News

One drug could treat Alzheimer’s, MS, Crohn’s and more

Could one drug effectively treat incurable inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis as well as neurodegenerative maladies such as Alzheimer’s disease?

Yes, says Prof. David Naor, speaking with ISRAEL21c at the Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology in Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem.

All these diseases, he explains, are associated with pathological amyloid proteins that could be neutralized by the 5-mer peptide Naor has spent the last 10 years researching and developing with the support of the university’s Yissum technology-transfer company, the Israeli government and Spherium Biomed of Spain.

It will take several million dollars to start clinical trials of Naor’s novel, IP-protected peptide — a synthetic protein snippet that significantly reverses the damaging effects of inflammatory diseases and Alzheimer’s disease in mouse models, and restores the learning capacity of Alzheimer’s mice.

“I believe that within two years we would know for certain if our academic product can translate into a therapeutic drug to combat inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases,” Naor says.

“Once you control the inflammation, you can control the disease, so our target is to reduce as much as possible the inflammatory activity.”

Prof. David Naor at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Rheumatoid arthritis

Naor began by studying 5-mer’s effectiveness in rheumatoid arthritis, which affects about one percent of the world population. Currently, about $30 billion worth of biologic drugs are sold each year that effectively control, but cannot cure, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Furthermore, these drugs don’t work in one-third of patients.

The results of Naor’s experiments were astounding. When mice with collagen-induced arthritis were treated with 5-mer peptide, the severely inflamed tissues in their joints reverted to nearly normal. No harmful side effects were observed.

Multiple sclerosis and IBD

“Once the rheumatoid arthritis experiment was repeated successfully several times, we looked at a different chronic inflammatory disease – multiple sclerosis, where the inflammation is not in the joints but in the brain,” says Naor.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most widespread disabling neurological condition of young adults around the world, usually striking between the ages of 20 and 50. There is no cure, but the Israeli-developed blockbuster drug Copaxone reduces the frequency of relapses.

Here, too, Naor’s results were noteworthy. Five days after MS-like disease was induced in mice, 5-mer peptide injections caused a significant decrease in accumulation of inflammatory cells in the central nervous system and significant reduction in limb paralysis. The effects were weaker when the disease was more progressed, but theoretically the peptide could be introduced during a remission phase of MS.

Recently, in collaboration with Prof. Haim Ovadia from Hadassah University Medical Center, Naor’s lab achieved another breakthrough by delivering 5-mer peptide via mouth rather than by injections, with the same therapeutic effect.

“That means that we may be able to produce pills for oral delivery rather than to provide the drug by injection,” Naor says.

Spherium Biomed tests of 5-mer peptide in mouse models of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) showed it can reduce the gut inflammation in IBD better than the currently prescribed biological medication, which is effective only in half of IBD patients.

Alzheimer’s disease 

After a quarter-century of failed efforts to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, investment money is dwindling. Yet the number of cases is climbing rapidly along with related costs. About one in nine Americans over 65 has this fatal degenerative neurological disorder affecting 44 million people worldwide.

In collaboration with Prof. Hanna Rosenmann from Hadassah, Naor’s lab studied the effect of mer-5 peptide in mice with induced Alzheimer’s disease.

Cognitively normal mice placed inside a watery maze learned quickly how to swim to a safe platform and were able to find it faster with every subsequent attempt. But the Alzheimer’s mice took longer finding the platform every time, due to memory difficulties.

After treatment with 5-mer peptide, the Alzheimer’s mice regained their ability to learn the location of the platform as quickly as cognitively normal mice.

“We can restore the memory of the animal. This doesn’t mean we’re going to cure Alzheimer’s but it does mean we have to do everything possible to see if our peptide could be successful where so many other potential anti-Alzheimer drugs have failed,” says Naor.

The 5-mer peptide appears to prevent the accumulation of amyloid–beta in the brain. Amyloid–beta clumps are believed to attract harmful inflammatory cells from the immune system, thus enhancing Alzheimer’s disease.

The mechanism of action of the 5-mer peptide was proven on various harmful amyloid proteins, using sophisticated imaging tools in the lab of Prof. Mary Cowman at New York University.

“We can inject 5-mer peptide even after the disease has started, and it will work,” says Naor. “We don’t yet know if there is a point of no return when it would no longer work.”

Spherium Biomed now seeks funding for the next step, human clinical trials.

“Because the peptide was derived from human material, it makes sense that it is going to work in humans at least as well as in mice,” concludes Naor.

Read the source article at ISRAEL21c

News

The pomegranate potential

Pomegranates are known to contain powerful antioxidants that fight the oxygen free radicals that cause inflammation, accelerated aging of the tissues, the activation of harmful genes within DNA and an overloaded immune system. Various herbs, spices such as turmeric and teas, as well as dark chocolate, pecans, fruits like blueberries, goji berries, elderberries, cranberries, blackberries and vegetables and pulses like sweet potatoes, broccoli, artichoke and kidney beans also reduce the effects of oxidative damage in the body.

The leading health problems facing us today – including conditions like heart disease, cancer, dementia and other neurological diseases – have been linked to increased levels of oxidative damage.

But until now, there has been no natural, powerful antioxidant capable of crossing the “blood-brain barrier” (BBB) – the semi-permeable, highly selective membrane of endothelial cells that separates the circulating blood from the brain and extracellular fluid in the central nervous system. While the BBB is a vital mechanism for protecting the brain from fluctuations in plasma composition and from substances that can upset neural function, it also keeps out those that can benefit the brain.

Punicic acid (Omega 5) found in oil made from pomegranate seeds (not the red fruit but the small, hard seeds inside) is among the most powerful natural antioxidants, but to breach the BBB, it had to be turned into a submicron self-emulsion formulation.

Researchers headed by experimental neurology Prof. Ruth Gabizon at the neurology department at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, along with Prof. Shlomo Magdassi of the Hebrew University’s Nanotechnology and the Casali Center for Applied Chemistry, have developed a food supplement called GranaGard with high concentrations of punicic acid. This substance converts in the body into conjugated linoleic acid, an established neuroprotector. Hadassit, the Hadassah Medical Organization’s research and development arm, and Yissum, the R&D company of the university, established Granalix. This company markets the supplement (it is made by the SupHerb company in Nazareth), which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The supplement (NIS 120 for 60 capsules, a month’s supply, and sold via the company’s website and at some stores) is aimed at preventing or slowing the development of neurological disorders from multiple sclerosis to dementia and even reducing symptoms in patients who suffer from them. As GranaGard is a food supplement, it cannot legally make therapeutic claims, but it can provide data on mice studies in which the rodents showed significant improvement in neurological conditions and benefits shown in patients who have taken the supplement over time.

GABIZON, WHO was born in Argentina and came on aliya with her family at the age of 11, is married to Prof. Alberto Gabizon, chief of the oncology institute at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and they have four grown children.

“We met at the Weizmann Institute of Science. I am not a physician, but a neurology researcher,” she said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. She did a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California at San Francisco with Prof. Stanley Prusiner, an American neurologist and biochemist who discovered prions – a class of infectious self-reproducing pathogens primarily or solely composed of protein – for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1997.

“It was very serendipitous, as I had read Prusiner’s articles on prions and then met somebody by chance who was on sabbatical at the university. I sent a letter to Prof. Prusiner, and I was accepted to work at his lab. I was in the right place at the right time, as he was doing totally pioneering work.”

When she returned to Israel in 1988 and continued her research on prion-caused diseases in the lab she built at Hadassah’s neurology department, she did not work on theoretical research detached from the physical disease. “I was part of the clinical department, exposed to patients and their families.”

GABIZON HAS devoted most of her career to the study of neurodegenerataive and prion disorders, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a genetic disease among Jews of Libyan and Tunisian origin that was identified in Israel in the 1980s. The incidence of the disease in this ethnic group is about 100 times more than in the worldwide population, and there are some 50,000 carrier families in Israel and 15 actually suffering from the disease. Its effects were similar to the “mad-cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) that affected cows whose brain and spinal cord had been contaminated in Britain and killed its first victim there in 1995.

Genetic CJD is vertically transmitted from parent to child in autosomal dominant inheritance. Gabizon noted that there have also been some sporadic cases among Jewish of Ashkenazi origin.

“A young man or woman in their 30s, at the beginning of their life, have just finished their studies and started on a career, got married, and are raising kids. In the midst of this intensive endeavor – a mother or father, perhaps an uncle, becomes ill. The patient is not particularly old, in his 50s or 60s, and is still very much active – with future plans and unattained goals. Yet the disease is progressing at an alarming rate. At first, the patient doesn’t remember small details or his speech slurs. He gets lost in a familiar neighborhood, loses balance. Something is happening; something is festering. He visits his family doctor and then a neurologist, undergoing CT or MRI; his condition continues to deteriorate relentlessly. And then the patient is no longer really with us, even if he or she still lives a bit longer. This is of course shocking and very sad. But it is just the beginning of the story.”

In the midst of all this mayhem, “the specialist asks: ‘Are you from Libya or Tunis?’ Then there are genetic examinations. Thus our man or woman, still in their 30s, and their entire family, find out that their family member is afflicted with a hereditary disease.”

There is a mutation that causes an important protein in the brain to change its form, so that instead of breaking down when it has completed its role, it oxidizes and is stored in brain cells in clusters called amyloids. As a result of the accumulation of clusters of faulty protein, destructive free radicals are created, damaging the quality of the cells. Ultimately, a process of accelerated destruction of the cells is created by this combined co-dependent process, in which protein does not break down, but rather accumulates in clusters, thus creating free radicals that harm the quality of the brain cells.

“Most people who are CJD carriers don’t want to know because the symptoms show up after the age of 40, and there is nothing to do for them. They become confused, very nervous and then paralyzed. They usually die within three months of diagnosis. There is no approved blood test for it,” she said. “But if a couple suspected of being carriers plan to have a baby, they usually want to test embryos by in-vitro fertilization and then use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to find unaffected embryos that could be implanted.”

“In view of the dead end reached by all researchers in treating the disease, we decided at the lab to tackle the problem from a totally different direction. If we cannot ‘clean’ the brain cells of destructive faulty protein clusters, thereby curing the patients, perhaps we can strengthen their durability, extend the life span of brain cells, and improve their functioning even under dire conditions such as these, with all of the ‘biological garbage’ and the destructive oxidizing free radicals.”

To this end, “we decided to research the influence of antioxidization on the brain cells, through lab mice in which we planted the Libyan mutation of the PRP protein. The research hypothesis was that if we treat them with sufficiently strong antioxidization that can reach the brain, this may protect the cells and compensate for the damage already incurred. We further stipulated that the treatment should be completely safe of side effects, in order to offer it to young carriers before the disease erupts, as a preventive measure used over many years with no risk involved.”

Her prion research led Gabizon to look for antioxidants connected to lipids that could cross the BBB and reach the brain. “By chance, I bought face cream from the Israeli cosmetics company Lavido that was made from pomegranate oil. People said how young I looked. The Chinese, by the way, discovered long ago that pomegranate seeds were good to eat.”

She called the head of the company and asked for a sample of the oil. “We gave it to mice with the Libyan mutation. We saw that it postponed the mice’s death somewhat, but not enough.” So Gabizon went to Magdassi, who prepared a nano formula with tiny particles and two emulsants. When mixed with water, it turns white. The emulsion isn’t destroyed in the stomach and liver; it goes directly to the blood and breaches the BBB. We started to give it to multiple sclerosis patients after it was effective in slowing the animal model of the disease in mice. We also gave it to mice models with Alzheimer’s disease and to healthy mice that we caused to get a stroke.” It is also being tested on Parkinson’s disease.

“We can’t cure these neurodegenerative diseases, because when neurons die, they can’t be restored. But the supplement can help prevent the disease in people at risk. I have two capsules a day for two years, and so has my husband. I find the supplement improves my sharpness of thinking and gives me much more energy. There are no known side effects or harmful interactions with drugs. The supplement is comprised of 90% pucinic acid in a form that can enter the brain.”

GRANALIX, JUST at the beginning of its marketing effort, sells some 5,000 containers a month, mostly through the Internet. “It costs NIS 10 to manufacture and sells for NIS 120; most of the income goes towards manufacture, salaries and other expenses. We also redirect profits into expanding our research,” said Gabizon, who does not yet profit from the patent held by Yissum and Hadassit registered three years ago. “We don’t want it to be expensive and prohibitive to most people who can benefit from it.”

To register GranaGard as a pharmaceutical drug, the company would have to spend a fortune on large, time-consuming clinical trials and fees for applications to the FDA. “We could do this at some point,” but it is very complicated. In the meantime, since GranaGard is a safe food supplement, we ask patients taking it how they feel. Some report improvement in a month or even a week of taking the supplement.”

The food supplement’s efficacy in the form of nanodrops taken by rodents with a multiple sclerosis model, CJD and metabolic disorders was proven in three articles in scientific journals, the International Journal of Nanomedicine, Nanomedicine and Neurobiology in Disease. GranaGard was shown to delay disease onset in a mouse model of genetic prion disease, which presents neurodegenerative features reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease. It also was shown to reduce the disease burden in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. “There are many other studies on the way,” she said.

“Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease seem to be prion-like diseases with aggregation and oxidation, so punicic acid with this delivery system could be effective, without being destroyed in the stomach and liver,” she added.

Neuropaths recommend pomegranate oil to people, but they don’t take into account that it can’t help against neurodegenerative diseases because it doesn’t reach the brain in the form or ordinary supplements.”

IF THE formulation can delay Alzheimer’s disease, it would bring about a revolution, she declared. The International Alzheimer’s Association has reported that by 2030, the number of dementia patients will double, reaching about 70 million worldwide. Global expenditure on treatment has now reached $600 billion, 70% from Western Europe and North America alone.

In Israel, there are now some 120,000 dementia patients, including 1% of the population in their 60s. This percentage is doubled every five years, reaching 30% for ages 85 to 90 and 66% of those over 90.

This data is even more alarming in view of solutions offered by medicine (nowadays appearing quite ordinary – such as nutrition, cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure issues and hygiene) that have increased life expectancy and created a new demography, she added. ‘The various degenerative brain diseases harm half of the population over 80 and cause significant mental and physical suffering. A cure has yet to be found for the disease, but our nutritional supplement may prevent it.”

The common cause of all degenerative brain diseases is pathological oxidization of components in the nerve cells, which is the precise point of departure of GranaGard. “Since there is no reversal for highly faulty nerve cells, the treatment focuses on maintaining the existing ones, that is, maintaining our brain cells for as long as possible,” she concluded.

Read the source article at Jpost

Achievements

Solving the Mysteries of the Human Brain

Every day at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the world’s best scientists collaborate to unravel the mysteries of the human mind. Working together to explore the brain’s complexities — how we think, learn, create, and remember — these researchers seek to cure neurological diseases faster and bring life-changing innovations to the world. American Friends of the Hebrew University supports these efforts because we believe science fuels a brighter future.

Because knowledge moves us…to be better, to know more, and to discover.

Explore what science for the global good looks like.

One example of how Hebrew University researchers are revolutionizing neuroscience is mapping brains of the blind.

Studying the brain activity of blind people, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are challenging the standard view of how the human brain specializes to perform different kinds of tasks and shedding new light on how our brains can adapt to the rapid cultural and technological changes of the 21st century.

The accepted view in previous decades was that the brain is divided into distinct regions mainly by the sensory input that activates them, such as the visual cortex for sight and the auditory cortex for sound. Within these large regions, sub-regions have been defined which are specialized for specific tasks such as the “visual word form area,” a functional brain region believed to identify words and letters from shape images even before they are associated with sounds or meanings. Similarly, there is another area that specializes in number symbols.

However, a series of studies at Hebrew University’s Amedi Lab for Brain and Multisensory Research challenges this view using unique tools known as Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs).

SSDs take information from one sense and present it to another, for example enabling blind people to “see” by using other senses such as touching or hearing. By using a smartphone or webcam to translate a visual image into a distinct soundscape, SSDs enable blind users to create a mental image of objects, such as their physical dimensions and color. With intense training, blind users can even “read” letters by identifying their distinct soundscape.

“These devices can help the blind in their everyday life,” explains Professor Amir Amedi, “but they also open unique research opportunities by letting us see what happens in brain regions normally associated with one sense when the relevant information comes from another.”

 

Achievements

Advancing Science that Fuels the Future

From discovering new ways to treat diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s to feeding the world’s hungry — scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are pioneering research that will bring life-saving innovations and sustainable solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. American Friends of the Hebrew University supports these efforts because we believe science fuels a brighter future.

Because knowledge moves us…to be better, to know more, and to discover.

Explore what science for the global good looks like.

Medicine/Health

Spotlights

What to know about Dementia

Dementia refers to a group of symptoms that result in the loss of behavioral abilities and cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. While there is currently no cure,  experts at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are diligently working to learn more about dementia and related disorders to develop ways to treat, prevent, and ultimately stop neurodegenerative diseases that affect an estimated 47 million people worldwide.

From developing an effective medicine for treating Alzheimer’s symptoms and investigating which foods may prevent dementia, to researching Alzheimer’s on the molecular level, Hebrew University researchers are unrelenting in their efforts to discover more about this complex set of diseases.

Dementia symptoms gradually worsen over time. Knowing the signs and symptoms of dementia is key to early detection and diagnosis, which in turn can lead to expanded treatment and intervention options as well as improved quality of life.

While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of these core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia: memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments, or traveling out of the neighborhood.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia in older adults, accounting for 60-80% of cases, but there are many forms of dementia. According to to the National Institute on Aging, other dementias include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal disorders, and vascular dementia. It is common for people to have mixed dementia—a combination of two or more types of dementia. Globally, dementia cases are projected to increase to 75 million by 2030 and the number of sufferers is estimated to triple by 2050.

News

At Stanford, Israeli brain scientist thinks thoughts about thinking

Ask Adi Mizrahi if he loves his work and his answer is a no-brainer.

“I’m absolutely convinced I have the best job in the world,” said Mizrahi, a neurobiologist, award-winning scientist and the director of the Hebrew University’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences.

Mizrahi, 47, now on sabbatical at Stanford University, is taking a year to talk to other scientists and learn about cutting-edge research techniques he can bring back to Israel. It’s part of his philosophy of interdisciplinary science, which he believes is crucial for understanding the brain.

“I think it is a multidisciplinary problem,” he said. “You cannot neglect one side and expect to solve the problem.”

It’s an approach he uses at the Center for Brain Sciences, which brings together physicists, neurobiologists, psychologists, computer scientists and engineers to collaborate on research. The cross-discipline point of view is essential because the brain is just too complicated to be understood by one approach. “If you only look at behavior, you’ll never know what the cells are doing,” Mizrahi said.

Mizrahi, the author or co-author of more than 25 papers, with titles such as “Distinct Spatiotemporal Response Properties of Excitatory Versus Inhibitory Neurons in the Mouse Auditory Cortex,” does what he calls “basic research.” That means that it’s not dedicated to finding practical solutions for immediate problems. “We do it for the sake of knowledge,” he said.

“We do it for the sake of knowledge.”

But sometimes results come anyway. For example, the center — not Mizrahi personally — has made splashy headlines for therapies such as deep brain stimulation, a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

In 2009, Mizrahi won the Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery in Medical Research, which goes to a scientist under 45 at Hebrew University or the University of Sydney, in alternate years. The award honored Mizrahi for his work on new approaches that are “essential steps towards therapies which will allow the regeneration of brain structures from stem cell technology,” according to the prize website.

Hebrew University’s brain sciences center was founded in 2009 with $20 million in funding from the Edmond J. Safra Foundation. In 2015 this was increased by another $30 million, a hefty chunk of the center’s $150 million initial budget. Next year, the center will move into a new 156,000-square-foot home, the Goodman Brain Sciences building. (The new building will be the largest neuroscience center in Israel and one of the most ambitious in the world, according to Hebrew University.)

Until then, Mizrahi says his time as a visiting professor at Stanford, where he can focus on studying and learning about techniques like revolutions in RNA sequencing, is a gift and a privilege. But he is also looking to the future, including to students he and others are training back at the Center for Brain Sciences.

He said it’s those “the scientists of tomorrow” who are growing up within the interdisciplinary approach, who will be able to take research even further with their intuitive understanding of how to approach the brain from many points of view. But once they become scientists, they’ll find it’s a hard but rewarding road, where being ready to fail again and again is a prerequisite for the job.

“Science is not for everyone,” Mizrahi said, even if he’s sure that it’s definitely for him.

Read the source article at jweekly.com

Spotlights

Dale Golden

The summer before my sophomore year of college, I was unhappy at my American university but wasn’t sure transferring was the answer. During this time, my aunt was passing away. The last time I visited her, I felt a sudden and strong urge to go to Israel. My aunt was a huge lover of the country, so in a spiritual and emotional way, it was her final gift to me. This emotional foundation set up my experience at Hebrew University to be life-changing.

I went to Hebrew U looking for experiences of what I thought the undergraduate experience should be and was not disappointed. During my semester at Hebrew U, I earned the best grades thus far in my collegiate career – a testament to how truly happy and invigorated I felt. I created solid relationships with my professors and had the amazing opportunity of interning in a psychology lab and authored a research paper that I still include on my resume.

Every week I dedicated time to volunteer at a day center for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia raised awareness on campus to promote spaying and neutering the cats (I even adopted two kittens from Israel, Toby, a three-legged cat and a tuxedo cat, Jesse). I met incredible people and made some of my best friends at Hebrew U. Having my closest friends surprise me with a birthday party was a fabulous end to my semester abroad and a memory I truly hold dear.

An incredible experience I had while at Hebrew U was taking a weekend trip to Vienna, Austria. My grandfather’s family was from there and most were killed in the Holocaust. Before the trip, with the help of one of my professors, I went to Yad Vashem and looked up my family members and their old addresses in Vienna so I could visit their homes. This was an incredibly moving experience that would not have been possible if it weren’t for my time in Israel.

friends at my birthday party

Being at Hebrew University was truly unforgettable. Overall, my experience taught me to listen to my instincts, discover what I really wanted, and become confident in going for what would make me happy. I made incredibly close friends that I still keep in touch with, helped Jerusalem through volunteering, surpassed my academic goals and connected with my Israeli family members. All of those memories live on. Because of Hebrew U, I decided to transfer universities in the U.S., which led to the end of my collegiate career being amazing. To this day, my experiences at Hebrew U remind me to trust myself and follow the path that is right for me.

Hear more from Dale below!

Achievements

A step toward development of drugs for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s

A successful joint collaboration between researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the startup company TyrNovo may lead to a potential treatment of brain diseases. The researchers found that TyrNovo’s novel and unique compound, named NT219, selectively inhibits the process of aging in order to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, without affecting lifespan. This is a first and important step towards the development of future drugs for the treatment of various neurodegenerative maladies.

Human neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases share two key features: they stem from toxic protein aggregation and emerge late in life. The common temporal emergence pattern exhibited by these maladies proposes that the aging process negatively regulates protective mechanisms that prevent their manifestation early in life, exposing the elderly to disease. This idea has been the major focus of the work in the laboratory of Dr. Ehud Cohen of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Cohen’s first breakthrough in this area occurred when he discovered, working with Dr. Ehud Cohen, that with models, reducing the activity of the signaling mechanism conveyed through insulin and the growth hormone IGF1, a major aging regulating pathway, constituted a defense against the aggregation of the Aβ protein which is mechanistically-linked with Alzheimer’s disease. Later, he found that the inhibition of this signaling route also protected Alzheimer’s-model mice from behavioral impairments and pathological phenomena typical to the disease. In these studies, the path was reduced through genetic manipulation, a method not applicable in humans.

Dr. Hadas Reuveni, the CEO of TyrNovo, a startup company formed for the clinical development of NT219, and Professor Alexander Levitzki from the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Hebrew University, with their research teams, discovered a new set of compounds that inhibit the activity of the IGF1 signaling cascade in a unique and efficient mechanism, primarily for cancer treatment, and defined NT219 as the leading compound for further development.

Now, in a fruitful collaboration Dr. Cohen and Dr. Reuveni, together with Dr. Cohen’s associates Tayir El-Ami and Lorna Moll, have demonstrated that NT219 efficiently inhibits IGF1 signaling, in both worms and human cells. The inhibition of this signaling pathway by NT219 protected biological models from toxic protein aggregation that in humans is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease.

The discoveries achieved during this project, which was funded by the Rosetrees Trust of Britain, were published in the journal Aging Cell (“A novel inhibitor of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway protects from age-onset, neurodegeneration-linked proteotoxicity”). The findings strengthen the notion that the inhibition of the IGF1 signaling pathway has a therapeutic potential as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders. They also point at NT219 as the first compound that provides protection from neurodegeneration-associated toxic protein aggregation through a selective manipulation of aging.

Cohen, Reuveni, and Levitzki filed a patent application that protects the use of NT219 as a treatment for neurodegenerative maladies through Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University. Dr. Gil Pogozelich, chairman of Goldman Hirsh Partners Ltd., which holds the controlling interest in TyrNovo, says that he sees great importance in the cooperation on this project with the Hebrew University and that TyrNovo represents a good example of how scientific and research initiatives can further health care together with economic benefits.

Dr. Cohen’s laboratory obtained an ethical approval to test the therapeutic efficiency of NT219 as a treatment in Alzheimer’s biological models, hoping to develop a future treatment for hitherto incurable neurodegenerative disorders.

Achievements

Israel Prize in Medicine awarded to Prof. Marta Weinstock-Rosin, developer of Alzheimer’s drug

Jerusalem — The Israel Prize for Medicine in 2014 was awarded to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Professor Marta Weinstock-Rosin. A professor emeritus at the Hebrew University’s School of Pharmacy-Institute for Drug Research in the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Weinstock-Rosin is best known for developing Exelon, a blockbuster drug for the treatment of confusion and dementia related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Professor Weinstock-Rosin is married with four children and 20 grandchildren. She became a professor at Hebrew University in 1981 and head of its School of Pharmacy in 1983. Her current research is focused on drugs that improve brain function and memory in patients with degenerative diseases of the central nervous system.

Exelon been shown to be an effective medicine for treating the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. It is manufactured by the drug company Novartis, which acquired it from Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, Yissum. Professor Weinstock-Rosin is also the co-developer, with Professor Moussa Youdim of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, of Ladostigil. During its develop, ent Professor Weinstock-Rosin discovered that at low doses Ladostigil prevents brain degeneration and memory impairment in aged biological models. The drug is undergoing Phase II clinical trials in Israel and Europe for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Vienna in 1935, Professor Weinstock-Rosin obtained her B.Pharm and an M.S. in pharmacology from the University of London, followed by a Ph.D. in pharmacology at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. She became a lecturer in pharmacology at the University of London, and in 1969 moved to Israel with her husband and children and joined Tel Aviv University’s medical faculty. From 1976-77 she took a research sabbatical at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and received a grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse for her research on the mechanism of action of opiates.

News

New Tool Could Lead to Earlier Diagnosis, Better Treatment of Parkinson’s

Suaad Abd-Elhadi wins a Kaye Innovation Award for a new diagnostic tool that could pave the way for early diagnosis and improved treatment of one of the most common and debilitating neurodegenerative disorders

July 5, 2017 — Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in humans, after Alzheimer’s disease. It is typically characterized by changes in motor control such as tremors and shaking, but can also include non-motor symptoms, from the cognitive to the behavioral. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease, with medication costing approximately $2,500 a year, and therapeutic surgery costing up to $100,000 dollars, per patient.

Making an accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s, particularly in early stages and mild cases, is difficult, and there are currently no standard diagnostic tests other than clinical information provided by the patient and the findings of a neurological exam. One of the best hopes for improving diagnosis is to develop a reliable test for identifying a biomarker, i.e. a substance whose presence would indicate the presence of the disease.

Now, Suaad Abd-Elhadi, a Ph.D. student in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine, developed the lipid ELISA. This unique diagnostic tool could lead to earlier detection of Parkinson’s, along with better tracking of the disease’s progression and a patient’s response to therapy.

How the diagnostic ELISA works
ELISA stands for “enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.” An assay is a procedure used in laboratory settings to assess the presence, amount, and activity of a target entity, such as a drug, cell or biochemical substance. ELISA is a common assay technique that involves targeting cellular secretions.

In the case of the lipid ELISA, the cellular secretion of interest is a specific protein called the alpha-Synuclin protein. This protein serves as a convenient biomarker that is closely associated with the tissues where Parkinson’s disease can be detected, along with the neurological pathways the disease travels along, causing its characteristic symptoms.

As a simple and highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect Parkinson’s biomarkers, the lipid ELISA could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients. Recently, Abd-Elhadi has demonstrated a proof of concept to the high potential of this lipid-ELISA assay in differentiating healthy and Parkinson’s affected subjects. She is now in the process of analyzing a large cohort of samples, including moderate and severe Parkinson’s, and control cases, as part of a clinical study.

Through Yissum, its technology transfer company, the Hebrew University holds granted patents on the technology and signed an agreement with Integra Holdings for further development and commercialization.

2017 Kaye Innovation Award
In recognition of her work, Suaad Abd-Elhadi was awarded the Kaye Innovation Award for 2017.

The Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been awarded annually since 1994. Isaac Kaye of England, a prominent industrialist in the pharmaceutical industry, established the awards to encourage faculty, staff and students of the Hebrew University to develop innovative methods and inventions with good commercial potential, which will benefit the university and society. For more information about the 2017 Kaye Innovations Awards, visit http://bit.ly/kaye2017.

Suaad Abd-Elhadi is a direct-track Ph.D. student at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine. She completed her B.S. in medical laboratory science at Hadassah Academic College. She was awarded a scholarship from the Liba and Manek Teich Endowment Fund for Doctoral Students and an Adrian Sucari Scholarship for Academic Excellence. She conducts her research under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon and has published papers in Science Reports and Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry describing her research.

Achievements

Advancing Science that Fuels the Future

From discovering new ways to treat diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s to feeding a growing global population — scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) are pioneering research that will bring life-saving innovations and sustainable solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) supports these efforts because we believe science fuels a brighter future.

Since its founding in 1918, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been dedicated to advancing research and knowledge for the benefit of mankind. Support for AFHU drives the important, life-saving innovations, discoveries, and breakthroughs that come out of HU. We encourage you to sign up to learn more about Hebrew University.

Knowledge moves us…to discover, to grow, and to advance humanity.

Explore what science for the global good looks like.

Achievements

Research Breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other Neurodegenerative Diseases

Every day at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), researchers are working to address the causes of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Signs and symptoms can include memory loss, disorientation, and mental confusion; however, HU researchers have discovered ways to reduce the potential risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by studying the way in which food affects brain health.

Hebrew University scientists are collaborating every day to explore the brain’s complexities, cure neurological diseases faster, and bring life-changing innovations to the world. American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) supports these efforts because we believe science fuels a brighter future.

Knowledge moves us…to discover, to grow, and to advance humanity.

Explore what science for the global good looks like.

One example of how Hebrew University researchers are revolutionizing neuroscience is mapping brains of the blind.

Studying the brain activity of blind people, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are challenging the standard view of how the human brain specializes to perform different kinds of tasks and shedding new light on how our brains can adapt to the rapid cultural and technological changes of the 21st century.

The accepted view in previous decades was that the brain is divided into distinct regions mainly by the sensory input that activates them, such as the visual cortex for sight and the auditory cortex for sound. Within these large regions, sub-regions have been defined which are specialized for specific tasks such as the “visual word form area,” a functional brain region believed to identify words and letters from shape images even before they are associated with sounds or meanings. Similarly, there is another area that specializes in number symbols.

However, a series of studies at Hebrew University’s Amedi Lab for Brain and Multisensory Research challenges this view using unique tools known as Sensory Substitution Devices (SSDs).

SSDs take information from one sense and present it to another, for example enabling blind people to “see” by using other senses such as touching or hearing. By using a smartphone or webcam to translate a visual image into a distinct soundscape, SSDs enable blind users to create a mental image of objects, such as their physical dimensions and color. With intense training, blind users can even “read” letters by identifying their distinct soundscape.

“These devices can help the blind in their everyday life,” explains Professor Amir Amedi, “but they also open unique research opportunities by letting us see what happens in brain regions normally associated with one sense when the relevant information comes from another.”

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Uncategorized

What to know about Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. While there is no cure yet,  experts at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are diligently working to learn more about the disease and develop ways to treat, prevent, and ultimately stop a disease that affects more than 5.5 million Americans.

From developing an effective medicine for treating Alzheimer’s symptoms to investigating which foods may prevent the disease, to researching Alzheimer’s on the molecular level, Hebrew University researchers are unrelenting in their efforts to discover more about this complex disease.

Alzheimer’s is progressive, with dementia symptoms gradually worsen over several of years. Knowing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s is key to early detection and diagnosis, which in turn can lead to expanding treatment and intervention options.

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. The National Institute of Health states decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 -80% of dementia cases. The greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. However, approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Achievements

Hebrew University’s Dr. Ami Citri Wins Adelis Brain Research Award

Dr. Ami Citri of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences received the $100,000 Adelis Brain Research Award for outstanding work in the field of experience-dependent plasticity in the brain and its impact on diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders and addiction. òîé öéúøéThe Citri lab develops unique multi-disciplinary approaches to studying the encoding of experiences in the brain, and has developed a special system to study the basis of selective attention, which was recognized by the Adelis Award.

The Adelis Award is aimed at recognizing and supporting research in Israel which will significantly advance the knowledge and understanding of the brain in health and pathologies. Candidates were reviewed and the winners were selected by a committee of distinguished experts in brain research together with prominent representatives of the public.

The Adelis Brain Research Award is one of two major neuroscience prizes were awarded during the BrainTech 2015 Conference in Tel Aviv to promising researchers from Israel and the U.S., marking IBT’s commitment to excellence in neuroscience research. The prizes acknowledge the work of neuroscientists and mathematicians whose research advance our understanding of the human brain as well as solutions, treatments, and cures for various brain-related ailments.

The conference was organized by Israel’s brain initiative, Israel Brain Technologies, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance Israel’s neurotechnology industry by accelerating neuro-innovation and fostering international collaboration. BrainTech 2015 is a global conference to explore ways in which brain technology will change the human landscape. The conference brings together thought-leaders from around the world to advance neuroscience and neurotechnology – entrepreneurs, neuroscientists, clinicians, investors, startups, multinationals and policymakers and joins stakeholders from around the world to support the entire lifecycle of innovation in brain technologies.

“Brain-related illness such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, brain trauma and others know no borders, and neither can their cures,” added Dr. Rafi Gidron, Chairman of Israel Brain Technologies. “By the same token, creativity, invention, innovation, and imagination also know no borders and therefore, initiatives seeking the next big thing in brain technology should by definition be global endeavors.”

President Shimon Peres, whose vision of turning Israel into a worldwide braintech hub – from “Startup Nation” to “Brain Nation” – inspired the creation of IBT, laid out his vision for the future of brain technology during a “fireside chat” at the conference. “We have in Israel right now over a hundred companies that are dealing with the brain, we have brain faculties in every university,” said President Peres. “This is only the beginning. We are a startup in the brain.”

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