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Mrs. Lily Safra Dedicates the New Home of Hebrew University's Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)

02/07/2017

Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, British Architect Lord Norman Foster, and more than 400 friends and supporters joined the gala celebration and naming ceremony of Israel’s largest neuroscience center

Video: ‘ELSC — The Next Generation of Brain Research’

More than 400 friends and supporters joined Mrs. Lily Safra as she dedicated the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Edmond J. Safra Campus.

The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and Lord Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman of the British architectural firm Foster + Partners, which designed the new Center, were among the dignitaries attending the gala event.

“I am thrilled to join in celebrating this defining moment for ELSC when such an extraordinary new building becomes home to a remarkable community of researchers and students,” said Mrs. Lily Safra. “Their multi-disciplinary study of the brain's secrets will surely make a profound impact on how we treat disease and care for patients. I know that my husband Edmond would share my deep sense of pride that our names are associated with such pioneering work, and with such dedicated and inspiring people."

Mrs. Safra is a leading supporter of neuroscience research projects around the world, and Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, which pledged a lead donation of $50 Million of the Center’s $150 Million initial budget.

“The Hebrew University is grateful to Mrs. Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Foundation for their leadership in this historic initiative to unlock the mysteries of the brain,” said Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University.  “ELSC is unique in the way it brings together theoretical and experimental researchers to develop pioneering approaches to brain science.”

The 14,500 square-meter Center is a premier setting that will encourage effective collaboration through interdisciplinary collaboration and interaction. Specialists in disciplines such as physics, computer science, psychology, neurobiology and medicine will all work under one roof to achieve breakthroughs that improve the lives of patients suffering from illnesses of the brain.

Directed by Prof. Israel Nelken and Prof. Adi Mizrahi, the Center will include state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center, and areas for biological and pre-clinical research. Significant emphasis was placed on constructing an environmentally friendly building with a focus on conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  

Video: “ELSC — The Next Generation of Brain Research” can be viewed at https://youtu.be/JRibYsXS0lw

Photos for Download:
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-3.jpg - Mrs. Lily Safra cuts the ribbon to dedicate the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science, accompanied by (from left) British architect Lord Norman Foster, Chairman of the Hebrew University's Board of Governors Mr. Michael Federmann, Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, and Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson. (Credit: Michael Zekri for Hebrew University) 
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-5.jpg - Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat speaks at the dedication of the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science (Credit: Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University) 
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-6.JPG - (From left) ELSC scientist Prof. Idan Segev, Member of the Council for Higher Education and Chairman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, Hebrew University Rector and President-elect Prof. Asher Cohen, and ELSC researcher Prof. Eilon Vaadia. (Credit: Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-9.jpg - Interior photo of the new brain sciences building at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (Credit: Michael Zekri for Hebrew University) 
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170613_elsc-12.jpg - Exterior photo of the new brain sciences building at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (Credit: Michael Zekri for Hebrew University)
  • http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu170316_elsc-11.jpg - The facade of the new home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science, depicting neuronal connections in the brain. (Credit: Foster + Partners / Hebrew University)

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences

ELSC’s mission is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of brain mechanisms by developing a thriving interface between theoretical and experimental neuroscience. Harnessing the extraordinary opportunities created by advances in technology and medicine, ELSC is shaping the next generation of researchers to advance the brain sciences and transform the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. By building bridges across disciplines—combining high-resolution studies of local neuronal circuits (from genes to neurons and synapses) with a global theory of the brain’s computational principles—ELSC aims to be at the forefront of neuroscience research worldwide. ELSC was founded with the generous support of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, which supports hundreds of organizations in more than 40 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

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

Mrs. Lily Safra Dedicates the New Home of Hebrew University's Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)
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Hebrew University to Dedicate New Home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)

07/06/2017

Philanthropist Mrs. Lily Safra, Architect Lord Norman Foster, and more than 400 people from Israel and abroad to attend the gala celebration and naming ceremony of Israel’s largest neuroscience center

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will dedicate the new home of The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. More than 400 people from Israel and abroad will attend the gala celebration and naming ceremony of the largest neuroscience center in Israel and one of the most ambitious in the world.

Participating in the event will be Mrs. Lily Safra, a leading supporter of neuroscience research projects around the world, and Chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, which pledged a lead donation of $50 Million of the Center’s $150 Million initial budget.

“I am truly thrilled to join in celebrating this defining moment for ELSC when such an extraordinary new building becomes home to a remarkable community of researchers and students,” said Mrs. Lily Safra. “Their multi-disciplinary study of the brain's secrets will surely make a profound impact on how we treat disease and care for patients. I know that my husband Edmond would share my deep sense of pride that our names are associated with such pioneering work, and with such dedicated and inspiring people."

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences is at the forefront of the revolution in neuroscience research. Harnessing the extraordinary opportunities created by advances in technology and medicine, ELSC is shaping the next generation of researchers to advance the brain sciences and transform the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

“ELSC is unique in the way it brings together theoretical and experimental researchers to develop pioneering approaches to brain science,” said Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, President of the Hebrew University.  “The Hebrew University is grateful to Mrs. Lily Safra and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation for their leadership in this historic initiative to unlock the mysteries of the brain.”

Lord Norman Foster, the award-winning Founder and Executive Chairman of the British architectural firm Foster + Partners, which designed the new Center, will participate in the gala event.

“The project for the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences is much like a city in microcosm, with some of the same challenges: how do we best create a sense of community, share knowledge, bring people together, and support collective endeavours towards common goals? The building works flexibly, accommodating a diverse range of requirements from customisable, individual workstations to a central courtyard that is the social heart, breaking the traditional mould of learning and making the process more collaborative. It is a celebration of the brain, and of the vital work that is carried out by the researchers here,” said Lord Foster.

The 14,500 square-meter Center will include state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center, and areas for biological and pre-clinical research. Significant emphasis was placed on constructing an environmentally friendly building with a focus on conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

Prof. Israel Nelken, Co-Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, and the Milton z"l and Brindell Gottlieb Professor of Brain Science, said: "At the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, scientists follow an interdisciplinary agenda to uncover the causal links between genes, neurons and circuits from which cognition and behavior emerge, paving the way to a wide spectrum of future applications, from clever gadgets that improve quality of life to better health care.”

ELSC scientists have already paved a way towards fundamental understanding of brain processes in health and disease. At the Lab for Understanding Neurons, Prof. Idan Segev, the David & Inez Myers Professor in Computational Neuroscience, uses mathematical tools to digitally reconstruct a whole piece of cortical circuits using powerful computers. Using these models his team recently discovered rich structures or connectivity previously unknown. These “hidden” circuit structures pose constraints on how sensory information is processed in the neocortex. Prof. Merav Ahissar, the Joseph H. and Belle Braun Professor of Psychology, with longstanding interest in studying dyslexia, recently found that a central problem for dyslexics is forming prediction, a fundamental aspect of brain computing that governs our behaviors.

ELSC’s young generation of researchers are also studying the brain at unprecedented resolutions. Dr. Ami Citri, for example, received  the prestigious $100,000 Adelis Brain Research Award for his outstanding work in the field of experience-dependent plasticity and its impact on diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Most projects are led by ELSC’s PhD students, an elite group of young scholars. 

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences

ELSC’s mission is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of brain mechanisms by developing a thriving interface between theoretical and experimental neuroscience. By building bridges across disciplines—combining high-resolution studies of local neuronal circuits (from genes to neurons and synapses) with a global theory of the brain’s computational principles—ELSC aims to be at the forefront of neuroscience research worldwide. ELSC was founded with the generous support of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, which supports hundreds of organizations in more than 40 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

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

Hebrew University to Dedicate New Home of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC)
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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.

# # #

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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Higher BMI in Adolescence May Affect Cognitive Function in Midlife

11/12/2016

Study of Israeli adolescents also looks at impact of socioeconomic position on subsequent cognitive impairment

Overweight and obesity in adolescents have increased substantially in recent decades, and today affect a third of the adolescent population in some developed countries. While the dangers posed by high adult BMI on cognitive function in later life have been documented, the association of adolescent BMI with cognitive function in midlife has not yet been reported. (BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a calculation of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.)

To shed light on this issue, scientists at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine set out to determine the association between cumulative life course burden of high-ranked body mass index (BMI), and cognitive function in midlife. The research, which will appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 55(3), was led by Prof. Jeremy Kark from the Braun School, in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine, working with colleagues in Israel and the United States.

The researchers used weight and height data from 507 individuals tracked from over 33 years starting at age 17. The participants completed a computerized cognitive assessment at ages 48–52, and their socioeconomic position was assessed by multiple methods. Using mixed models the researchers calculated the life-course burden of BMI from age 17 to midlife, and used multiple regression to assess associations of BMI and height with global cognition and its five component domains.

In this population-based study of a Jerusalem cohort, followed longitudinally from adolescence for over 33 years, we found that higher BMI in late adolescence and the long-term cumulative burden of BMI predicted poorer cognitive function later in life. Importantly, this study shows that an impact of obesity on cognitive function in midlife may already begin in adolescence, independently of changes in BMI over the adult life course,” said the paper’s senior author, Prof.  Jeremy Kark of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

“Our results also show that taller stature was associated with better global cognitive function, independent of childhood and adult socioeconomic position, and that height increase in late adolescence, reflecting late growth, conferred a protective effect, but among women only,” added Irit Cohen-Manheim, doctoral candidate at the Braun School and lead author.

The researchers point out that while socioeconomic position may have a particularly important role in the trajectory of a person’s lifetime cognitive function, it has rarely been adequately taken into account: “To the best of our knowledge, the association between BMI and cognition as a function of childhood and adult socioeconomic position has not been previously reported. Childhood household socioeconomic position appears to strongly modify the association between adolescent BMI and poorer cognition in midlife, the inverse association being restricted to low childhood socioeconomic position,” said Prof. Kark.

"Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that childhood living conditions, as reflected also by height, influence cognitive function later in life; however, our study is unique in showing that an adverse association of higher BMI with cognitive function appears to begin in adolescence and that it appears to be restricted to adults with lower childhood socioeconomic position,” said Prof.  Kark.

Evidence for the association between impaired cognitive function in midlife and subsequent dementia supports the clinical relevance of our results. Findings of the relation of BMI in adolescence with poorer midlife cognitive status, particularly in light of the ongoing epidemic of childhood obesity, require confirmation," said Irit Cohen-Manheim.

Scientists involved in this research are affiliated with the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel; Department of Clinical Research, NeuroTrax Corporation, Modiin, Israel; Centre for Medical Decision Making, Ono Academic College, Kiryat Ono, Israel; Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA; Biostatistics Unit, Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Tel-Hashomer, Israel.

FUNDING: The research was supported by grants from the Chief Scientist of the Israel Ministry of Health, the Israel Science Foundation, and the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation to Prof. Jeremy Kark.

REFERENCE: Irit Cohen-Manheim, Glen M. Doniger, Ronit Sinnreich, Ely S. Simon, Havi Murad, Ronit Pinchas-Mizrachi and Jeremy D. Kark. Body Mass Index, Height, and Socioeconomic Position in Adolescence, Their Trajectories into Adulthood, and Cognitive Function in Midlife. The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 55(3), article pre-published on December 6, 2016, DOI: 10.3233/JAD-160843.

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.

Higher BMI in Adolescence May Affect Cognitive Function in Midlife
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Single Dose of Novel Peptide Protects Cognitive Function After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)

11/07/2016

New molecules, developed by Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists, reduce inflammation, cell death and cognitive impairments following traumatic brain injury in mice

Whether at school, in car accidents, on the sports field or the battlefield, mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a common part of our lives. It is especially frequent among children, athletes, and the elderly. Now, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have shown that a single dose of a new molecule they developed can effectively protect the brain from inflammation, cell death, and cognitive impairments that often follow a mild traumatic brain injury.

Because it lacks visible external signs or objective structural brain damage, mTBI is an under-diagnosed injury. Yet it is often accompanied by long-lasting cognitive, behavioral and emotional difficulties associated with biochemical and cellular changes.  While most symptoms of mTBI are substantially resolved within days or weeks of the injury, up to 50% of mTBI patients experience symptoms at one-year post-injury. These can include psychological symptoms, subjective cognitive impairments, and somatic (physical) complaints.

These changes could result from an increase in glutamate levels, oxidative stress, opening of the blood-brain-barrier, and in particular inflammatory activity followed by cell death (apoptosis).  

Currently there is no effective treatment for patients with mTBI. 

“It is widely known that external or internal injury strongly activates the inflammatory response and leads to cell death (apoptosis) through the MAPK pathways, which are involved in the cellular responses that lead to inflammation in brain cells,” explains Prof. Daphne Atlas, from the Department of Biological Chemistry in the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Therefore, for reversing the effects of mTBI it is essential to calm the inflammatory pathways.”

At her laboratory in Jerusalem, Prof. Atlas has developed new molecules derived from the active site of Trx1, called thioredoxin-mimetic peptides (TXM-peptides). Thioredoxin (Trx1) is a major protein that maintains the oxidation/reduction state of the cells. In its reduced form it is bound to another protein (ASK1), which is released upon oxidation of Trx1 and activates a chain of enzymatic reactions that lead to inflammation. 

The newly-synthesized thioredoxin-mimetic peptides (TXM-peptides) have been shown to protect cells from early death via the activation of inflammatory pathways. Comprising 3 or 4 amino acids, these peptides have dual activity: they mimic the antioxidant activity of Trx1, and simultaneously inhibit the activity of enzymes called MAPK within the inflammatory pathway, preventing inflammation and cell death.

TXM-CB3 was previously shown to effectively lower MAPK activity in animal models of asthma and in the brain of rat model of diabetes [Kim et al 2011; Bachnoff et al 2011; Cohen-Kutner et al 2013, 2014]. The peptides managed to cross the blood-brain barrier and improve the condition of brain cells by lowering the inflammatory processes.

In the current study, published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, Prof. Atlas and colleagues explored the impact of TXM-peptides, TXM-CB3 and TXM-CB13 (DY70; provided by OneDay Biotech and Pharma Ltd), on preventing mTBI cognitive secondary injury.  The experiments were performed in collaboration with researchers at Tel Aviv University, Prof. Chagi Pick and Dr. Renana Baratz-Goldstein

Researchers induced cognitive impairments in anesthetized mice by a weight drop resulting in mild traumatic brain injury. The mice showed a decrease in spatial memory in the Y-maze test and a loss in visual learning ability in the novel object recognition test.  Lower learning ability was also detected 30 days post injury in the mTBI mice.

In these two independent tests, a single dose of either one of the TXM-peptides administered 60 minutes post-injury, at a 50 mg per kg of body weight, significantly improved the decline in cognitive performance and learning ability at 7 and 30 days post injury. In addition, the two TXM-peptides were found highly effective at inhibiting the MAPK activity in neuronal cells grown in tissue culture.

“This research demonstrates the potential for TXM-peptides to significantly reduce cognitive impairment after mild traumatic brain injury,” said Prof. Atlas. “Further studies are required to establish and examine the potential of a single dose of TXM-peptide in preventing damage if administered even one hour after brain trauma in human scenarios — for example, in chronic traumatic encephalopathy observed in American football players, which result from multiple concussions and other types of blows to the head.

"Another advantage to using peptides is in significantly reducing the risk of causing toxic effects, because they consist of amino acids which are the natural building blocks comprising cell proteins, in contrast to the use of drugs that are not natural.  So TXM-CB3 and TXM-CB13 are promising treatment candidates to prevent secondary damage that affect brain function,” said Prof. Atlas.

About The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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. The Hebrew University is ranked internationally among the top 100 universities in the world, and first among Israeli universities. Serving 23,500 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.

FUNDING: This research was supported by the Ari and Regine Aprijaskis Fund at Tel-Aviv University, and by The H.L Lauterbach Fund (Hebrew University) to Daphne Atlas.

CITATION: Baratz-Goldstein, R., Deselms, H., Heim, L. R., Khomski, L., Hoffer, B. J., Atlas, D., & Pick, C. G. (2016). Thioredoxin-Mimetic-Peptides Protect Cognitive Function after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). PLoS ONE11(6), e0157064. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157064 (Link:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0157064)

Single Dose of Novel Peptide Protects Cognitive Function After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)
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European Neuroscience Outreach Award Goes to Hebrew University's ELSC Brain Sciences Center

07/07/2016

“Crucial for the public to understand that brain research affects each and every one of our lives, from basic decision-making processes to complex brain diseases.

The EDAB-FENS Brain Awareness Week Excellence Award for 2016 has been awarded to The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Dana Foundation and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) presented the award in collaboration with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS).

Celebrating special contributions to the promotion of brain awareness through continued public outreach efforts, the Neuroscience Outreach Awards were presented at FENS Forum 2016, Europe’s pre-eminent neuroscience meeting, on July 4 in Copenhagen.

Prof. Monica di Luca, FENS president, said: “The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have embraced public engagement as an integral part of their research agenda. People of all ages are intrigued by the creative brain, and here the scientists have found imaginative ways to combine neuroscience research with the arts.”

Established in 2010, the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences has a comprehensive and innovative research agenda that includes dialogue with the public. To this end, the Center initiated Art and the Brain Week, a series of lectures and cultural events including dance, art exhibitions and films that reveal the brain’s creative processes. Since 2011, Art and the Brain has reached more than 10,000 children and adults in Jerusalem and beyond, and thousands more through newspapers, radio and television.

Dr. Rafi Aviram, Executive Director, and Ms. Alona Shani-Narkiss, Events and Publications Coordinator of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, accepted the award in Copenhagen.

Dr. Rafi Aviram said: “At ELSC we believe it is crucial for the public to understand that brain research affects each and every one of us in many aspects of our lives, from basic decision-making processes to complex brain diseases. Strengthening our bonds with the community, and enhancing the public's awareness of the importance of brain sciences, are integral to the advanced research conducted at The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences.”

Also honored at the awards ceremony was Prof. Paul Bolam, emeritus Senior Scientist at the MRC Brain Networks Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford, who received the 2016 Dana/EDAB Neuroscience Outreach Champion award.

The 10th FENS Forum of Neuroscience, the largest basic neuroscience meeting in Europe, organized by FENS and hosted by the Danish Society for Neuroscience, attracted an estimated 6000 international delegates. The mission of FENS is to advance research and education in neuroscience within and outside Europe, to facilitate interaction and coordination between its members. FENS represents 43 national and single discipline neuroscience societies with about 24,000 member scientists from 33 European countries. http://www.fens.org/

About the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences:

The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) was founded in 2010 with the assistance of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, as an interdisciplinary center for brain sciences. The Center has an innovative and revolutionary research agenda for understanding the brain and its complex products: movement, perception, cognition, language, and creativity. Scientists at ELSC examine the brain from the level of the single neuron to complex human behavior using state-of-the-art scientific equipment and innovative research approaches: nanotechnologies, telemetry, and optogenetics. The unique integration of theoreticians with experimental researchers facilitates the simulation of brain activity using supercomputers utilizing mathematical and physical models to present the brain as an ever-changing, dynamic learning system.

One important component of ELSC’s vision is to maintain a dialogue between scientists and the general public. ELSC seeks to reach out to those who are interested in the impacts of brain sciences research and are directly influenced by it. By holding public lectures and hosting temporary exhibitions on the brain, with informational handouts and joint “brainstorming,” the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences renders brain research accessible to all who are interested. For more information, please visit http://elsc.huji.ac.il.

About The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

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. The Hebrew University is ranked internationally among the top 100 universities in the world, and first among Israeli universities. Serving 23,500 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.

European Neuroscience Outreach Award Goes to Hebrew University's ELSC Brain Sciences Center
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