imric | האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Skip to Hebrew
Skip to English
Skip to Arabic
Skip to Site Map

imric

English

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
AddThis 

How stress controls hemoglobin levels in blood

04/04/2017

“Even at the cellular level, stress and the ability to mount a stress response are essential to our survival”

Our ability to breathe oxygen is critical to our survival. This process is mediated by the hemoglobin in our blood, which carries oxygen. Since air contains less oxygen on high mountains, the body is under pressure to make hemoglobin rapidly -- a stressful time. But what role does cellular stress play in the production of hemoglobin?

In a paper in the high-impact journal Cell Research, published April 4, 2017, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem report the discovery of an entirely new mechanism through which globin genes are expressed. Discovery of this hitherto unknown property of the hemoglobin genes shows that stress is absolutely needed to allow for the production of hemoglobin.

To produce a globin protein molecule, the DNA of the globin gene is first transcribed into a long RNA molecule from which internal segments must be excised, or spliced out, to generate the RNA template for protein synthesis in the red cell.

Now, a team of molecular biologists led by Prof. Raymond Kaempfer in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine reports that for each of the adult and fetal globin genes, the splicing of its RNA is strictly controlled by an intracellular stress signal.

The signal, which has been known for a long time, involves an enzyme present in every cell of the body, called PKR, which remains silent unless it is activated by a specific RNA structure thought to occur only in RNA made by viruses.

What Kaempfer and collaborators have discovered is that the long RNAs transcribed from the globin genes each contain a short intrinsic RNA element that is capable of strongly activating PKR. Unless the PKR enzyme is activated in this manner, the long RNA cannot be spliced to form the mature RNA template for globin protein synthesis.

“Surprisingly, we have revealed an entirely new mechanism through which hemoglobin gene expression is regulated by stress. An intracellular signal, essential for coping with stress, is absolutely necessary to allow for hemoglobin production. That stress signal is activated by the hemoglobin gene itself. Although we have long known that this signal strongly inhibits protein synthesis in general, during hemoglobin gene expression it first plays its indispensable, positive role before being turned off promptly to allow for massive hemoglobin formation needed for breathing,” said Prof. Raymond Kaempfer, the Dr. Philip M. Marcus Professor of Molecular Biology and Cancer Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Once activated, PKR will place a phosphate (a process known as phosphorylation) onto a key initiation factor needed for the synthesis of all proteins, called eIF2-alpha. That in turn leads to inactivation of eIF2-alpha, resulting in a block in protein synthesis. This process is essential for coping with stress.

Most unexpectedly, they discovered that once activated, PKR must phosphorylate eIF2-alpha, and that phosphorylated eIF2-alpha is essential to form the machinery needed to splice globin RNA. In the splicing process, removal of an internal RNA segment causes the mature RNA product to refold such that it no longer will activate PKR, now allowing for unimpeded synthesis on this RNA of the essential globin protein chains at maximal rates, allowing for effective oxygen breathing. In other words, the ability to activate PKR remains transient, serving solely to enable splicing.

Thus, the team has demonstrated a novel, positive role for PKR activation and eIF2-alpha phosphorylation in human globin RNA splicing, in contrast to the long-standing negative role of this intracellular stress response in protein synthesis.  

The realization that stress is not only important but also essential may have important implications for how we understand hemoglobin expression. “What this boils down to is that even at the cellular level, stress and the ability to mount a stress response are essential to our survival. We have long known this in relation to other biological processes, and now we see that it is at play even for the tiny molecules that carry oxygen in our blood,” said Prof. Kaempfer.

Kaempfer's lab is in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at IMRIC, the Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada, in the Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine. IMRIC is one of the most innovative biomedical research organizations in Israel and worldwide, bringing together brilliant scientific minds to find solutions to the world's most serious medical problems through a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical research. More information at http://imric.org.

CITATION: PKR activation and eIF2-alpha phosphorylation mediate human globin mRNA splicing at spliceosome assembly. Lena Ilan, Farhat Osman, Lise Sarah Namer, Einav Eliahu, Smadar Cohen-Chalamish, Yitzhak Ben-Asouli, Yona Banai, Raymond Kaempfer. Cell Research, advance online publication on April 4, 2017. doi: doi:10.1038/cr.2017.39

FUNDING: This work was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation.             

How stress controls hemoglobin levels in blood
AddThis 

Canada's Governor General Visits Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine, Mrs. Johnston Visits Early Childhood Programs

03/11/2016

Governor General discusses collaborative medical research partnerships between Canada and Israel at IMRIC, the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada

The Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, and his wife Sharon Johnston visited the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine today. The 28th Governor General of Canada, and the first to make a state visit to Israel, Johnston was accompanied by a delegation that discussed collaborative medical research partnerships between Canada and Israel.

The delegation visited IMRIC, the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada — one of the most innovative biomedical research organizations worldwide, bringing together Canadian and Israeli scientists to find solutions to the world's most serious medical problems through a multidisciplinary approach (www.imric.org).

The President of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, welcomed The Governor General and Mrs. Johnston, saying: “When you travel abroad you want to feel at home, and here at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine you can feel right at home. At the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, Canadians are directly involved in the translational medicine taking place here. Together, Israel and Canada are translating science into medicine and, ultimately, healing the world.”

Governor General Johnston replied, “You greeted us by saying ‘Welcome home,’ and you explained why: the common ground we have, and the sharing of knowledge. The diplomacy of knowledge is very enabling, and that is what we celebrate at an institute like this, a Canada-Israel institute of medicine.”

Prof. Haya Lorberboum-Galski, Chair of the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, described the numerous collaborative medical research partnerships between Canada and Israel taking place at the Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada. Among these are the Alex U. Soyka Pancreatic Cancer Research Project (link); the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Cancer Genomics and Immunotherapy Program; the Canada-Israel International Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Consortium (link); and a collaboration with the Montreal Neurological Institute. Prof. Abraham Fainsod and Prof. Ehud Cohen then described their research into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Alzheimer's Disease, respectively.

Sharon Johnston Holds Round-Table Discussion with Early Childhood Program and HIPPY Israel Leaders:

On Wednesday, Sharon Johnston visited the National Council of Jewish Women Research Institute for Innovation in Education to meet with leaders of various Early Childhood Programs. As honorary patron of HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) Canada (http://hippycanada.ca/wordpress), she met with leaders of the HIPPY Israel program (http://hippy-international.org/israel) to learn about services offered by the organization. She heard from several mothers who said that participating in HIPPY has helped them become more effective parents, and she discussed common challenges, lessons and experiences among the Canadian and Israeli programs.

HIPPY Israel and its sibling early childhood programs serve some 3,000 families among Israel’s native-born Arab and Jewish communities and immigrant communities from Ethiopia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Operating in over 70 sites, HIPPY Israel is part of the government’s New Beginnings initiative designed to extricate preschoolers and school-age children from risk and poverty.  The Ministry of Education, education and social services departments of local authorities and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem all contribute to the operation of HIPPY in Israel. Founded in the late 1960s, HIPPY Israel is the most veteran of all HIPPY programs worldwide (http://hippy-international.org), which are dedicated to the principles of equal educational opportunity and social inclusion, working with communities and families who face socio-economic challenges, helping parents and carers to nurture children’s readiness for school and their motivation to reach their highest potential. 

The visits to the Hebrew University come in the context of forging greater ties between Canadian and Israeli innovation and educational institutions. Prior to visiting Israel, the Governor General wrote in an op-ed, "We are looking beyond our borders for ideas and innovation – and what better place to look than Israel, a leader in new ideas and innovative thinking. We have much to learn from each other."

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

Photos available for download:

Governor General’s Visit to Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine

—Photo 1: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu161103_johnston1.JPG The President of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, welcomes the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston (Photo: Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)

—Photo 2: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu161103_johnston2.jpg From left: IMRIC researcher Prof. Ehud Cohen; Governor General David Johnston; the President of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson; Chair of the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada, Prof. Haya Lorberboum-Galski; Mrs. Sharon Johnston; Dean of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, Prof. David Lichtstein; and IMRIC researcher Prof. Abraham Fainsod.  (Photo: Bruno Charbit for Hebrew University)

Mrs. Johnston’s Visit to Hebrew University Early Childhood Programs

—Photo 1: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu161102_hippy1.jpg: Prof. Gad Yair, Director of the NCJW Research Center for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University, discusses the HIPPY Israel program with Mrs. Johnston. (Photo: Dov Smith/Hebrew University)

—Photo 2: http://media.huji.ac.il/new/photos/hu161102_hippy2.jpg: Hayat Abd Elhak, an instructor for the past 18 years in the HIPPY Israel program, presents Mrs. Johnston with a bracelet she made for her, inscribed with the Hebrew University early education programs’ motto, “From Birth to University.” “I will wear this to the state dinner tonight,” said Mrs. Johnston. (Photo: Dov Smith/Hebrew University)

Canada's Governor General Visits Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine, Mrs. Johnston Visits Early Childhood Programs
AddThis 

IMRIC Scientist Awarded for Work in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine

18/07/2016

Dr. Yosef Buganim is a young researcher at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), part of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Yosef Buganim, a research scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the prestigious journals Science and Science Translational Medicine, and the Boyalife industrial research consortium, for his work in stem cells and regenerative medicine. (See Buganim’s essay in Science at http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6292/1401.full).

Dr. Buganim is a young researcher who recently joined the Department of Molecular Biology and Cancer Research at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC, http://imric.org). Part of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine, IMRIC is one of the most innovative and multidisciplinary biomedical research organizations in the world.

Awarded for the first time this year, the Boyalife Science & Science Translational Medicine Award in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine honors researchers for outstanding contributions in stem cell research and regenerative medicine around the globe. AAAS, Science, and Science Translational Medicine joined efforts with Boyalife, an industrial-research consortium formed in Wuxi, China, in 2009, to sponsor the award.  Composed of prominent researchers, the judging panel was co-chaired by a Science and a Science Translational Medicine editor.

At his Hebrew University laboratory, Buganim uses somatic cell conversion models to identify and investigate the elements that facilitate safe and complete nuclear reprogramming. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, he used single-cell technologies and bioinformatic approaches to shed light on the molecular mechanisms that underlie the reprogramming of somatic cells to iPSCs.

Regenerative medicine is a developing field aimed at regenerating, replacing or engineering human cells, tissues or organs, to establish or restore normal function. Embryonic stem cells have enormous potential in this area because they can differentiate into all cell types in the human body. However, two significant obstacles prevent their immediate use in medicine: ethical issues related to terminating human embryos, and rejection of foreign cells by a patient's immune system.

In 2006, Japanese researchers discovered that it is possible to reprogram adult cells and return them to their embryonic stage, creating functional embryonic stem-like cells. These cells are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and constitute a solution to these two obstacles. In addition, these cells provide a good basis for modeling diseases and finding medical solutions, because they can be reproduced from different patients and different diseases.

Despite these cells’ enormous potential, their quality is still not sufficient to be used in clinical practice, and there is a need to find the best protocol that will enable production of high-quality iPSCs that will not endanger patients.

Dr. Buganim’s laboratory has made two major breakthroughs in this area, representing a major step forward in the field of regenerative medicine and transplantation.

Project A: To improve the quality of embryonic stem cells, Dr. Buganim and colleagues conducted bioinformatics analyses which pointed to four new key genes capable of creating iPSCs from skin cells, of superior quality to stem cells in current use. These cells produced in his laboratory (in this case mouse cells) are able to clone a whole mouse at a much higher percentage (80%) than other iPSCs (30%). This test is the most important one determine the quality of the cells.

Project B: Many women suffer recurrent miscarriages and abnormal development of the placenta, which causes fetal growth restriction and in some cases produces children with mental retardation. Dr. Buganim’s lab found the key genes of the placenta stem cells and by expressing them in surplus in skin cells, created placental iPSCs. These cells looked and behaved like natural placental stem cells. Various tests showed that these cells have cell-generating capability in a Petri dish and inside a placenta that develops following a transplant. These cells have potential for use in regenerative medicine in cases of problematic placental functioning. The success of this project may enable women with placenta problems to give birth to healthy children and rescue pregnancies at risk of dysfunctional placenta. (See details at http://new.huji.ac.il/en/article/27928.)

Forward-looking: Alongside creating specific cell types (e.g. nerve cells in patients with Parkinson's disease, ALS and Alzheimer) from a patient’s skin cells, a potential future use of iPSCs is the creation of whole organs (such as heart, liver or kidney) in a suitable animal model using cells taken from the patient.

Citation: Science, Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1401, DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1215 (link: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6292/1401.full)

# # #

Boyalife Group, previously known as the International Consortium of Stem Cell Research (INCOSC), was founded in July 2009 in Wuxi, China. In July 2015, Boyalife became the world’s first Stem Cell Bank accredited by AABB standard of Somatic Cell. Through subsidiaries, the company is also engaged in regenerative medicine, genomics, animal cloning, innovative drug discovery and disease modeling.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling and Science Advances. The non-profit AAAS -- www.aaas.org -- is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more.

The Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada (IMRIC), in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Medicine, is one of the most innovative biomedical research organizations in Israel and worldwide. IMRIC brings together brilliant scientific minds to find solutions to the world's most serious medical problems, through a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical research. More information at http://imric.org.

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.

IMRIC Scientist Awarded for Work in Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine
AddThis 
Subscribe to RSS - imric