Science & Technology
- Written by MFA
A joint team from NRGene and Tel Aviv University has completed the mapping of the wild Emmer wheat genome in just one month, giving a significant boost to global research into crop improvement, improving global wheat yields and helping combat the world food crisis.
Wild Emmer, the progenitor of today's durum and bread wheat varieties, was one of the first crops to be domesticated about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. According to Dr. Gil Ronen, CEO of NRGene, "Mapping the Emmer genome in Israel brings everything full circle. Aaron Aaronson identified the variety in Rosh Pina in 1906 and proved that Emmer wheat was the basis for the development of cultivated wheat."
Dr. Assaf Distelfeld and other scientists at Tel Avi University have been working on wheat improvement for more than 10 years. "Mapping Emmer wheat is critical to global wheat research as it is the direct ancestor of cultivated wheat," said Dr. Distelfeld, head of the Emmer wheat consortium. "With a genome map of Emmer wheat, scientists at universities, global seed research centers, and the major seed companies will be able to breed seeds with higher yields, better disease resistance, and more adaptability to extreme growing environments, such as drought or extreme heat conditions."
For example, wild Emmer wheat is rich in nutrients such as iron and zinc, and can be naturally crossed with cultivated wheat. Transferring this trait to bread could reduce malnutrition among those whose diet is based on this staple crop.
"The repercussions of the mapping will be felt around the world," continued Dr. Distelfeld. "Scientists will now be able to identify key genes in the Emmer wheat and introduce them into commercial wheat via classical breeding, creating hardier varieties across environmental conditions, ultimately increasing the global food supply."
Researchers participating in the program represent leading universities in Israel and across the globe, including Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, Weizmann Institute of Science, University of Haifa, Ben Gurion University, and the Volcani Institute for Agricultural Research in Israel; United States Department of Agriculture; University of California, Davis; University of Illinois; University of Minnesota; University of New Hampshire; Sabanci University in Turkey; and IPK and MIPS research institutes in Germany.
NRGene, located in Ness Ziona, Israel, is a genomic big data company developing cutting-edge software and algorithms to reveal the complexity and diversity of plants and animals for the most advanced computational breeding. NRGene tools are already been employed by some of the leading seed companies as well the most influential teams in academics and NGOs.
Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccon)
Copyright: U. S. Department of Agriculture
- Written by Technion
2015 Shanghai Rankings - Technion consolidates its standing among the world’s elite universities
2015 Shanghai Rankings: Technion consolidates its standing among the world’s elite universities
Technion ranks #77 overall, 18th in computer science and 44th in engineering
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has consolidated its standing as one of the top 100 universities in the world, according to the annual Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) released by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, considered the most reliable global university ranking. The 2015 results, which were published yesterday (Saturday, Aug. 15), highlight Technion’s position among the world’s elite universities, especially in the Technion's core areas of research and education:
· In the field of computer science the Technion ranks 18th for the third consecutive year. The Technion is one of only four non-U.S. universities among the world's top 20 in computer science. This is the highest ranking of any Israeli university in a specific subject area.
· In engineering/technology, Technion is ranked #44, and is the only Israeli university to place in the top 50.
· In the overall global ranking, Technion is in 77th place, up from #78 last year. Technion broke through to the top 80 in 2012, and has remained in this elite group since.
“The Shanghai ranking is recognized as the leading academic ranking of world universities and it continues to acknowledge Israeli scientific achievements, and Technion in particular,” stated Technion President, Prof. Peretz Lavie, following the publication of this year’s rankings. “I am very pleased at Technion’s standing among the world’s elite universities in engineering and especially in the field of computer science. These achievements are a clear manifestation of Technion’s excellence. Our outstanding faculty members, researchers and staff will continue to nurture and train Technion students, who represent the future of Israeli science and technology.”
The Shanghai Ranking was established in 2003 with the aim to identity the global standing of top Chinese universities while comparing them to 500 of the world’s leading institutes. Since then it has evolved into the most influential ranking of universities worldwide. Many objective indicators are examined, including the number of faculty and alumni who have won Nobel Prizes and other prestigious awards; the number of articles published in leading scientific journals; and other per capita performance indices of the universities. More than 1000 universities are ranked by ARWU every year and the top 500 are including in the published rankings.
Heading the list of the world's top universities are leading American institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California, Berkeley.
- Written by Technion
In light of the limitations of existing drugs for AIDS:
Researchers at the Technion Faculty of Biology offer a new strategy to combat the HIV-1 virus
The AIDS epidemic continues to take the lives of millions around the world. Despite the resistance of the body cells that are attacked, and despite the use of dedicated drugs, HIV-1 virus manages to survive and reproduce in the living cell and is displaying increasing resistance.
In light of the partial failure of existing drugs, the strategy of medical research in this field is changing: instead of focusing on the proteins of the virus (and the development of drugs that target them), the new strategy focuses on the interactions of the virus proteins with the host cell. This strategy is far more effective, since the virus cannot survive and reproduce without relying on the cellular mechanisms of the host cell.
However, the new strategy also has its weaknesses. Assistant Prof. Akram Alian of the Technion Faculty of Biology explains that when the virus encounters a barrier on its way into a cell, it looks for ‘detours’ that will enable it to take advantage of the cell nevertheless. Since there is redundancy in the host cell - various mechanisms leading to the same operation - the virus may exploit a self-mutation that could enable it to make use of that detour. “Our hypothesis is that the redundancy in the cellular pathways may represent a survival mechanism that allows the virus to take advantage of a wide variety of similar processes,” says Assistant Prof. Alian. “The virus can use these detours when the favored route is blocked by natural cellular mechanisms or artificial drugs and under other circumstances in which it is better for the virus to circumvent the obstacles of the cellular environment and the various stages of replication.”
Assistant Prof. Alian and research assistant Dr. Ailie Marx present an abstract of the innovative concept in a paper that was published in the May issue of the Journal of Virology. Janine McCaughey, a visiting student in the lab, illustrates this idea with a drawing of HIV-1 as an octopus whose arms represent takeover paths. The illustration appears on the cover of the issue (http://jvi.asm.org/content/89/12.cover-expansion).
An earlier article, published in the journal Cell Structure in October 2014, reviewed a new approach to AIDS research developed by scientists at Assistant Prof. Alian’s laboratory. The researchers conducted a comparison of an important viral protein (integrase) that exists in both HIV-1 and FIV, the AIDS pathogen in cats, and discovered new differences that could aid in the understanding and prediction of the development of resistance. With both viruses, the integrase inserts the viral DNA into the DNA of the infected cell, and then replicates itself in a manner that enables it to spread throughout the body. “The virus is a kind of Trojan horse, which uses the host’s genome in order to replicate,” explains Assistant Prof. Alian. “Now we are studying this issue in depth and trying to develop this idea of ‘multiple route reproduction of the HIV virus,’ as a new strategy in the treatment of AIDS.”
- Written by MFA
The World Economic Forum has published the annual list of Technology Pioneers. Two of the 14 companies chosen in the category of Life Sciences & Health are Israeli: Consumer Physics and ElMindA.
The World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneers programme recognizes early-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society. Technology Pioneers come from a wide range of sectors such as life sciences and health, energy and environment, and information technologies and new media.
The World Economic Forum has published the annual list of Technology Pioneers, which this year consists of 49 companies from 10 countries, recognizing the world's 49 most promising Technology Pioneers for 2015. Two of the 14 companies chosen in the category of Life Sciences & Health are Israeli: Consumer Physics and ElMindA.
Consumer Physics, founded in 2011 and based in Herzliya, has produced the SCiO - a tiny spectrometer that allows you to get instant relevant information about the chemical make-up of just about anything around you, sent directly to your smartphone. The world's first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand, it allows users to explore objects by scanning materials.
For example, you can:
Get nutritional facts about different kinds of food: Dairy products, Fruits and vegetables. Other apps for drinks, meats, ripeness, salad dressing and more will be released on a regular basis as our database expands.
Know the well-being of popular plants.
Identify capsules containing medicine and nutritional supplements.
Help build the world's first database of matter.
Potential future use cases include analysis of pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, textiles, plants, gemstones, rubber, plastics, and the human body.
ElMindA, also based in Herzliya, was founded in 2006, with the vision of revolutionizing the management of brain disorders and injuries, by transforming state of the art neuroscience into bed-side clinical practice.
ElMindA Ltd. has developed Brain Network Activation (BNA), a non-invasive technology that allows physicians to accurately differentiate between the function of a healthy brain and the dysfunction of an injured brain. With BNA physicians can monitor change in brain networks and address brain health by identifying disease onset and assessing treatment efficacy. ElMindA is revolutionizing our ability to assess and treat the brain across a broad range of previously elusive conditions such as depression, pain, or memory loss.
ElMindA’s innovative approach and supporting data have led to partnerships with top pharmaceutical companies and leading neurological and psychiatric institutes around the world. The company has already completed several clinical trials establishing the utility of the BNA™ technology, and its technology is already being utilized by leading pharmaceutical companies as an integral part of their clinical development programs for monitoring drug effect on the brain.
BNA™ as a measure of brain state and brain changes, can potentially be applied to a wide spectrum of indications and their therapeutic interventions including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Concussion, ADHD, pain, stroke, depression, and other Central Nervous System related conditions. In addition, the technology serves as a valuable tool in the development of CNS related treatments.
Photo: Israel's Technological Pioneers: Consumer Physics and ElMindA
Copyright: World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers
- Written by Weizmann Institute
Ants in the Lead A physics-based model can explain how ants cooperate in steering food to their nest
Anyone who has ever watched a group of ants scurrying to carry a large crumb back to their nest has probably wondered how these tiny creatures manage the task. New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which appeared today in Nature Communications, explains how a balance of individual direction and conformist behavior enables ants to work together to move their food to in the desired direction.
To lug a large object, a number of ants surround it – the back ones lift, those on the leading edge pull. How do they stay on track, instead of simply pulling all around in a sort of tug-of-war? Dr. Ofer Feinerman and his group in the Institute’s Physics of Complex Systems Department used video analysis to track the individual movements of ants in a group that was carrying a large food item toward their nest. The more ants around the item (for, example, a breakfast cereal nugget) the faster they could move it. Although the bit of food always travelled in the general direction of the nest, its path was one of wrong turns and corrections.
In the videos, individual ants can be seen to help in carrying for a short while, after which new ants take their places. When these new ants mobilize, the other carriers, which have since become a bit confused as to the proper direction, defer to the newcomers. As a new ant attaches, the steering of the object temporarily corrects, so that the trajectory becomes better aimed toward the nest. Newly attached ants continue to lead the motion for about 10-20 seconds. Thus informed ants take the lead, but they are also quick to relinquish it once their informational edge disappears.
Together with the group of Prof. Nir Gov of the Weizmann Institute’s Chemical Physics Department, a mathematical model was developed to describe this cooperative behavior. According to the model, the decisions of the “non-informed” carriers fit an intermediate level of behavioural conformism; the well informed individuals are then set to optimally steer the direction of the load. This model describes a critical point between conformism and individuality that enables the group of ants to coordinate their work and adjust their direction as needed. The model is a variation on a so-called Ising model, which is more often used to describe emergent phenomena in statistical physics.
What can this study teach us about the role of individuality within a group of social animals? Feinerman: “In this system, the wisdom does not come from crowds. Rather, some individuals supply the ‘brains,’ and the role of the group is to amplify the ‘muscle’ power of savvy individuals so that they can actually move the load.”
Dr. Ofer Feinerman’s research is supported by the Yeda-Sela Center for Basic Research; the Clore Foundation; and the Tom Beck Research Fellow Chair in the Physics of Complex Systems. Dr. Feinerman is the incumbent of the Shlomo and Michla Tomarin Career Development Chair.
Prof. Nir Gov's research is supported by the Yeda-Sela Center for Basic Research. Prof. Gov is the incumbent of the Lee and William Abramowitz Professorial Chair of Biophysics.
Videos taken during the research:
The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.
Weizmann Institute news releases are posted on the World Wide Web at
http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/, and are also available at http://www.eurekalert.org/
Photo provided by Weizmann Institute