Agriculture

      News

      Cocktails with Cleopatra: Israeli Scientists Resurrect Yeast from Ancient Beer Jugs to Recreate 5,000-Year-Old Brew

      What kind of beer did Pharaoh drink? In ancient times, beer was an important ingredient in people’s daily diet. Great powers were attributed to beer in the ancient world, particularly for religious worship and healing properties. The pottery used to produce beer in antiquity served as the basis for this new research. The research was led by Dr. Ronen Hazan and Dr. Michael Klutstein, microbiologists from the School of Dental Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU). They examined the colonies of yeast that formed and settled in the pottery’s nano-pores. Ultimately, they were able to resurrect this yeast to create a high-quality beer…that’s approximately 5,000 years old.

      Many cooks were invited into this beer kitchen to isolate the yeast specimens from the ancient debris and to create a beer with it. First, the scientists reached out to vintners at Kadma Winery. This winery still produces wine in clay vessels, proving that yeast may be safely removed from pottery, even if it had lain dormant in the sun for years.

      Beer cruse from Tel Tzafit/Gath archaeological digs, from which Philistine beer was produced. Photography: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

      The yeast was then photographed by Dr. Tziona Ben-Gedalya at the Eastern R&D Center of Ariel University. Following her initial examination, the team reached out to archaeologists Dr. Yitzhak Paz from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAI), Professor Aren Maeir at Bar Ilan University, and Professors Yuval Gadot and Oded Lipschits from Tel Aviv University. These archaeologists gave them shards of pottery that had been used as beer and mead (honey wine) jugs back in ancient times—and miraculously, still had yeast specimens stuck inside. These jars date back to the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Narmer (roughly 3000 BCE), to Aramean King Hazael (800 BCE), and to Prophet Nehemiah (400 BCE) who, according to the bible, governed Judea under Persian rule.

      The researchers, with the help of HU student Tzemach Aouizerat, cleaned and sequenced the full genome of each yeast specimen and turned them over to Dr. Amir Szitenberg at the Dead Sea-Arava Science Center for analysis. Szitenberg found that these 5,000-year yeast cultures are similar to those used in traditional African brews, such as the Ethiopian honey wine tej, and to modern beer yeast.

      Now it was time to recreate the ancient brew. Local Israeli beer expert Itai Gutman helped the scientists make the beer and the brew was sampled by Ariel University’s Dr. Elyashiv Drori, as well as by certified tasters from the International Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), under the direction of brewer and Biratenu owner Shmuel Nakai. The testers gave the beer a thumbs up, deeming it high-quality and safe for consumption.

      Dr. Ronen Hazan, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine: “The greatest wonder here is that the yeast colonies survived within the vessel for thousands of years—just waiting to be excavated and grown. This ancient yeast allowed us to create beer that lets us know what ancient Philistine and Egyptian beer tasted like. By the way, the beer isn’t bad. Aside from the gimmick of drinking beer from the time of King Pharaoh, this research is extremely important to the field of experimental archaeology—a field that seeks to reconstruct the past. Our research offers new tools to examine ancient methods, and enables us to taste the flavors of the past.”

      Dr. Yitzchak Paz, Israel Antiquities Authority: “We are talking about a real breakthrough here. This is the first time we succeeded in producing ancient alcohol from ancient yeast. In other words, from the original substances from which alcohol was produced. This has never been done before.”

      Prof. Yuval Gadot, Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures: “We dug at Ramat Rachel, the largest Persian site in the Judaean kingdom, and found a large concentration of jugs with the letters J, H, D – Yahud – written on them. In a royal site like Ramat Rachel it makes sense that alcohol would be consumed at the home of the Persian governor.”

      Prof. Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology: “These findings paint a portrait that supports the biblical image of drunken Philistines.”

      News

      Why winemakers from around the world are turning to Israel

      Nana Winery
      Israel’s Nana Winery has created their own blend.

      Drive three hours south of Jerusalem towards the southern tip of Israel – between ancient stone terraces and barren golden hills – and a surprising sight rises above the horizon: a lush wine vineyard spanning dozens of acres. The pastoral carpet of green stands out amidst the sandy surroundings.

      The Nana Estate Winery is just one of approximately 250 wineries that have, quite literally, cropped up in Israel in recent decades. Together, they’ve turned the small Mediterranean country into not only a wine lover’s paradise, but also a haven for viticulture experts.

      Which brings us to Zohar Kerem. The 57-year-old heads up Hebrew University’s master’s program in winemaking. To earn the degree, students spend 20 months taking classes in everything from agricultural studies to business management. It’s all capped off with an excursion to the University of Bordeaux in France where they get firsthand experience in one of winemaking’s most storied regions.

      On the day we catch up with him, Kerem finds himself in San Francisco – part of a five-city U.S. tour to promote the program and recruit new students. Apparently, talking about wine at 9 AM is nothing new for the professor. Especially one whose last name is the Hebrew word for vineyard. “It was my destiny. It was written in my cards,” he laughs, clarifying that, “I didn’t change my name in order to become a wine researcher.”

      Kerem, who grew up in the fertile plains of Israel’s Jezreel Valley, began his career as a chemist before pivoting to food science. Like the wine he studies, his research is bold and complex: One day he may be looking into the health benefits of drinking wine, while on another he’s focused on how Israel’s unique climate can serve as a laboratory for liquor. It’s the latter that has him particularly jazzed today.

      Visitors attend a wine-tasting session amongst the barrels at the Yarden Vintage 2010 International Wine and Gourmet Festival in Israel.
      Visitors attend a wine tasting session among the barrels at the Yarden Vintage 2010 International Wine and Gourmet Festival in Israel. (Photo: David Silverman / Getty Images)

       

      “In Israel, you can experience many different climate regions within a radius of 200 miles,” he tells From The Grapevine. “You can see climates that are ranging from very cold to very warm, from very dry to very humid, soils that are basalt and lime and gravel. You can see all of this in close proximity.”

      Having all of that at your fingertips allows Israeli vintners to experiment, to see how different varietals perform in specific climates. That type of research is of particular importance in recent years as hotter temperatures are making extreme weather more frequent. “It’s not only warmer temperatures, but it’s the distribution of rain days,” Kerem explains. “So now we may have a few strong storm days, and then a long time with no rain at all.”

      Galilee vineyards
      The rolling vineyards in northern Israel provide a cooler climate for grapes to grow. (Photo: Noam Armonn / Shutterstock)

       

      Climate change is impacting the world’s leading winemaking countries – like France and Italy – and they are increasingly turning to Israel as a resource for how to better grow grapes in such arid temperatures. Drip irrigation techniques, which were modernized in Israel more than half a century ago, are continuously being refined. WiFi-connected drones now fly over vineyards to study every single water drip in the process, allowing winemakers the ability to irrigate specific vines. Several Israeli startups are focusing on other agricultural and fertilization technologies.

      What’s more, Kerem and his colleagues are researching the archaeology of Israeli wine, which dates back for centuries. As an example, he points to an epidemic called the “phylloxera plague” which destroyed most of the grape vineyards in Europe more than 150 years ago. New roots had to be shipped in from America to graft with the European vines to help them grow again. Meanwhile, many of the vines in Israel proved resistant to the disease.

      Studying why could lead to the introduction of new varietals of wine, if not new flavors entirely. A pinot grown in one country will taste different when grown in other conditions. “There are varietals that are known to work well in different geographical regions, and we try to introduce them to different climate zones in Israel and see how they perform there,” Kerem explains.

      Zohar Kerem teaches Israel's only accredited winemaking class.
      Zohar Kerem teaches Israel’s only accredited winemaking class. (Photo: Courtesy Hebrew University)

       

      The master’s students he oversees are each given their own row to tend to in a vineyard in Israel. “It’s a scientific experiment, which we then harvest and try to see what are the differences,” Kerem says. With 20 rows of cabernet, for example, they can try different levels of irrigation to see which produces the best wine. As all the classes are taught in English, many of the students come from outside of Israel. The hope is that upon completing the program, they return to their home countries and take what they learned from Israeli winemaking to the wider industry.

      Varietals from Israel are already competing with the likes of wine from Napa and France in international competitions, which makes it an exciting time for wine enthusiasts. “I wasn’t born with a glass in my hand,” says Kerem, who admits to catching up by trying a new wine every week.

      When asked if he prefers a cabernet over a chardonnay, a merlot versus a zinfandel, Kerem pauses for a moment. He swirls the question around as if tasting something new. “I think my favorite wine is the wine that raises discussion, the wine that lets you just enjoy and relax and think about the wine. Wine that has something in it that makes me daydream for a second – this will be the wine that I’m interested in.”

      Read the source article at From the Grapevine

      Spotlights

      From Vineyard to Bottle-Hebrew University’s Master’s in Viticulture and Enology

      At the heart of every exhilarating wine are years of knowledge, experience, and hard work. The key to creating your next bottle of wine will be your true passion for knowing and understanding soil, climate and local conditions, and your readiness to spend many long days in cultivating it. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment’s new academic program is designed to impart this knowledge comprehensively and in depth, from the vineyard to the bottle.

      The first of its kind in Israel, this program is intended for wine connoisseurs, newcomers and those already working in the industry; for a new generation of skilled wine professionals who desire to take their place among the world’s experts.

      The program spans four consecutive semesters and is comprised of theoretical studies on campus and practical hands-on learning in the vineyard and winery. Students will be able to participate in a professional workshop abroad and at the end of the program, they will be given the opportunity to intern at a commercial winery in Israel or abroad. The program will focus on thorough training in the fundamental sciences and comprehension of all the different processes related to grape production and winemaking.

      Students who successfully fulfill the program requirements will earn a Master of Science degree in Viticulture and Enology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Graduates may participate in a practical internship in a commercial winery in Israel or abroad for a span of 140 hours, at the end of which they will submit a summary report. The internship grants a specialization diploma in
      enology.

      News

      Putting the squeeze on fruit-juice sugars

      Once upon a time, Israel’s most famous export was Jaffa oranges. Fast-forward a good few years, and Israel’s turned into something much juicier – Startup Nation. Now, in a delicious twist of innovation, these two opposite ends of the country’s claim to fame are coming together to produce a much healthier spin on our all-time favorite.

      It’s an unfortunate truth that while orange juice is full of vitamins and minerals, it’s also packed with sugar – one serving contains almost 1 ounce of the stuff. Plus, the juicing process leaves the juice devoid of the natural fiber found in the whole fruit, so that healthy-feeling glass of OJ isn’t actually all that good for us.

      This is the problem the Better Juice startup wanted to solve. The four-person, Ashdod-based enterprise collaborated with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to develop an innovative technology that reduces the load of simple sugars in 100% orange juice without taking away the all-orangey taste of the drink.

      “Fruit juice is well-known for its healthy ingredients, like vitamins, but people reduce their consumption due to its high sugar content, says Eran Blachinsky, Better Juice’s founder and CEO.

      “Physicians and dieticians recommend taking vitamin pills instead of juice, since they have only the good and not the bad. We at Better Juice have a solution to take out the bad sugar, leaving the good vitamins intact – thus making a Better Juice.”

      The company’s patent-pending enzymatic technology uses natural ingredients to convert simple sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose into non-digestible fibers and sugars. These, according to Better Juice, have been shown to have a number of health benefits.

      “Our innovation is in having a solution to reduce all types of sugar in juices with a cost-effective technology, without altering the other juice ingredients. We use non-GMO micro-organisms with a sustainable technology,” Blachinsky explains.

      But does it still taste the same?

      “One cannot reduce sugars without reducing sweetness,” Blachinsky admits. “The bio-converted molecules and the dietary fibers have some sweetness – less than sugar, but still sweet. Therefore, bio-converting all the sugars doesn’t eliminate the sweetness, it only reduces it.”

      Better Juice says that its edge over other attempts to reduce sugar content lies in the fact that the solution involves one simple step in the juice-making process, enabling the product to be competitively marketed.

      “Up to now, there were few technologies treating only one type of sugar in a very expensive way, or fermenting the juice and destroying its natural taste,” Blachinsky says of the competition.

      The company plans on marketing its product to fruit-juice producers and eventually to cafés and restaurants.

      “Our goal is to give a solution to any sugary natural product – any fruit, honey, maple syrup and more. There are a few collaborations with big corporations that are ‘cooking’ now. Hopefully one will succeed.”

      The Better Juice team, with CEO Eran Blachinsky on right. Photo: courtesy
      New heroes

      Blachinsky’s journey toward Better Juice spanned over a decade. He received his PhD in biology from the Hebrew University in 2006, and since then held various positions in the industry, working on biotechnology products and fruit processing.

      Financial support for Better Juice came from The Kitchen Hub, food giant Strauss Group’s food-tech incubator.

      “The Hub is not just a VC [fund] that gives money to startups. It is actually an incubator where there are advisers and lecturers coming to teach us lessons any entrepreneur must have,” Blachinsky notes.

      “And the uniqueness of the hub is that its portfolio companies are managed by CEOs that are all friends. We help each other; there is no competition between us. We are truly happy for the success of our colleagues, and when possible try to help out.”

      And it seems that being part of the Startup Nation has its benefits.

      “This perception helps an Israeli company starting its first steps in the world. We are being watched by VCs and global corporations from all over the world,” says Blachinsky.

      “I think that being the Startup Nation expands our entrepreneurial abilities as we seek new problems to solve. We are surrounded by people who think out of the box,” he adds.

      “In the past, heroism in war inspired the young. Now the model for heroism has changed, and the model is a successful entrepreneur.”

      Now, let’s raise a glass of orange juice to that.

      For more information, click here

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

      News

      6 top tomato innovations from Israeli experts

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

      Spotlights

      Bitter Bites for Better Health?

      By Diane Hess

      Could bitter foods be the secret to a healthier body?

      Scientists at the Hebrew University shed new light on the popular notion that bitter tastes are bad for you. Their findings could revolutionize nutrition, pharmacology, and medicine. According to Dr. Masha Niv, Vice Dean of Research at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment at the Hebrew University, “bitter isn’t always bad, and it is well known that sweet isn’t that good.”

      For Dr. Niv, life is “bittersweet.” She joined the Smith faculty of the Hebrew University 11 years ago and has spent her career examining bitter and sweet molecules and the way our taste receptors recognize them.

      Dr. Niv’s cutting-edge research reveals that the negative taste for bitter compounds – thought to have evolved as a mechanism to protect humans from consuming poison – has caused people to miss out on eating bitter, but healthy foods. It has also led to an overconsumption of sugar, which is often used to mask a bitter taste.

      A year ago, Dr. Niv and Dr. Ilan Samish, founder of Amai Proteins, a Rehovot-based startup that makes sweet proteins for the food market, created the “Sweet Science Forum” to boost collaboration between academics and industry leaders. Its focus is to reduce sugar and make diets healthier.

      By discovering what makes the sweet taste receptor tick, Dr. Niv said she hopes to “discover new sweeteners and sweetness enhancers.”

      Dr. Niv’s lab is searching for a molecular combination that would improve the taste of sugar so that “we could use less but taste more sweetness,” she added.

      Dr. Niv received her undergraduate and doctorate degrees in chemistry at the Hebrew University. She did her post-doctorate at Weill Cornell Medicine.

      News

      Israelis develop system for cleaning industrial pollution

      A new process under development in Israel could provide the economical, earth-friendly solution many industries seek for cleaning up soil, sludge and sediment polluted by their activities.

      Phased transaction extraction (PTE) is meant as a new tool to help get rid of industrial pollution both for nonvolatile organic and metal pollutants, especially in wet conditions.

      PTE uses a combination of methods to remove and concentrate the substances. All components – both the pollutants and the materials that separate them – can be recycled.

      Prof. Amos Ullman devised the system with fellow Tel Aviv University Faculty of Engineering Prof. Naima Brauner and Prof. Zvi Lodmer of the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University’s Rehovot campus, and a team of graduate students.

      The two-step customizable process uses lightly heated solvents to extract organic compounds, while simultaneously removing heavy metals with one or more chelating agents — large molecules that bond to the toxic metals and separate them from the source medium.

      The professors have been testing the technology for a decade and have published their findings in Environmental Engineering Science, Hazardous Materials and Chemical Engineering Journal. A grant from the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology recently enabled them to build a pilot lab in a former greenhouse on the Rehovot campus.

      “Now we can show that what works well at lab scale also works at the same efficiency at pilot scale, in a reactor of about 50 liters,” Ullmann tells ISRAEL21c.

      “Scale-up is the main obstacle when taking a process from lab to market. Now we are ready to look for a site where we can implement the process as a trial. We are in discussions with someone ready to invest some money so we can advance.”

      The pilot PTE installation for cleaning polluted soil, sludge or sediment. Photo: courtesy

      The pilot lab setup also allowed the inventors to add ancillary facilities to develop the end processes.

      “We have to recycle the solvents and the chelating agents we are using to catch the metals. Without recycling those ingredients it would be too expensive,” Ullmann says.

      Solutions for cleaning pollution from wet sources is necessary, he explains, because historically industrial plants have been situated on or near rivers for easy access to water, transportation and disposal of sewage and industrial byproducts.

      “Another source of pollution we think we can handle is industrial wastewater treatment plants, when the water coming from the plants contains organic and inorganic pollutants,” he says.

      The main innovation in the Israeli researchers’ process is the heating of the mixture of organic solvent and chelating agent, which allows these substances to better penetrate the polluted particles. Once cooled, the separation happens quickly without the formation of a stable emulsion.

      Ullmann says PTE is for situations when an existing method isn’t efficient enough.

      “The simplest approach is to dig out the contaminated soil or sediment and move it somewhere else, although that is not cheap. We concentrate the pollutants to very small volumes and you then have to move only that very small volume rather than all the dirt,” he points out.

      The target markets for PTE and SR-PTE (soil remediation phased transaction extraction) are Europe, China and the United States with their massive polluted industrial sites.

      “To handle or remediate a polluted area is quite expensive. If you don’t have a government forcing you to do it, or if the contaminated piece of land is not valuable as real estate, people prefer to ignore the problem,” says Ullmann. “But in Israel and many other countries, governments are taking more measures to force industries to clean up their messes. And most of the industry is close to residential areas.”

      In fact, land rehabilitation is one area with great economic potential for the Israeli professors’ system. Areas that were closed or off limits due to pollution can be cleaned up and transformed safely into public parks, building construction sites or agricultural fields.

      The four-meter PTE pilot facility is capable of handling several kilograms in a few hours. The area required for a full-size facility including auxiliary services will be in the range of 100 square meters and is based on a single reactor.

      The researchers are in advanced talks with a company in Israel dealing with the treatment of solid waste, including polluted land.

      For more information, email one of the developers: [email protected][email protected][email protected]

      Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

      News

      Counting (on) Sheep: Gene therapy research on visually impaired sheep now safe for human trials

      In 2009, a group of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers led by Ron Ofri, a Professor of Veterinary Ophthalmology, along with teams from Hadassah Medical Center (led by Professor Eyal Banin) and the Volcani Agricultural Research Organization (led by Professor Elisha Gootwine), identified a herd of sheep suffering from day blindness.

      Professor Ofri examining a sheep

      As the name implies, affected lambs are blind at day, and visual at night. The researchers characterized the disease and were able to demonstrate that it is caused by a mutation identical to one causing achromatopsia in humans. Achromatopsia is a similar disease, in which the absence of retinal cone function causes loss of color vision, severely reduced visual resolution, and legal blindness in human patients. More interestingly, the specific form of the disease discovered in sheep is the one that is most common in Israeli patients, and in the Jerusalem-area alone, the prevalence of achromatopsia is as high as 1:5,000 people.

      Because of the similarity between the ovine(sheep) and human diseases, Professor Ron Ofri and his colleagues began gene therapy trials in the affected animals. A virus carrying a copy of the mutated gene was injected beneath the retina and began producing the missing protein.  The treatment resulted in restored vision in treated eyes, while untreated eyes remain blind. Even more remarkable is that the oldest surviving experimental animals are still visual more than six years after a single injection, a significant scientific and medical achievement that did not escape the attention of the prestigious journal Human Gene Therapy which featured Professor Ofri’s accomplishment.

       

      Professor Ofri and colleague performing procedure

      Based on these results, showing both long-term effectiveness and safety of treatment in the sheep models, the United States FDA last year granted permission to begin clinical trials in human patients (NCT02935517), and several medical centers in the U.S. have already begun treating achromatopsia patients. The Israeli Ministry of Health has just granted similar approval, and clinical trials will begin shortly in Israel. These approvals, coming less than 10 years since the discovery of the original sheep herd, represent a remarkable example of a translational, bench to patient bedside study, where successful scientific results are applied to restore vision in blind human patients.

       

      News

      Students and faculty show off the latest food technology

      The future of healthy eating drew crowds Thursday at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture at Hebrew University in Rehovot. Celebrating the institution’s 75th anniversary and giving students the opportunity to showcase their work, about 300 people came to the event featuring some of the latest developments in Israeli food technology from 3D printing meals to protein powder from fly larva.

      “The purpose [of the conference] is to combine industry and academia together,” Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition head Oren Froy said. “We have a course of developing food products and so we thought it would be a great idea to combine all that into a conference and present the products developed during that course.”

      In the class, students focus on topics including why new products are developed, the raw materials necessary for creating a new product and current trends in the food industry. When they create their product, they have a deadline and limited resources, just like in the real world.

      “If they’re small, medium or multinational companies, they know that they continuously have to find the next product,” said Tammy Meiron, who teaches the new food product development course, in which all students who were presenting were enrolled. “And this is the purpose of our class, to give [students] the tools how to be there.”

      One group of students made a gluten-free health bar with dates using avocado powder.

      “In the avocado oil industry there’s a lot of food waste…so with that food waste we had to create a new product,” said Reut Rov, a student who worked on the project. “We tried a lot of applications for this avocado…and we found that the best thing to do with it is to make a kind of powder, and the best quality of the avocado is something that is very fibrous.”

      This powder can go in many types of foods, even fruit shakes and cookies, Rov said.

      Oded Shoseyov, a Hebrew University professor who works on 3D food printing, said he thinks this product has “huge potential.”

      “Particularly because I could feel the slight bitterness, so that for me indicates a lot of polyphenols, which are known to be healthy,” he said. “They still need to work on the taste there, but that’s doable…the level that they reached so far with taking into consideration the relatively short period of time—they did a good job.

      For his part, Shoseyov aims to use cellulose to print veggie burgers. In the future, he said he believes he’ll be able to make steak on a bone and possibly foods that don’t exist, such as burgers with fries in the middle.

      This product may also have important practical uses.

      “For example, the regular kitchen in a hospital has so many requirements…here it’s digital so you can, really with the same basic ingredients, you can do everything,” Shoseyov said, citing patients who may need low fat or low salt. “This is going to be also a dramatic change to the supply chain because all these materials have a long shelf life.”

      Another group of students producing ice cream and sherbets enriched with protein from fly larva. They said their ice cream has 10% protein and their sherbert has five percent.

      “The world is going to a place where food is going to end, so we need to find new sustainable foods or sources of foods,” said Ariel Rudik, who worked on the project.

      Froy said although Israel has the same the problems in the food technology industry as in other industries—“being small, not in a common market at least not with its neighbors,” European and American markets love these products and accept Israeli innovations “We’ve come to a conclusion that joining forces together entrepreneurs, investors, academia, food industry, new ideas that’s what makes us a start-up nation,” Froy said.

      Read the source article at Jpost

      News

      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

      Spotlights

      Uncategorized

      Professor Aron Troen

      “Safe and effective measures for brain protection are vital at any age,” says Professor Aron Troen, Director of the Nutrition and Brain Health Laboratory at the Hebrew University’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment. “Our goal is to develop new insights into the basic mechanisms of brain aging in order to prevent a decline in psychological and neurological functions.”

      His laboratory at the Institute of Biochemistry takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the role of risk-factors for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s to Bvitamin, folic acid, and iodine deficiencies. “We want to identify likely causes of cognitive impairment. We create pre-clinical models and explore which nutritional interventions can improve behavioral, psychological, and neurochemical outcomes. If we can enhance vascular health in the brain, we stand a better chance of preventing stroke, cerebrovascular disease, and dementia.” Professor Troen has also been examining the effects of liver health on brain function.

      In collaboration with HU colleagues, Professor Troen is exploring the health benefits of functional foods and creating fortified produce. “We developed a new strain of passion fruit with neuroprotective properties,” Professor Troen explains. “Functional food has biological and health properties that go beyond nourishing the body and supplying energy. We try to understand the metabolic and nutritional basis of disease and see how we can prevent illness through metabolically active foods, botanicals, and nutrients.”

      Professor Troen has been actively involved in public health and nutritional policy in Israel, serving on government research committees aimed at addressing hunger and childhood malnutrition: “No child should go hungry. Hebrew University is one of Israel’s leading centers for nutrition, and we take the problem of food insecurity very seriously.” A graduate of Hebrew University (B.S.), with a doctorate from Oxford University, Dr.
      Troen has devoted his career to maximizing human health.

      Internationally recognized, he is a visiting scientist with the Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Professor Troen has received the Alzheimer’s Association Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute New Investigator Research Grant Award, among
      other honors.

      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

      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

      Spotlights

      Israel: The Startup Charitable Nation

      Throughout the world, Israel is known as the “startup nation,” where investors are increasingly drawn to the innovation and brainpower that are its greatest natural resources. Accordingly, philanthropists are starting to look at their Israel-related donations less as one-shot gifts and more as charitable contributions with characteristics more typically associated with venture investments.

      An anonymous donor recently gave $1 million to the American Friends of Hebrew University (AFHU). The university invested the same sum of money in Agrinnovation, an Israeli agricultural investment fund partially owned by Yissum, HU’s technology commercialization company. Agrinnovation invests exclusively in cutting-edge agricultural technologies, food, plant and animal sciences originating from HU.

      Rather than simply supporting a cause with a single gift, this sort of impact philanthropy seeks to create a virtuous cycle: Dollars are invested to do social good and create financial returns that can be reinvested in the same enterprise. It has become so widespread that in December, JLens, a network of more than 9,000 Jewish investors, held a summit in New York City on impact investing.

      “The donation to Hebrew University assumed some characteristics of a typical venture investment, though it is purely philanthropic and the university will benefit from all the returns,” said AFHU board member Clive Kabatznik, “This is a new model for us, and we are meeting with potential donors about what they think is good for the world and coming up with bespoke investment ideas.”

      HU has a long history of innovation. Mobileye, a vehicle collision warning and driver safety software system, was founded in 1999 by a researcher at the university; it was purchased by Intel last year for $15.3 billion. Blockbuster chemotherapy drug Doxil and Alzheimer’s disease medication Exelon also originated in HU’s laboratories. Among its agricultural advancements, the university is responsible for a cherry tomato variety with a long shelf life sold around the world.

      Despite a difficult topography, Israel has been a pioneer in agriculture for decades, making the “desert bloom” and turning a water shortage problem into a surplus through desalination. The agriculture sector is appealing to investors because the time frame from patent to profit is relatively short: five years, on average.

      There are currently six companies in the Agrinnovation fund’s portfolio. Among them, ChickP has invented a high-grade plant-based protein for food; Sufresca has created a safe-to-consume vegetable and fruit coating to increase the shelf life of such products. Gemma-Cert, a medical marijuana company, is developing an affordable device for the detection, analysis and sorting of medical cannabis flowers.

      “If you are a donor and want to celebrate Israel’s economy and young democracy, then you can accomplish many different goals through an investment in Israel and its agriculture sector,” said Charlene Seidle, executive vice president of the Leichtag Foundation, who visited Hebrew University recently to discuss her foundation’s agricultural property in California.

      While philanthropy in Israel was traditionally about Zionism and giving back to the Jewish nation, experts say that has become a tougher sell for younger donors from the tech and hedge fund worlds. Those reasons might be in the back of their minds, but they are increasingly motivated by economic considerations. They want to see their donations actually making a difference.

      “What we are seeing among second- and third-generation donors is that they’re giving with their heads rather than their hearts,” said Jeff Solomon, president emeritus of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman philanthropies. “There’s an expectation that you will see a return on your charitable investment just as you would on a business investment.”


      Diane Hess is a New York-based writer and alumna of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Rothberg International School.

      Read the source article at Jewish Journal

      Achievements

      Bees Diversify Diet to Take the Sting Out of Nutritional Deficiencies

      New research shows that honey bees forage for a diet that balances their colony’s specific nutritional deficits.

      While pesticides and pathogens pose clear threats to honey bee health, the need of bee colonies for balanced nutrition is gaining increasing appreciation. As colonies are kept in agricultural areas for crop pollination, they may encounter nutritional deficits when foraging predominantly on one pollen source. In California almond orchards for instance, 1.6 million colonies are kept every year, despite the risk of low floral diversity, which can reduce the life expectancy of bees.In light of the challenge that agricultural intensification poses for pollinator habitats, Dr. Harmen Hendriksma and Prof. Sharoni Shafir from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem report that honey bee colonies are astoundingly resilient to nutritional stress. In new research reported in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, they found that bees can shift their foraging effort towards resources that complement nutritional deficits.The research was conducted at the B. Triwaks Bee Research Center, Department of Entomology, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

      In their experiment, eight honey bee colonies were kept in screened enclosures and fed pollen substitute diets that were deficient in particular essential amino acids. Subsequently, the bees were tested for their dietary choice, between the same diet previously fed, a different diet that was similarly deficient, or a diet that complemented the deficiency. The foragers preferred the complementary diet over the same or similar diets.

      This result indicates that honey bee colonies not only attempt to diversify their diet, but that they bias their foraging effort towards a diet that specifically balances nutritional deficits of the colony. How bees perceive and evaluate nutrient composition needs further elucidation. This new-found ability of honey bees to counter deficient nutrition contributes to mechanisms that social insects use to sustain homeostasis at the colony level.“This research indicates that honey bee colonies strive to balance their nutrition if appropriate floral resources are available. Bee colonies can benefit by this type of resilience when food options are sparse, for instance at certain sites or in seasons of dearth. Since alternative floral resources can help bees to balance their nutritional needs, this should serve as an incentive for everyone to plant flowers, wherever and whenever they can,” said Dr. Harmen Hendriksma.“Our research with bees continues to reveal their remarkable abilities. Honey bee colonies must maintain a balanced diet for optimal health, and bee foragers seem to have evolved the sophisticated ability to bias their efforts towards finding food that balances the colony’s nutritional deficiencies. In so doing they remind us that in nutrition, as in many other things, maintaining the proper balance is key,” said Prof. Sharoni Shafir.

      While pesticides and pathogens pose clear threats to honey bee health, the need of bee colonies for balanced nutrition is gaining increasing appreciation. As colonies are kept in agricultural areas for crop pollination, they may encounter nutritional deficits when foraging predominantly on one pollen source. In California almond orchards for instance, 1.6 million colonies are kept every year, despite the risk of low floral diversity, which can reduce the life expectancy of bees.

      Achievements

      Hebrew U Professor: Tobacco Can Help Cure Malaria

      It sounds like one of those diseases that should have been wiped out long ago, but malaria, unfortunately, is alive and well, especially in Africa and other tropical, third world locations. Battling malaria is complicated for numerous reasons, among them the difficulty of creating drugs to battle the disease. Now, however, Hebrew University researchers have come up with a novel method of producing the medicine that can treat malaria – using common, everyday tobacco plants.

      Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via mosquitoes. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. Over 3 billion people are at risk of malaria. Every year, this leads to about 250 million malaria cases and nearly one million deaths. People living in the poorest countries are the most vulnerable. Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa, where 20% of childhood deaths are due to the effects of the disease and every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.

      The main source of anti-Malarial drugs is based on a substance called artemisinin, a natural compound from Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood) plants, which is difficult to synthesize and expensive to obtain. Scientists have tried hard to artificially synthesize this substance, but despite extensive efforts invested in the last decade in metabolic engineering of the drug in both microbial and heterologous plant systems, production of artemisinin itself has never been achieved.

      Now, Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University., the technology transfer arm of the University, introduces a novel method allowing artemisinin production in a heterologous (that is, other than A. annua) plant system, such as tobacco. The method was developed by Professor Alexander Vainstein from the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University, and sponsored by a fellowship of Mr. Isaac Kaye. It was published under the title Generation of the Potent Anti-Malarial Drug Artemisinin in Tobacco in the latest issue of the prestigious publication Nature Biotechnology.

      Professor Vainstein and his graduate student Moran Farhi have developed genetically engineered tobacco plants carrying genes encoding the entire biochemical pathway necessary for producing artemisinin. In light of tobacco’s high biomass and rapid growth, this invention will enable a cheap production of large quantities of the drug, paving the way for the development of a sustainable plant-based platform for the commercial production of an anti-malarial drug. The invention is patented by Yissum, which is now seeking a partner for its further development.

      Yaacov Michlin, then CEO of Yissum said, “Professor Vainstein’s technology provides, for the first time, the opportunity for manufacturing affordable artemisinin by using tobacco plants. We hope that this invention will eventually help control this prevalent disease, for the benefit of many millions of people around the globe, and in particular in the developing world.”

      Read the source article at Israel News

      News

      How Older Widow Spiders Seduce Younger Males—And Eat Them

      When it comes to wooing the ladies, male brown widow spiders don’t always make the best decisions.

      On paper, younger females are the better option—they don’t demand a lengthy courtship and they’re more fertile than their older counterparts. They are also much less likely to eat their mates alive. (Read more about how male widows avoid becoming lunch.)

      Yet when given a choice, male brown widow spiders opt for older females, according to new research published in Animal Behaviour.

      “We thought that we would find some benefit that the males have in mating with older females,” says study co-author Shevy Waner, a graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “But so far we really don’t understand why that’s their choice.”

      But they have a theory: That mature females release more pheromones, which apparently trick younger males into mating with them.

      “The older she is, she’s probably more desperate,” Waner says.

      DINNER DATE

      Widow spiders get their names because the females are known for cannibalizing their much smaller mates.

      But a few years back, researchers found that brown widow spiders could mate with subadults—adolescent spiders on the brink of adulthood—that wouldn’t eat them afterward. (See 10 beautiful photos that will make you love spiders.)

      “In this case the benefit is huge; he can mate with other females again, and again and again,” says Ally Harari, a professor at Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, who oversaw the research team.

      Given the short timeframe during which males can mate with adolescents before they become adults, adolescent females can be hard to track down in the wild.

      So, the researchers wanted to see what would happen when males had the option placed right in front of them.

      A female brown widow spider protects her cocoon of eggs. PHOTOGRAPH BY BLICKWINKEL, ALAMY

      In one part of the study, a total of nine adolescent, young adult, and older adult females captured from playgrounds in central Israel were evenly spread out in a greenhouse.

      The researchers then placed 11 male virgins in the middle, and came back every 45 minutes on three separate occasions to observe them. “It wasn’t hard at all to find them,” says Waner. “Almost always they were all fighting over the older females.” (Read how some kinky spiders tie up their lovers to avoid being eaten.)

      In another part of the study, they compared courting behavior by placing virgin males one-on-one with adolescent, young adult, and older adult females.

      While males mated with 100 percent of the older adults, they mated with less than half of the adolescents.

      PLAYING HARD TO GET

      But when it came to cannibalism, none of the males who mated with adolescents were killed, while nearly 57 percent of males who mated with older females met their demise.

      Not only were they more likely to be devoured, but the males also had to work much harder to court the older spiders.

      “With the subadult, he doesn’t court almost at all,” says Waner. “He’s around her for a bit, and he mates almost immediately.”

      Meet a spider that spins webs of gold silk. Golden orb spiders are known for the impressive webs they weave — producing silk five times stronger than steel and more flexible than cotton.

      With older females, courting was slower sometimes taking up to six hours, says Harari.

      Matt Persons, an arachnologist at Susquehanna University who has studied mating strategies in wolf spiders, found the results fascinating.

      “One of the things that interests me is the fact that there’s males that are apparently doing something that’s maladaptive, or at least not an optimal strategy, by mating with these older females,” he says.

      WEB OF LIES

      He agrees with Harari and colleagues that pheromones might be the reason behind the males’ seemingly irrational mate preferences.

      “There’s a tendency to think of female sex pheromones as something that they’re just kind of producing all the time, and that it doesn’t vary,” says Persons.

      “But this study suggests that females are changing their pheromone production, perhaps in a way to increase their mating success if they’re old and not mated yet.” (Also see: “Surprise! Male Spiders Eat Females, Too.”)

      In a future study, Harari hopes to measure pheromone levels in both adolescents and older adults to see if that can explain the males’ suicidal preference for older lady spiders.

      Read the source article at Latest Stories

      News

      Koalas, horses and pygmy goats (oh my!) in Israeli-UC Davis vet team-up

      A list of the collaborative work between the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine — the only veterinary school in Israel — reads something like a “who’s who” of the animal kingdom.

      Nearly 65,000 cats, dogs, horses, cows and goats (including pygmy and Nubian varieties) are cared for annually at the Davis and Rehovot facilities, along with the occasional gorilla, koala and wallaby.

      Though 7,300 miles apart, the universities have been collaborating on research, grants, academic papers and faculty exchanges for more than three decades, thanks to support from an endowment at the S.F.-based Koret Foundation.

      Read the source article at jweekly.com

      Achievements

      What growing food in a desert taught us about surviving droughts

      THE CHALLENGES WE’RE WORKING ON

      In the 21st century, we must figure out how to feed a global population with less land and more intense droughts.

      HOW WE’RE SOLVING THEM

      Professor Zvi Peleg and his team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem crossbred wild wheat with domesticated wheat, creating a more drought-resistant, water-efficient cultivar. Extensive research revealed that the gene pool of wild wheat contains traits that make it more resilient. The new cultivar produced the same yield as modern wheat but required 30% less water.

      THE IMPACT OF OUR WORK

      This innovation is no small feat as wheat is the most consumed crop in the world. This advancement also holds the potential to be used for growing rice, soy, and maize. The outcome could be the difference between food shortages and food security for future generations.

      This is just one example of the work you fund when you donate to American Friends of the Hebrew University.

      ABOUT AFHU

      Founded in 1925, AFHU is a national, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, headquartered in New York City. We connect the passions of Americans to the talent at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one of the world’s most distinguished academic and research institutions. Collectively, its students, faculty, and alumni have won eight Nobel Prizes, developed treatments for diseases, and ignited innovation that has led to more than 8,900 patents.

      Discover how you can help advance knowledge in humanity, technology, medicine, cybersecurity, and more at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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