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Novel technique reveals the intricate beauty of a cracked glass

31/10/2017

Physics, math and special gels explain the formation of fracture patterns in brittle materials

Researchers have long pondered the origin of delicate criss-cross facetted patterns that are commonly found on the surfaces of broken material. Typical crack speeds in glass easily surpass a kilometer per second, and broken surface features may be well smaller than a millimeter. Since the formation of surface structure lasts a tiny fraction of a second, the processes generating these patterns have been largely a mystery.

Now there is a way around this problem. Replacing hard glass with soft but brittle gels makes it possible to slow down the cracks that precipitate fracture to mere meters per second. This novel technique has enabled researchers Itamar Kolvin, Gil Cohen and Prof. Jay Fineberg, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Racah Institute of Physics, to unravel the complex physical processes that take place during fracture in microscopic detail and in real time.

Their work sheds new light on how broken surface patterns are formed. Surface facets bounded by steps are formed due to a special “topological” arrangement of the crack that cannot easily be undone, much as a knot along a string cannot be unraveled without pulling the whole length of the string through it.

These “crack knots” increase the surface formed by a crack, thereby creating a new venue for dissipating the energy required for material failure, and thereby making materials harder to break. 

“The complex surfaces that are commonly formed on any fractured object have never been entirely understood,” said Prof. Jay Fineberg. “While a crack could form perfectly flat, mirror-like fracture surfaces (and sometimes does), generally complex facetted surfaces are the rule, even though they require much more energy to form. This study illuminates both how such beautiful and intricate patterns emerge in the fracture process, and why the crack cannot divest itself of them once they are formed.”

This physically important process provides an aesthetic example of how physics and mathematics intertwine to create intricate and often unexpected beauty. The research appears in Nature Materials.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by innovative thinkers including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution that advances science and knowledge for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

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FUNDING: Fineberg and Kolvin acknowledge the support of the Israel Science Foundation (grant no.1523/15), as well as the US-Israel Bi-national Science Foundation (grant no. 2016950).

CITATION: Itamar Kolvin, Gil Cohen, Jay Fineberg. Topological defects govern crack front motion and facet formation on broken surfaces. Nature Materials, Advance Online Publication October 16, 2017. doi:10.1038/nmat5008. Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmat5008

Novel technique reveals the intricate beauty of a cracked glass
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New research could lead to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease

05/07/2017

Suaad Abd-Elhadi wins Kaye Innovation Award for her work on a new diagnostic approach that could pave the way for early diagnosis of one of the most common and debilitating neurodegenerative disorders

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 changes in the severity of the disease. This will allow drug companies to test potential drugs at higher efficacy.

Now, a novel diagnostic approach developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine could pave the way toward such a test. Working under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon, at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), PhD student Suaad Abd-Elhadi developed the lipid ELISA, an approach that 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 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.

The development of a simple and highly sensitive diagnostic tool that can detect Parkinson’s biomarkers could lead to a minimally invasive and cost-effective way to improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients. Toward this end, Abd-Elhadi has recently demonstrated a proof of concept to the high potential of the 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.

The Hebrew University, which holds granted patents on the technology through its technology transfer company Yissum, has 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 of the institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine. Under the supervision of Dr. Ronit Sharon, she conducts research that has been published in Scientific Reports and Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. She completed her BSc in medical laboratory science at Hadassah Academic College, and was awarded a scholarship from the Liba and Manek Teich Endowment Fund for Doctoral Students and an Adrian Sucari Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

Photo for download: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_abdelhadi.jpg - Doctoral student and Kaye Innovation Award winner Suaad Abd-Elhadi (Credit: Hebrew University)

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s leading academic and research institution, is ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

New research could lead to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease
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HU Researchers: Simple Method Measures How Long Bacteria Can Wait Out Antibiotics

21/06/2017

The efficient classification of bacterial strains as tolerant, resistant, or persistent could help to guide treatment decisions, and could ultimately reduce the ever-growing risk of resistance

A growing number of pathogens are developing resistance to one or more antibiotics, threatening our ability to treat infectious diseases. Now, according to a study published in Biophysical Journal, a simple new method for measuring the time it takes to kill a bacterial population could improve the ability of clinicians to effectively treat antimicrobial-tolerant strains that are on the path to becoming resistant.

“These findings allow measurement of tolerance, which has previously been largely overlooked in the clinical setting,” says senior study author Prof. Nathalie Balaban, the Joseph and Sadie Danciger Professor of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Routinely measuring tolerance could supply valuable information about the duration of antibiotic treatments, reducing the chance of both under- and over-treatment. Furthermore, data compiled from such measurements could give an estimate of how widespread the phenomenon of tolerance really is, which is currently a complete unknown.”

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health and is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Due to selective pressure, pathogens acquire resistance through mutations that make the antibiotic less effective, for example, by interfering with the ability of a drug to bind to its target. Currently, clinicians determine which antibiotic and dose to prescribe by assessing resistance levels using a routine metric called minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC)—the minimal drug concentration required to prevent bacterial growth.

Although resistant strains continue to grow despite exposure to high drug concentrations, tolerant strains can survive lethal concentrations of an antibiotic for a long period of time before succumbing to its effects. Tolerance is often associated with treatment failure and relapse, and it is considered a stepping stone toward the evolution of antibiotic resistance. But unlike resistance, tolerance is poorly understood and is currently not evaluated in healthcare settings.

“The lack of a quantitative measure means that this aspect of the treatment relies largely on the experience of the individual physician or the community,” says first author Asher Brauner, a PhD student in Balaban’s lab at the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics. “This can lead to treatment being either too short, increasing the risk of relapse and evolution of resistance, or much too long, unnecessarily causing side effects, release of antibiotic waste into the environment, and additional costs.”

To address this problem, Balaban and her team developed a tolerance metric called the minimum duration for killing 99% of the population (MDK99). The protocol, which can be performed manually or using an automated robotic system, involves exposing populations of approximately 100 bacteria in separate microwell plates to different concentrations of antibiotics for varied time periods, while determining the presence or lack of survivors.

The researchers applied MDK99 to six Escherichia coli strains, which showed tolerance levels ranging from 2 to 23 hr under ampicillin treatment. MDK99 also facilitates measurements of a special case of tolerance known as time-dependent persistence—the presence of transiently dormant subpopulations of bacteria that are killed more slowly than the majority of the fast-growing population. Like other forms of tolerance, time-dependent persistence can lead to recurrent infections because the few surviving bacteria can quickly grow to replenish the entire population once antibiotic treatment stops.

“A take-home message from this is that it is important to complete a course of antibiotic treatment as prescribed, even after the disappearance of the symptoms,” Balaban says. “Partial treatment gives tolerance and persistence mutations a selective advantage, and these, in turn, hasten the development of resistance.”

In future studies, Balaban and her team will use MDK99 to study the evolution of tolerance in patients. Moreover, the ability to systematically determine the tolerance level of strains in the lab could facilitate research in the field. “If implemented in hospital clinical microbiology labs, MDK99 could enable the efficient classification of bacterial strains as tolerant, resistant, or persistent, helping to guide treatment decisions,” Balaban says. “In the end, understanding tolerance and finding a way to combat it could significantly reduce the ever-growing risk of resistance.”

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Scientists involved with this research are affiliated with The Racah Institute of Physics and The Center for NanoScience and NanoTechnology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and The Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

FUNDING: This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) (grant 681819) and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) (grant 492/15).

CITATION: Biophysical Journal. Asher Brauner, Noam Shoresh, Ofer Fridman, Nathalie Q. Balaban.: “An Experimental Framework for Quantifying Bacterial Tolerance” http://www.cell.com/biophysj/fulltext/S0006-3495(17)30551-9 / doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2017.05.014

HU Researchers: Simple Method Measures How Long Bacteria Can Wait Out Antibiotics
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Researchers find micro-gene that protects the brain from developing epilepsy

06/06/2017
Increased levels of a micro-RNA could have a protective effect that explains why identical stressors trigger seizures in some people but not in others

On December 16, 1997, hundreds of Japanese children were brought to hospital suffering from epilepsy-like seizures. They all had one thing in common: they had been watching an episode of the Pokémon TV show when their symptoms began. Doctors determined that their symptoms were triggered by five seconds of intensely bright flashing lights on the popular TV program. But why did the lights affect a few hundred children while thousands of other viewers were unharmed?

In new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers headed by Prof. Hermona Soreq at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sought to answer this question. Drawing on her previous research, Prof. Soreq, the Charlotte Slesinger Professor of Molecular Neuroscience at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, hypothesized that healthy brains may be protected from epileptic seizures by rapidly produced molecules called short RNAs, or microRNAs (miRs). MicroRNAs are a recently-discovered class of non-coding RNAs that can prevent genes from expressing particular proteins.

To test this idea, Soreq and her colleagues at the Hebrew University developed a transgenic mouse producing unusually high amounts of one micro-RNA called miR-211, which the researchers predicted was involved. The levels of this molecule could be gradually lowered by administering the antibiotic Doxycycline, enabling tests of its potency to avoid epilepsy.

Working with colleagues at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Dalhousie University in Canada, they suppressed excess miR-211 production in the engineered mice to the levels found in normal brains. Within four days, this caused the mice to display electrically-recorded epilepsy and hypersensitivity to epilepsy-inducing compounds.  “Dynamic changes in the amount of miR-211 in the forebrains of these mice shifted the threshold for spontaneous and pharmacologically induced seizures, alongside changes in the cholinergic pathway genes,” said Prof. Soreq.

These findings indicated that mir-211 plays a beneficial role in protecting the brain from epileptic seizures in the engineered mice.

Noting that miR-211 is known to be elevated in the brains of Alzheimer's patients who are at high risk for epilepsy, the researchers suspect that in human brains as well, elevated miR-211 may act as a protective mechanism to reduce the risk of epileptic seizures.

“It is important to discover how only some people’s brains present a susceptibility to seizures, while others do not, even when subjected to these same stressors,” said Prof. Soreq. In searching for the physiological mechanisms that allow some people’s brains to avoid epilepsy, we found that increased levels of micro-RNA 211 could have a protective effect.”

According to the researchers, recognizing the importance of miR-211 could open new avenues for diagnosing and interfering with epilepsy. By understanding how miR-211 affects seizure thresholds, scientists could potentially develop therapeutics that lead to greater miR-211–production.

Participating researchers are affiliated with the following institutions: The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences and The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; Department of Physiology and Cell Biology and Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; and Department of Medical Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Canada. The authors thank the Netherlands Brain Bank for human-derived samples.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

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CITATION: Dynamic changes in murine forebrain miR-211 expression associate with cholinergic imbalances and epileptiform activity. Uriya Bekenstein, Nibha Mishra, Dan Z. Milikovsky, Geula Hanin, Daniel Zelig, Liron Sheintuch, Amit Berson, David S. Greenberg, Alon Friedman, and Hermona Soreq. PNAS Early Edition, June 5, 2017. Doi:10.1073/pnas.1701201114. Link: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1701201114

SUPPORT: The research was supported by grants to various researchers from: European Research Council Advanced Award 321501; European Union’s Seventh Framework Program FP7/2007–2013 Grant 602102, EPITARGET; Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space Grant 53140; Legacy Heritage Science Initiative of the Israel Science Foundation Grants 817/13 and 717/15; the Planning and Budgeting Committee Q:35 and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences postdoctoral fellowship; and the Howard and Diana Wendy Pre-doctoral Fellowship. 

- Dov Smith

Researchers find micro-gene that protects the brain from developing epilepsy
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Cannabis reverses aging processes in brains of mice

08/05/2017

Researchers restore the memory performance of Methuselah mice to a juvenile stage

Next step: clinical trials in humans to see whether THC reverses aging processes and increases cognitive ability

Memory performance decreases with increasing age. Cannabis can reverse these aging processes in the brain. This was shown in mice by scientists at the University of Bonn with their colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Old animals were able to regress to the state of two-month-old mice with a prolonged low-dose treatment with a cannabis active ingredient. This opens up new options, for instance, when it comes to treating dementia. The results are now presented in the journal Nature Medicine.

Like any other organ, our brain ages. As a result, our cognitive abilities decrease with increasing age. Thus it becomes more difficult to learn new things or devote attention to several things at the same time. This process is normal, but can also promote dementia. Researchers have long been looking for ways to slow down or even reverse this process.

Scientists at the University of Bonn and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have now achieved this in mice. With their short life expectancy, these animals display pronounced cognitive deficits even at twelve months of age. The researchers administered a small quantity of THC, the active ingredient in the hemp plant (cannabis), to mice aged two, twelve and 18 months over a period of four weeks.

Afterwards, they tested learning capacity and memory performance in the animals – including, for instance, orientation skills and the recognition of other mice. Mice that were only given a placebo displayed natural age-dependent learning and memory losses. In contrast, the cognitive functions of the animals treated with cannabis were just as good as the two-month-old control animals. “The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals,” reported Prof. Andreas Zimmer from the Institute of Molecular Psychiatry at the University of Bonn and member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation.

Years of meticulous research

This treatment success is the result of years of meticulous research. First, the scientists discovered that the brain ages much faster when mice do not possess any functional receptors for THC. These cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors are proteins to which the substances dock and thus trigger a signal chain. CB1 is also the reason for the intoxicating effect of THC in cannabis products, such as hashish or marihuana, which accumulate at the receptor. THC imitates the effect of cannabinoids produced naturally in the body, which fulfil important functions in the brain. “With increasing age, the quantity of the cannabinoids naturally formed in the brain reduces,” says Prof. Zimmer. “When the activity of the cannabinoid system declines, we find rapid aging in the brain.”

To discover precisely what effect the THC treatment has in old mice, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, led by Dr. Mona Dvir-Ginzberg and the late Prof. Itai Bab, examined the epigenetic changes in brains of aged mice treated with THC.

"The THC treatment induced molecular and epigenetic changes, which no longer corresponded to that of untreated old animals, but rather were similar to what we see in young animals," said Dr. Mona Dvir-Ginzberg from the Institute of Dental Sciences, in the Faculty of Dental Medicine at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Moreover, the number of links between the nerve cells in the brain also increased again, which is an important prerequisite for learning ability. “It looked as though the THC treatment turned back the molecular clock,” says Zimmer.

Next step: clinical trial on humans

A low dose of the administered THC was chosen so that there was no intoxicating effect in the mice. Cannabis products are already permitted as medications, for instance as pain relief. As a next step, the researchers want to conduct a clinical trial to investigate whether THC also reverses aging processes in the brain in humans and can increase cognitive ability.

CITATION: A chronic low dose of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) restores cognitive function in old mice, Nature Medicine, DOI: 10.1038/nm.4311 (link: https://www.nature.com/nm/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nm.4311.html)

Cannabis reverses aging processes in brains of mice
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Intel Corporation to Acquire Mobileye, an example of Hebrew University Research Excellence

15/03/2017

The Hebrew University congratulates Prof. Amnon Shashua, from the Rachel and Selim Benin School of Computer Science and Engineering, on the announcement that Intel Corporation will acquire Mobileye, the firm Shashua co-founded based on his Hebrew University research.

Intel announced that it will commence a tender offer to acquire all of the issued and outstanding ordinary shares of Mobileye for about $15 billion. The deal is the biggest ever exit in the history of Israeli industry.

Mobileye’s technology was developed in Hebrew University labs and was commercialized by Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of the Hebrew University. The story of Mobileye is the story of its two founders, Amnon Shashua, who serves as chairman and CTO, and CEO Ziv Aviram. Shashua still teaches at the Hebrew University's School of Computer Science and Engineering.

"In buying Mobileye, Intel recognizes the research excellence coming out of the Hebrew University," said Prof. Isaiah (Shy) Arkin, Vice-President for Research and Development at the Hebrew University.

“We are always happy to see technology started at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem become such a huge success. This is a record deal not only for Yissum and Mobileye, but for Israel,” said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company.

Mobileye was founded in 1999 with a mission to help cut the number of injuries and fatalities caused by vehicles. Over a million people are killed each year in car accidents around the world, and up to 50 million sustain heavy injuries. Mobileye is the world leader in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

In 2013, Mobileye showcased its driver-safety technology to President Obama as an example of Israeli ingenuity and innovation during his state visit to Israel.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.
Intel Corporation to Acquire Mobileye, an example of Hebrew University Research Excellence
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Israeli and Palestinian Researchers Cooperate to Find Risk Factors for B Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

21/02/2017

In both groups, recreational sun exposure, black hair-dye use, a history of hospitalization for infection, and having a first-degree relative with a blood cancer were associated with B-NHL. Each group had unique risk factors too.

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL), tumors which may originate from B or T lymphocytes, account for approximately 3% of the worldwide cancer burden. Most epidemiological studies of NHL have been carried out in North American and European populations, with a few focusing on East Asian populations. Very few epidemiological studies have been conducted on B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL) in Middle Eastern populations.

Since Israelis and Palestinians represent genetically and culturally diverse populations living in geographic proximity, research analyzing their risk factors can enrich our understanding of genes and environment in the causation of lymphoma. Despite sharing the same ecosystem, the populations differ in terms of lifestyle, health behaviors and medical systems. Yet both populations report high incidences of NHL, which represents the fifth most common malignancy in Israel and the eighth most common malignancy among West Bank Palestinians. (As of 2012, Israel also ranked first in the world in NHL incidence rates.)

Now, Israeli and Palestinian researchers have conducted a large scale epidemiological study examining risk factors for B-NHL and its subtypes in these two populations. The team was led by Prof. Ora Paltiel, Director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, in the Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine, and a Senior Physician in Hadassah's Hematology Department.

Recruiting from both the Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jewish populations, the researchers looked at medical history, environmental and lifestyle factors among 823 people with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL) and 808 healthy controls. Using data from questionnaires, pathology review, serology and genotyping, they uncovered some risk factors common to both populations and other factors unique to each population.

The data, reported in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, showed that in both populations, overall B-NHL was associated with recreational sun exposure, black hair-dye use, a history of hospitalization for infection, and having a first-degree relative with a blood cancer. An inverse association was noted with alcohol use. Some exposures, including smoking and greater-than-monthly indoor pesticide use, were associated with specific subtypes of B-NHL.

The data also pointed to differences between the populations. Among Palestinian Arabs only, risk factors included gardening and a history of herpes, mononucleosis, rubella, or blood transfusion, while these factors were not identified in the Israeli Jewish population. In contrast, risk factors that applied to Israeli Jews only included growing fruits and vegetables, and self-reported autoimmune diseases.

The researchers concluded that differences in the observed risk factors by ethnicity could reflect differences in lifestyle, medical systems, and reporting patterns, while variations by lymphoma subtypes infer specific causal factors for different types of the disease. These findings require further investigation as to their mechanisms.

The fact that risk factors operate differently in different ethnic groups raises the possibility of gene-environment interactions, that is, that environmental exposures act differently in individuals of different genetic backgrounds. But this divergence may reflect differences in diet, cultural habits, socioeconomic, environmental and housing conditions, medical services, exposure to infections in early life or other factors.

This study reflects a unique joint scientific effort involving Israeli and Palestinian investigators, and demonstrates the importance of cooperative research even in politically uncertain climates. Cancer epidemiology will be enriched through the broadening of analytic research to include under-studied populations from a variety of ethnicities and geographic regions.

“Apart from the scientific contribution that this research provides in terms of understanding risk factors for NHL, the study entails an important research cooperation among many institutions. The study provided opportunities for training Palestinian and Israeli researchers, and will provide for intellectual interaction for years to come. The data collected will also provide a research platform for the future study of lymphoma. Epidemiologic research has the potential to improve and preserve human health, and it can also serve as a bridge to dialogue among nations,” said Prof. Ora Paltiel, Director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, and a Senior Physician in Hadassah's Hematology Department.

Participating institutions in this research included:  Braun School of  Public Health and Community Medicine, and Depts. of Hematology and Pathology, Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center; Dept. of Medical Laboratory Sciences and  Dept. of Community Medicine,  Faculty of Medicine, Al Quds University; Cancer Care Center, Augusta Victoria Hospital; Beit Jalla Hospital; Department of Statistics, Hebrew University; Department of Primary Health Care, Palestinian Ministry of Health; Tisch Cancer Institute and Institute for Translational Epidemiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Rambam Medical Center and Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion; Chaim Sheba Medical Center and Meir Medical Center and Tel Aviv University.

FUNDING: This study was supported by the MERC/USAID grant #TA-MOU-11-M31-025; by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) grant #877/10; and by the Hadassah University Hospital Compensatory Fund. 

CITATION: Ethnic Variation in Medical and Lifestyle Risk Factors for B cell non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: A Case-Control Study among Israelis and Palestinians. Geffen Kleinstern, Rania Abu Seir, Riki Perlman, Areej Khatib, Ziad Abdeen, Husein Elyan, Ronit Nirel, Gail Amir, Asad Ramlawi, Fouad Sabatin, Paolo Boffetta, Eldad J. Dann, Meirav Kedmi, Martin Ellis, Arnon Nagler, Dina Ben Yehuda, Ora Paltiel.  PLoS ONE 12(2): e0171709. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0171709. Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171709

Israeli and Palestinian Researchers Cooperate to Find Risk Factors for B Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
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Prevalence of smoking increases substantially during compulsory military service, Israeli research shows

23/01/2017

Study of 30,000 soldiers from 1987 to 2011 found that during compulsory military service, smoking increased by almost 40%. Researchers: comprehensive military tobacco-control plans are needed.

In new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, researchers found that cigarette smoking increased by almost 40% during compulsory military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In a systematic sample of nearly 30,000 soldiers from 1987 to 2011, the prevalence of smoking grew from 26.2% at recruitment to 36.5% at discharge, a 39.4% increase.

The researchers, from Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in cooperation with the IDF Medical Corps, say the increased smoking prevalence among military personnel, and the increase during military service, should act as a wake-up call to governments and health systems in countries lacking strong military tobacco control policies.

The research was conducted by Dr. Laura Rosen of the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University; Dr. Hagai Levine from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public and Community Medicine; Dr. Salman Zarka from the University of Haifa; and Vladi Rozhavski, Tamar Sela, Dr. Yael Bar-Ze’ev, and Dr. Vered Molina-Hazan from the IDF Medical Corps. It was funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research. 

Former smoking and combat profiles are risk factors for smoking initiation

Among nonsmokers at recruitment, 18% initiated smoking during service. Former smokers were at greatest risk:  56% began smoking during service. Men and women with combat profiles were also at an increased risk, after adjusting for personal, family, and military factors. Prevalence of smoking was greater among males at discharge (40.3%) than among females (32.4%), but the increase during service was similar. On the other hand, 12% of smokers at recruitment quit smoking during service. There were no clear trends over the decades regarding smoking prevalence at recruitment and discharge. There was a slight increase in smoking cessation during service among males.

A tobacco control plan in the army is desperately needed

Nearly a fifth of nonsmoking new recruits initiated smoking during service, and over half of former smokers relapsed to smoking. Because 50%– 65% of smokers die prematurely from smoking-related causes, the ongoing and future damage is enormous. The large increase in smoking during service, combined with high subsequent mortality of smokers, suggests that military tobacco control policy affects long-term survival of military personnel, and is an important contributor to population-wide mortality in countries such as Israel where a large percentage of individuals serve.

Dr. Laura Rosen, Chair of the Department of Health Promotion in the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, said: "The use of tobacco harms IDF soldiers and security in general. The government and the Ministry of Health need to cooperate with the IDF, in order to reduce the number of soldiers who start smoking, to encourage soldiers to quit smoking, and to protect non-smokers from exposure to cigarette smoke. We should take an example from the United States, which conducted extensive changes to the smoking policy in its military, to protect its soldiers and to improve the readiness and performance of its combat units. "

Dr. Hagai Levine, Head of the Environmental Health Track at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said: "The increase we found in the rate of smoking during compulsory military service is of great concern in light of the serious consequences for public health. We must concentrate our efforts in the war against smoking in order to protect the health of young men and women, and to coordinate civilian and military efforts in order to fight smoking throughout the life course. I hope that the IDF will adopt similar measures to those implemented successfully in other armies."

The investigators recommend the creation of a central tobacco control body with comprehensive tobacco control policy, similar to programs in the U.S. military. The following steps are recommended: enforcement of smoking bans in public areas; prevention of supply of free or reduced-cost cigarettes to soldiers; prevention and treatment of tobacco dependence tailored for the military environment; monitoring of personal and army-wide smoking status.

The investigators also recommend that commanders disseminate health messages and no-smoking messages through personal example, particularly in combat units and during combat operations. A special program should target former smokers, given the high chance of returning to smoking. Special attention should be paid to those who score higher in their recruitment profiles, who often end up serving in combat units where the smoking rate is higher. 

The dramatic increase in smoking during military service presents a window of opportunity for changes in health behaviors, and suggests a need for a multi-year war on tobacco among soldiers, in order to protect their health and military fitness. The study also showed that smoking is already problem prior to recruitment, which adds urgency to the call for national efforts to prevent smoking initiation, which could be coordinated with the Ministries of Education and Defense.

CITATION: Smoking Behavior Change During Compulsory Military Service in Israel, 1987–2011. Salman Zarka*, Hagai Levine*, Vladislav Rozhavski, Tamar Sela, Yael Bar-Ze’ev, Vered Molina-Hazan, Laura J. Rosen. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2016, 1–8 doi:10.1093/ntr/ntw285. *Equal contribution.

- Dov Smith

Prevalence of smoking increases substantially during compulsory military service, Israeli research shows
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Hebrew University Ranked #1 in Israel, #148 Worldwide in QS World University Rankings

06/09/2016

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has retained its leading position in the new QS World University Rankings. Published today, the 2016-2017 rankings place the university first in Israel and 148th in the world, further cementing the university’s reputation as a leader in research and academia.

Of the 7 institutions evaluated within Israel, the Hebrew University was ranked highest for Academic Reputation and Overall. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, published in March, the Hebrew University was ranked among the world's top 100 institutions in History, Anthropology, and Agriculture & Forestry.

Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said: "We’re delighted that the Hebrew University continues to receive international recognition as a world academic leader. The University’s academic and research reputation is a direct result of the hard work and commitment to excellence displayed by our faculty members, administrative staff, and students. Our investment in recent years in attracting the best researchers and equipping them with the tools to succeed is paying dividends.”

First compiled in 2004, the QS World University Rankings rate the world’s best-performing higher education institutions, considering over 4,000 for inclusion and evaluating over 900. The ranking considers universities’ performance across six indicators, selected to reflect research impact, commitment to high-quality teaching, internationalization, and global reputation amongst both academics and employers. Published by QS Intelligence Unit, the rankings are online at www.topuniversities.com.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading university and premier research institution. Founded in 1918 by such innovative thinkers as Albert Einstein, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud, the Hebrew University is a pluralistic institution where science and knowledge are advanced for the benefit of humankind. Serving 23,000 students from 85 countries, the Hebrew University produces a third of Israel’s civilian research, and its faculty are at the forefront of the international academic and scientific communities. For more information, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

Hebrew University Ranked #1 in Israel, #148 Worldwide in QS World University Rankings
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Study of Israelis and Palestinians Calls for Rethinking How HDL Protects Against Coronary Heart Disease

03/08/2016

Small and medium sized HDL particles were more closely associated than HDL-C with protection against coronary atherosclerosis in a Jerusalem study

The idea that plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is protective against coronary heart disease has been part of medical conventional wisdom for five decades. HDL-C has traditionally been considered the most important component of so-called "good cholesterol" HDL. However, drug trials that increased HDL-C have failed to support a causal role for the amount of cholesterol carried in HDL in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

With advances in the separation of lipoproteins by size and functionality, research has intensified to identify HDL measures that may be better predictors of coronary heart disease than the traditional HDL-C.  Recent evidence suggests that small, dense, protein-rich particles in HDL may be more atheroprotective than large, buoyant cholesterol-rich particles.

To explore this further, 274 Arabs and 230 Jews residing in Jerusalem were recruited for a new study by researchers at the Braun School of Public Health in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine. This work, led by Prof. Jeremy Kark of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, was undertaken by Dr. Chobufo Ditah, a physician from Cameroon, as his thesis for the Braun School’s International Masters of Public Health (IMPH) program. 

(Dr. Ditah, who received the Faculty of Medicine's award of excellence for his MSc thesis and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the IMPH  program, credits the Pears Foundation of Britain for enabling him to study at the Hebrew University. The IMPH program is made possible by donors who provide full scholarships to students from low-income countries, with the Pears Foundation endowing the largest number of scholarships and underpinning the associated alumni network. Dr. Ditah currently serves as a Medical Referent with the humanitarian NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF), overseeing the implementation, evaluation and reorientation of medical interventions in host countries.)

The researchers used Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to identify the numbers and sizes of plasma HDL particles, and helical CT-scanning to identify calcification in their coronary arteries, reflecting the overall burden of coronary atherosclerosis. With these data in hand, they looked for associations between the concentrations and sizes of different HDL particles, and coronary artery calcification.

Their findings, published in the prestigious journal Atherosclerosis, showed a statistically significant inverse association of both the number of HDL particles (HDL-P) and the concentration of small and medium-sized HDL particles (MS-HDL-P) with coronary artery calcification, after adjusting for age, statin use, smoking, and other factors. There was no association between large HDL-P and coronary artery calcification in either population group. The association with HDL-C was weaker and inconsistent between men and women.

"Our findings indicate that HDL-P and MS-HDL-P are better independent markers of coronary artery disease, as reflected by coronary artery calcification, than HDL-C, at least in this bi-ethnic population of Israelis and Palestinians," said Dr. Chobufo Ditah.

"With a better understanding of HDL's complexity and a better ability to measure its components, it is now possible to move past HDL-C to more refined measures that better reflect HDL's role in coronary heart disease risk. Based on the accumulating evidence, incorporation of MS-HDL-P or HDL-P into the routine prediction of coronary heart disease risk should be considered," said Prof. Jeremy Kark.

"These findings support previous reports, based on studies in other population groups, suggesting that small dense HDL particles are protectively associated with risk of coronary heart disease. The consistency of this finding in a new population of urban Arabs and Jews, using different disease outcomes and different separation methods, add more strength to those findings," added Dr. Ditah.

Participants in this research are affiliated with the following institutions: Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine; Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine; Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem; Mankon Sub-Divisional Hospital, Cameroon; LipoScience, Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, USA.

The Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine (link), in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, is the first school of public health in Israel. Its world-renowned International Master’s in Public Health (IMPH) program (link) graduated its 40th class in 2015, featuring a diverse student body ranging from Cameroon to Kosovo, the United States to Jerusalem. The International MPH degree has been awarded to more than 800 graduates from 92 low-income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, as well as developed countries of North America and Western Europe. The comprehensive multi-disciplinary 12-month training experience prepares graduates to take up key positions as leaders and teachers of public health in their home countries, and to initiate and participate in the promotion and development of public health practices and develop capacity-building programs for training public health personnel.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en.

FUNDING: This study was supported by research grants from the USAID Middle Eastern Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program (grant no TA-MOU-01-M21-002) and from D-CURE-Diabetes Care in Israel to Jeremy Kark.

CITATION: Small and medium sized HDL particles are protectively associated with coronary calcification in a cross-sectional population-based sample. Atherosclerosis, Volume 251, August 2016, Pages 124–131.  Chobufo Ditah, James Otvos, Hisham Nassar, Dorith Shaham, Ronit Sinnreich, Jeremy D. Kark. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2016.06.010 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021915016302556

Study of Israelis and Palestinians Calls for Rethinking How HDL Protects Against Coronary Heart Disease
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