biggest polluters, generating as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the world’s cars, trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes combined, and using 30% of all land and over 25% of all freshwater on Earth, Mr. Shoseyov said Monday speaking at a Food and Tech conference. The conference was hosted by Calcalist, and by Israel’s Bank Leumi at Labs TLV, a co-working and events space in central Tel Aviv.

By using cellulose as a malleable binder, Chef-It could potentially print every type of food known to men, and even invent new foods, Mr. Shoseyov said.

As a first target, the company set out to print the perfect its burger. By utilizing adjustable infrared cooking levels the company hopes it can get it just right.

“We are a few months away from delivering a burger that is indistinguishable from the real thing,” Mr. Shoseyov said.

Read the source article at calcalistech.com

News

Prolonged acetaminophen use during pregnancy linked to increased ASD and ADHD risk

April 24, 2018 – A study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sheds new light on the possible relationship between prolonged use of acetaminophen (paracetamol) during pregnancy and the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood.

Acetaminophen is one of the most common medications used for the treatment of pain and fever reduction during pregnancy and is considered safe in humans. However, evidence of neuro-disruptive properties is accumulating: past studies have shown that long-term administration of low doses of acetaminophen may affect the development of the fetal nervous system and that this effect is often seen years after exposure during childhood.

Now, researchers led by Dr. Ilan Matok at the Institute for Drug Research in the School of Pharmacy at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, together with doctoral student Reem Masarwa, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the possible association between prolonged exposure to acetaminophen during pregnancy and the risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

The analysis, which appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows that prolonged exposure to acetaminophen during pregnancy is associated with a 30% increase in relative risk for ADHD (compared to those who did not take acetaminophen during pregnancy) and a 20% increase in relative risk for ASD.

This is the first meta-analysis and the most comprehensive study ever conducted on the possible association between prolonged use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The research data covered 132,738 mother and child pairs with a follow-up period of 3-11 years.

Given the significant limitations of existing studies, the researchers believe the results should be interpreted with caution, as they may cause unnecessary anxiety among pregnant women. It is important to understand that pain and fever during pregnancy can have a detrimental effect on the developing fetus and that acetaminophen is still considered a safe drug for use during pregnancy. Therefore, if a pregnant woman has fever and/or pain, acetaminophen can be taken for a short period, and if the fever or pain continue beyond that, she should consult her physician regarding further treatment

Dr. Amichai Perlman and Dr. Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center participated in the research.

“Our study provides the first comprehensive overview of developmental outcomes following prolonged acetaminophen use during pregnancy,” said Dr. Ilan Matok, Head of the Pharmacoepidemiology Research Lab, Institute for Drug Research, School of Pharmacy, Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine. “Our findings suggest an association between prolonged acetaminophen use and an increase in the risk of autism and ADHD. However, the observed increase in risk was small, and the existing studies have significant limitations. While the unnecessary use of any medication should be avoided in pregnancy, we believe our findings should not alter current practice and women should not avoid use of short-term acetaminophen when clinically needed.”

CITATION: Prenatal Exposure to Acetaminophen and Risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Meta-Regression Analysis of Cohort Studies. Reem Masarwa, Hagai Levine, Einat Gorelik; Shimon Reif, Amichai Perlman, Ilan Matok. American Journal of Epidemiology, DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwy086.

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Scientists chart a new map of human genome using stem cells

April 22, 2018 – Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem generated an atlas of the human genome using a state-of-the-art gene editing technology and human embryonic stem cells, illuminating the roles that our genes play in health and disease. The scientists reported their findings in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

Embryonic stem cells are a unique resource as they can turn into any adult cell in our bodies. Their versatile nature puts them at the center of attention in the fields of regenerative medicine, disease modeling, and drug discovery. In parallel to the discovery of human embryonic stem cells, another milestone in biology was completed with the sequencing of the human genome, and the identification of the entire set of genes responsible for our genetic identity. This finding has led to a new challenge of understanding the function of the genes in the human genome. Now, the new study by scientists at the Hebrew University provides a novel tool to map the function of all human genes using human embryonic stem cells.

The researchers analyzed virtually all human genes in the human genome by generating more than 180,000 distinct mutations. To produce such a vast array of mutations, they combined a sophisticated gene-editing technology (CRISPR–Cas9 screening) with a new type of embryonic stem cells that were recently isolated by the same research group. This new type of stem cells harbors only a single copy of the human genome, instead of two copies from the mother and father, making gene editing easier thanks to the need of mutating only one copy for each gene (see: Scientists generate a new type of human stem cell that has half a genome, March 17, 2016).

A colony of haploid human embryonic stem cells

The researchers show that a mere 9% of all the genes in the human genome are essential for the growth and survival of human embryonic stem cells, whereas 5% of them actually limit the growth of these cells. They could also analyze the role of genes responsible for all hereditary disorders in early human development and growth. Furthermore, they showed how cancer-causing genes could affect the growth of the human embryo.

 

“This gene atlas enables a new functional view on how we study the human genome and provides a tool that will change the fashion by which we analyze and treat cancer and genetic disorders,” said Professor Nissim Benvenisty, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Azrieli Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research and the Herbert Cohn Chair in Cancer Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the senior author of the study.

Another key finding of the study was the identification of a small group of genes that are uniquely essential for the survival of human embryonic stem cells but not to other cell types. These genes are thought to maintain the identity of embryonic stem cells and prevent them from becoming cancerous or turning into adult cell types.

“This study creates a new framework for the understanding of what it means to be an embryonic stem cell at the genetic level,” said Dr. Atilgan Yilmaz, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow and a lead author on the paper. “The more complete a picture we have of the nature of these cells, the better chances we have for successful therapies in the clinic.”

The paper is titled Defining essential genes for human pluripotent stem cells by CRISPR-Cas9 screening in haploid cells and published in Nature Cell Biology. The research was led by Nissim Benvenisty, MD, Ph.D., Atilgan Yilmaz, Ph.D. and Motti Peretz, the Azrieli Center for Stem Cells and Genetic Research, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Additional authors include Aviram Aharony and Ido Sagi also of the Hebrew University. The research was supported by Israel Science Foundation, US-Israel Binational Science Foundation and most generously by the Azrieli Foundation.

CITATION: Defining essential genes for human pluripotent stem cells by CRISPR–Cas9 screening in haploid cells. Atilgan Yilmaz, Mordecai Peretz, Aviram Aharony, Ido Sagi, and Nissim Benvenisty. Nature Cell Biology (2018), doi:10.1038/s41556-018-0088-1.

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