Science & Technology
- Written by Cyber Security Conference
"We have excellent relations with Mexico" stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning at the second largest cyber conference in the world, taking place today and tomorrow at the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center, Pavilion 2, alongside heads of state, senior global cyber industry decision-makers and officials from the Cyber industry.
Panels, events and special compounds dedicated to Cyber also operating throughout the exhibition, feature collaborations between global law enforcement authorities; International panels discussing challenges and missions; Hackers arena; Start-up competitions and more.
Prof. Rivka Carmi, President of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, addressed Beersheba’s status as Israel's new cyber capital and the university’s leading role in its development: On behalf of BGU I am honored and proud to welcome you to the cyber tech conference that we are cohosting with Israel defense since it's inception 4 years ago. We have created a robust echo system of cyber technologies’ research and development in Beer Sheva, an international model of collaboration between academia, industry and business supported by the government and the municipality.
With close to 50 multinational companies, and about 1800 employees, many of them BGU graduates and graduate students, we have started a new Silicon Valley or, more appropriately, Wadi, which tackles cyber security challenges in diverse areas looking for advanced, evolving and ever changing solutions to the ever growing world of data and digitalization that we are all facing and experiencing. This collaboration is an engine of growth and development but also one of originality and innovation that are key factors in moving ahead rapidly in imagining the future.”
Dr. Eviatar Matania, Director General, the Israel National Cyber Directorate said that the years that have passed attest to the abundance of cyber threats worldwide. Israel has been one of the first countries to prepare for the cybersecurity challenges through three primary processes. The first process – providing education and information on all cyber-related issues to the business world and the industry. The second process – the establishment of the National Cyber Authority, another move where, once again, Israel has been a world pioneer. The third process – developing cyber technology R&D processes throughout the country, including the industry, academia and educational institutions. In all of these fields, Israel is an established world leader in education, information and the development of cybersecurity technologies.”
The Director General of the Israel Electric Corporation, Yiftah Ron-Tal, called at the CyberTech 2017 Conference for the establishment of a global "Cyber Event Reporting Center" (CERC) that would concentrate all of the information, knowledge and data regarding cybersecurity for the entire world. The Director General of IEC also reported that in the past year, the number of cyberattacks staged against the Israel Electric Corporation decreased, but the attacks became more sophisticated. In the past the number of cyberattacks had reached 5.5 million per month. Ron-Tal is convinced that the world is currently involved in a continuous, on-going cyber war so the most important concept these days is cybersecurity “
Rick Snyder, Governor of the State of Michigan stated that: “in Michigan, we also have a national service cyber unit, much like the IDF. We established The Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps, gathering talented individuals who can respond if anything occurs, which I am very excited about because I believe it is the forefront of the future”.
Addressing the opening plenum of the CyberTech 2017 Conference, Gil Shwed, founder and CEO, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. presented statistics indicating that more than 90% of users fail to acquire cybersecurity systems and new protective technologies, mainly owing to the mistaken assumption that "we will not be harmed." Shwed suggested that "The correct approach is to develop and build a single, standard cybersecurity system that would handle the various types of threats against the cloud, against mobile devices and against data centers and computer systems. The key word is prevention – preventing cyberattacks, and in order to develop systems for preventing cyberattacks, intelligence should be collected regarding the various attackers. The architecture should be developed and various cybersecurity technologies should be integrated into a single system that would be offered to the clients and provide them with effective protection against attacks aimed at the cloud, mobile devices, data centers and computer systems. Today the industry is aware of the dangers and threats, and we should develop standard cybersecurity systems and convince people to use them so as to cope with the potential damage to cybersecurity through preventive measures."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke proudly of Israel’s contribution to global Cyber security: "It is no coincidence that you are here in Israel. This conference has more than 10,000 visitors from five continents. The physical size of Israel has not restricted Israel's power in cyber technology. Israel draws about one fifth of the global investment in cyber technology. This is a coefficient of 200 relative to the size of the population."
Netanyahu has also signaled to prospective investors. "Do not add regulation in the field of cyber," Netanyahu said. "The temptation of more regulation is substantial, but once you impose regulation, you will hinder the development of the cyber technology industry. Help where you can to encourage development. We are currently offering tax benefits to entrepreneurs. We also have support programs for companies that will come to Israel to establish development centers here. Additionally, we are developing the human capital of Israel through training programs in the military and in academia. I encourage everyone present to invest in Israel."
Netanyahu addressed the cyber terrorism threat. "Terrorist organizations use the same tools we use – against us," said Netanyahu. "In recent years, Iran has been developing a terrorist infrastructure in the Middle East. The Internet of Things can be used by these terrorist organizations for dangerous purposes. Unless we work together and cooperate, the future can be very menacing. In this context, Israel, the USA and other countries should cooperate at the government level as well as among the industries."
Toward the end of the Prime Minister's address, Netanyahu referred to his Twitter post regarding President Trump's initiative to build a wall along the USA-Mexico border. "I would like to clarify something regarding my tweet," said Netanyahu. "I spoke about the success of the fence in Israel. I made no remark regarding the USA-Mexico border. We have excellent relations with Mexico."
Cybertech 2017 Conference, held for the fourth year in Israel at Pavilion 2 of the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center on January 30th - February 1st is the second largest conference and exhibition of cyber technologies in the world. Cybertech, bringing together leading investors, entrepreneurs and cyber companies, consists of a conference with prominent international speakers in the field of cyber security, as well as an exhibition hosting over 250 companies and 100 startups that will present innovative problem-solving strategies and solutions to challenges relevant for a wide range of sectors.
Photos Gilad Kavalerchik
- Written by Weizmann Institute
A new approach to stabilizing protein structures could be key to an efficient vaccine
Despite decades of malaria research, the disease still afflicts hundreds of millions and kills around half a million people each year – most of them children in tropical regions. Part of the problem is that the malaria parasite is a shape-shifter, making it hard to target. But another part of the problem is that even the parasite’s proteins that could be used as vaccines are unstable at tropical temperatures and require complicated, expensive cellular systems to produce them in large quantities. Unfortunately, the vaccines are most needed in areas where refrigeration is lacking and funds to buy vaccines are scarce. A new approach developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science, recently reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), could, in the future, lead to an inexpensive malaria vaccine that can be stored at room temperature.
The RH5 protein is one of the malaria parasite’s proteins that have been tested for use as a vaccine. This protein is used by the parasite to anchor itself to the red blood cells it infects. Using the protein as a vaccine alerts the immune system to the threat without causing disease, thus enabling it to mount a rapid response when the disease strikes, and to disrupt the parasite’s cycle of infection. Research student Adi Goldenzweig and Dr. Sarel Fleishman of the Institute’s Biomolecular Sciences Department decided to use the computer-based protein design tools they have been developing in Fleishman’s lab to improve the usefulness of this protein.
Based on software they have been creating for stabilizing protein structures, Goldenzweig developed a new program for “programming” proteins used in vaccines against infectious diseases. Such proteins, because they are under constant attack by the immune system, tend to mutate from generation to generation. So the program she developed uses all the known information on different configurations of the protein sequence in different versions of the parasite. “The parasite deceives the immune system by mutating its surface proteins. Paradoxically, the better the parasite is at evading the immune system, the more clues it leaves for us to use in designing a successful artificial protein,” she says.
The researchers sent the programmed artificial protein to a group in Oxford that specializes in developing a malaria vaccine. This group, led by Prof. Matthew Higgins and Simon Draper, soon had good news: The results showed that, in contrast with the natural ones, the programmed protein can be produced in simple, inexpensive cell cultures, and in large quantities. This could significantly lower production costs. In addition, it is stable at temperatures of up to 50o C, so it won’t need refrigeration. Best of all, in animal trials, the proteins provoked a protective immune response. “The method Adi developed is really general,” says Fleishman. “It has succeeded where others have failed, and because it is so easy to use, it might be applied to emerging infectious diseases like Zika or Ebola, when quick action can stop an epidemic from developing.”
Fleishman and his group are currently using their method to test a different strategy for treating malaria, based on targeting the RH5 protein itself and blocking its ability to mediate the contact between the parasite and human red blood cells.
Dr. Sarel Fleishman’s research is supported by the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation; Sam Switzer, Canada; and the European Research Council. Dr. Fleishman is the incumbent of the Martha S. Sagon Career Development Chair.
A Rusty Green Early Ocean?
Though they may seem rock solid, the ancient sedimentary rocks called iron formations – the world’s chief economic source of iron ore – were once dissolved in seawater. How did that iron go from a dissolved state to banded iron formations? Dr. Itay Halevy and his group in the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department suggest that billions of years ago, the “rust” that formed in the seawater and sank to the ocean bed was green – an iron-based mineral that is rare on Earth today but might once have been relatively common.
We know there was dissolved iron in the early oceans, and this is a strong indication that Earth’s free oxygen (O2) concentrations were exceedingly low. Otherwise, the iron would have reacted with oxygen to form iron oxides, which are the rusty red deposits familiar to anyone who’s left a bike out in the rain. Today, says Halevy, iron is delivered from the land to the oceans as small insoluble oxide particles in rivers. But this mode of sedimentation only came about as free oxygen accumulated in Earth’s atmosphere, about 2.5 billion years ago. With almost no oxygen, the oceans were iron-rich, but that did not mean that iron remained dissolved in seawater indefinitely: It ultimately formed insoluble compounds with other elements and settled to the seabed to give rise to banded iron formations.
The idea that one of those insoluble compounds could be a rusty green mineral, says Halevy, occurred to him during his doctoral research, when he was trying to recreate the conditions on early Mars, including its rusty-red iron sediments. “I got some green stuff I didn’t recognize at first, which quickly turned orange when I exposed it to air. With a little more careful experimentation, I found that this was a mineral called green rust, which is extremely rare on Earth today, owing to its affinity for oxygen.” Today green rust quickly transforms into the familiar red rust, but with not much free oxygen around, Halevy reasoned, it could have been an important way for dissolved iron to form solid compounds and settle to the seafloor.
Support for these ideas comes from Sulawesi, Indonesia, where green rust forms today in iron-rich, oxygen-poor Lake Matano, thought to be similar to the seawater that existed during extended periods of Earth’s early history. To test his ideas in detail and explore their significance, Halevy set up experiments in which he and his team recreated, as closely as possible, the conditions of the ancient, oxygen-free, Precambrian ocean. They found that green rust not only forms under these conditions, but that when left to age, it transforms into the minerals found in Precambrian iron formations – a combination of iron-bearing oxides, carbonates and silicates.
Could green rust have been a main vehicle for settling iron out of seawater? Halevy and his team developed models to depict the iron cycle in Earth’s early oceans, including the possibility of green rust formation and competition with other mineral shuttles of iron to the seafloor. Their findings suggest that green rust was probably a major player in the iron cycle. The iron in the green rust later transformed into the minerals we can now observe in the geologic record. “Of course, it would have been one of several means of iron deposition, just as a number of different processes are involved in chemical sedimentation in the oceans today,” says Halevy. “But as far as we can tell, green rust should have delivered a substantial proportion of iron to the very early ocean sediments.”
Dr. Itay Halevy’s research is supported by the Helen Kimmel Center for Planetary Science; the Deloro Institute for Advanced Research in Space and Optics; and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust. Dr. Halevy is the incumbent of the Anna and Maurice Boukstein Career Development Chair in Perpetuity.
Uncovering the Secrets of White Cell Power
White blood cells push their way through barriers to get to infection sites
One of the mysteries of the living body is the movement of cells – not just in the blood, but through cellular and other barriers. New research in the Weizmann Institute of Science has shed light on the subject, especially on the movement of immune cells that race to the sites of infection and inflammation. The study revealed that these cells – white blood cells – actively open large gaps in the internal lining of the blood vessels, so they can exit through the vessel walls and rapidly get to areas of infection.
Prof. Ronen Alon and his group in the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department discovered how various white blood cells push their way through the lining of the blood vessels when they reach their particular “exit ramps.” Using their nuclei to exert force, they insert themselves between – as well as into – the cells in the vessel walls called endothelial cells. Dismantling structural filaments within the cytoskeletons – the internal skeletons – of the endothelial cells creates the large holes – several microns in diameter.
Alon explains that the nucleus is the largest, most rigid structure in the cell. When driven by motors specifically engaged for this function, is tough enough to push through the barrier imposed by the blood vessel walls.
The scientists tracked the cytoskeletons of endothelial cells as they were crossed by immune cells in real time, the behavior of the nuclei of various white blood cells during active squeezing and the fate of the various types of actin fibers that make up the endothelial cell skeletons. The researchers used a number of methods, including fluorescence and electron microscopy, in collaboration with Dr. Eugenia Klein of the Microscopy Unit; a unique system in Alon’s lab for simulating blood vessels in a test tube; and in vivo imaging with Prof. Sussan Nourshargh of Queen Mary University of London. The results of this research, conducted in Alon’s lab by research students Sagi Barzilai and Francesco Roncato and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Sandeep Kumar Yadav, were recently reported in Cell Reports.
Common wisdom in this field had held that the endothelial cells must help immune cells squeeze through by contracting themselves like small muscles, but the present study found no evidence for such contraction-based help. Alon says: “Our study shows that the endothelial cells, which were thought to be dynamic assistants in this process of crossing of blood vessel walls, are really more responders to the ‘physical work’ invested by the white blood cell motors and nuclei in generating gaps and crossing through blood vessels.”
Significance for cancer research
In addition to increasing the basic understanding of how the various arms of the immune system reach their sites of differentiation and activity, these findings may aid in cancer research. “We believe that small subsets of metastatic tumor cells have the ability to adopt the mechanisms used by immune cells to exit the blood vessels into the lungs, the bone marrow, the brain and other organs. If this is true, we might be able to identify these subsets and target them before these cells leave their original tumor sites and invade distant organs,” says Alon.
Prof. Ronen Alon’s research is supported by the Herbert L. Janowsky Lung Cancer Research Fund; Mr. and Mrs. William Glied, Canada; and Carol A. Milett, Aventura, FL. Prof. Alon is the incumbent of the Linda Jacobs Professorial Chair in Immune and Stem Cell Research.
The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research institutions. Comprising five faculties, 17 departments, a graduate school and 50 multidisciplinary centers, hundreds of scientists, laboratory technicians and research students work on the Institute's lushly landscaped campus, embarking daily on fascinating journeys into the unknown, seeking to improve our understanding of nature and our place within it.
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Photo : by “thinkstock”. provided by Weizmann Department of Media Relations
- Written by Silvia G Golan
The Society of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Israel (SEEEI) will hold its annual 17th international convention on November 9 – 11, 2016, in Eilat. This year convention, "Electricity 2016", is titled "Smart World a new era of energy".
This is the 17th annual meeting of SEEEIl, and is considered to be one of the largest and most influential in the fields of electricity and energy in Israel, with the participation of senior decision-makers from the governmental agencies and the business sector in Israel; entrepreneurs, experts and opinion leaders from Israel and abroad.
Among the major figures who will participate in the convention: Government Ministers; Shaul Meridor, Director General of the Ministry of national infrastructures, energy and water resources; Ofer Bloch, CEO IEC; Buki Carmeli, head of the national Cyber Defense Authority; Jeffery Ketz, Chief Executive of energy technologies at IBM USA; Prof. Shmuel Oren, University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Alessandro Clerici, Italy, a senior at WEC (the Italian National Committee of World Energy Council); Dr. Frederick Bauchot, IBM, CTO for Gisc Energy; Dr. Cathy Yao Chen, Research department manager at ABB Research Institute in Sweden; Elisha Yanay, Chairman of the Association of electronics & software industries, former Senior Vice President at Motorola worldwide; Omer Keilaf, CEO and Ce-founder of start-up company Innoviz, which generates a revolution in autonomous vehicles; And many other dignitaries.
In 2015 more than 1300 local and overseas visitors attended Electricity 2015. This year we expect similar number of attendees. The main topics that will be discussed include: cyber safety, transport, renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid, energy management in buildings, developing smart grids, smart cities and campuses IOT, light engineering; training engineers and the registration regulations for electrical engineers, trends and innovations, power production, etc.
SEEEI's chairman, Emil Kaufmann, forecasts that "in 20 years, most public transportation in the country will be electrified, electricity production will be distributed and a substantial portion will consist of small power stations operated by gas and renewable energies".
Courtesy: SEEEI. From left to right: Lieutenant Colonel Luca Dottarelli; Mr. Emil Koifman – chairman of SEEEI; Prof. Izzy Borovich – the forum chair and Mr. Elisha Yanay – chair of the Industrials Association of Electronics and Software Industries.
- Written by Forbes
Forbes Announces First Round of Speakers for 2017 Forbes Under 30 Summit EMEA
Speakers for Forbes’ Under 30 Summit EMEA include Sean Rad, Cofounder and Chairman, Tinder; Yossi Vardi, Internet Entrepreneur; Teddy Sagi, Founder of PlayTech, Market Tech and SafeCharge; Steven Izen, Founder & CEO, Lokai; and Farah Abdi, Somali Refugee, Author, Blogger and Human Rights Activist
750 Young Entrepreneurial Game Changers and Legendary Mentors Are Expected to Gather in
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, April 2-6, 2017
TEL AVIV (January 26, 2017) – Forbes announced today the first round of speakers and participants for the second Under 30 Summit EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), which will take place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, April 2-6, under the theme “Innovation, Exploration, and Inspiration.” For the summit, an invitation-only event, Forbes is expected to bring together over 750 of some of the world’s most influential young entrepreneurs -- 250 from the U.S., 250 from Europe and 250 from Israel, as culled from Forbes’ 30 Under 30 lists. The speakers announced today include:
Sean Rad, Cofounder and Chairman, Tinder (U.S.)
Yossi Vardi, Internet Entrepreneur (Israel)
Teddy Sagi, Businessman and Entrepreneur, Founder of PlayTech, Market Tech and SafeCharge
Steven Izen, Founder and CEO, Lokai (U.S.)
Farah Abdi, Somali Refugee, Author, Blogger & Human Rights Activist (Germany)
Obinwanne Okeke, Chairman and CEO, Invictus (Nigeria)
Lawrence Brand, Founder, Porterlight Bicycles (U.K.)
Joséphine Goube, CEO, Techfugees (U.K.)
Sofia Hmich, Founder, Future Positive Capital (U.K.)
Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO and ‘Head Stemette’, Stemettes (U.K.)
Netanel Rubin, CEO, Vaultra (Israel)
For more information on the summit, please visit:
Building on last year’s successful entrepreneur-driven summit and cultural immersion, Forbes is expanding its celebration of innovation and startups. For five days, innovators, inventors, pioneers, mentors and investors will focus on breakthrough ideas that tackle the most intractable problems facing our society and the planet.
Forbes will feature -- as part of the summit’s agenda, panels, interviews, performances, product demos and keynote addresses, showcasing the most cutting-edge innovators and disruptors, and will provide mentorship from successful business leaders. The conversation will focus on using innovation to reimagine humanity. At the event, participants will hear from visionaries -- entrepreneurs, artists, activists and inventors -- shaping the future in powerful ways.
“As these innovators explore the intersection of Big Data, smart design, AI, robotics, virtual and augmented reality and other accelerating tech trends, participants in our summit will realize an evident truth: We have the tools and technologies to create a better world, if we can muster the comity and the will,” said Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes magazine and creator of Forbes’ Under 30 franchise.
The summit will offer rich cultural-immersion activities and a unique global-networking environment. Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit attendees will also have the opportunity to mentor and inspire the next generation of young superstar entrepreneurs in the local communities of Israel.
The summit will kick off with a welcome party on the shores of the Mediterranean.
On April 3, participants will gather in Tel Aviv for a day of content focused on “Innovation,” while enjoying access to an entire Forbes Under 30 Village with joined booths, displays and demonstrations.
April 4th will be devoted to “Exploration” and cultural immersion. Rothschild Boulevard will be transformed into an Open House, as summit participants will be able to explore and join tours, including a guided tour of the Old City in Jerusalem.
April 5th will focus on “Inspiration -- Making a Difference, Healing the World.” Participants will visit sites across Greater Israel to cultivate conversations about achieving actionable solutions. The day will end with the Forbes Under 30 Music Festival, featuring acts from across Israel, Europe and America.
On April 6, the summit will conclude with a day of inspiration and reflection, starting at sunrise at Masada and the Dead Sea.
The Presenting Sponsors for the summit are Lokai and Market Tech.
Forbes’ Under 30 franchise is a global multichannel platform that comprises 30 Under 30 lists featuring young global game changers and published in print and online all over the world; live summits in the U.S., Asia and Israel; an Under 30 channel on Forbes.com; and a Forbes Under 30 app. To access Forbes magazine’s 2017 30 Under 30 U.S. list, please visit www.forbes.com/30under30.
About Forbes Media:
Forbes Media is a global media, branding and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and affluent lifestyles. The company publishes Forbes and Forbes Asia as well as Forbes.com. The Forbes brand today reaches more than 94 million people worldwide with its business message each month through its magazines and 38 licensed local editions around the globe, Forbes.com, TV, conferences, research, social and mobile platforms. Forbes Media’s brand extensions include conferences, real estate, education, financial services and technology license agreements.
Lokai is a socially responsible lifestyle brand that represents the importance of finding balance along life’s journey. Steven Izen founded the company in 2013, on the heels of a deeply emotional and transformative experience. Realizing that life is a cycle of highs and lows, he grew to appreciate the importance of remaining both humble and hopeful. The company infuses its trademark bracelets with elements sourced from the highest and lowest points on Earth -- water from Mt. Everest and mud from the Dead Sea. The Lokai lifestyle is devoted to finding balance, sharing success during life’s peaks and gaining perspective during lows. Lokai supports this message by donating 10% of net profits to various charitable organizations. Since launching, Lokai is sold in over 160 countries.
About Market Tech:
Market Tech is an LSE-listed property company that owns, manages and is developing a unique 16 acre estate (valued at £1 billion as of September 30, 2016) of office, retail, leisure and living spaces centred around the iconic Camden Markets, and supported by three e-commerce businesses, referred to as Market Tech Digital. These are Stucco Media, an e-commerce marketing platform, Glispa; a Berlin-based mobile marketing business and Fiver; a B2C online fashion retailer. www.market-tech.com
- Written by TAU
Breakthrough research at Tel Aviv University unravels the metastatic mechanism of melanoma
Tel Aviv University researchers, together with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, have discovered the mechanism by which melanoma spreads to other organs in the body, and have found ways to prevent the metastasis.
In a landmark discovery, researchers at Tel Aviv University have unraveled the metastatic mechanism of melanoma, the most aggressive of all skin cancers. The scientists discovered that before spreading to other organs, the tumor sends out tiny vesicles containing molecules of microRNA. These induce morphological changes in the dermis – in preparation for receiving and transporting the cancer cells. The researchers also found chemical substances that can stop the process, and are therefore promising drug candidates.
The paper was published yesterday (Monday, 22 August 2016) as the leading cover-page article of the prominent scientific journal Nature Cell Biology .
Melanoma, the most aggressive and lethal type of skin cancer, causes the death of one person every 52 minutes (according to data from the Skin Cancer Foundation), and the number of diagnosed cases has been on the rise for the past three decades. Despite a range of therapies developed over the years, there is still no full remedy for this life-threatening disease. A recent study at Tel Aviv University proposes new and effective methods for diagnosing and preventing this most deadly of skin cancers.
"The threat of melanoma is not in the initial tumor that appears on the skin, but rather in its metastasis – cancer cells sent off to colonize in vital organs like the brain, lungs, liver and bones," says research leader Dr. Carmit Levy of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine. "We discovered how the cancer spreads to distant organs, and found ways to stop the process before the metastatic stage."
Morphological changes in the dermis
The researchers began by examining pathology samples taken from melanoma patients, and the findings were striking indeed. "We looked at samples of early melanoma, before the invasive stage," says Dr. Levy. "To our surprise we found changes that had never before been reported, in the morphology of the dermis – the inner layer of the skin. Our next task was to find out what these changes were, and how they related to melanoma." In the ensuing long and complex study the group was able to discover - and also block – a central mechanism in the metastasis of melanoma.
According to Dr. Levy, scientists have known for years that melanoma forms in the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis. At this early stage the cancer is unable to send off colonizing cancer cells, because it has no access to blood vessels - the highways that carry the cells to other parts of the body. With no blood vessels present in the epidermis, the tumor first needs to contact the abund ant blood vessels running through the dermis. But how is the connection made?
"We found that even before the cancer itself invades the dermis, it sends out tiny vesicles containing molecules of microRNA. These induce the morphological changes in the dermis, in preparation for receiving and transporting the cancer cells. It now became clear to us that by blocking the vesicles, we may be able to stop the disease altogether."
Transforming melanoma into a nonthreatening illness
Having discovered the mechanism, the researchers proceeded to look for substances that could intervene and block the process in its earliest stages. They found two such chemicals: one, SB202190, inhibits the delivery of the vesicles from the melanoma tumor to the dermis; and the other, U0126, prevents the morphological changes in the dermis even after the arrival of the vesicles. Both substances were tested successfully in the lab, and may serve as promising candid ates for future drugs. In addition, the changes in the dermis, as well as the vesicles themselves, can be used as powerful indicators for early diagnosis of melanoma.
"Our study is an important step on the road to a full remedy for the deadliest skin cancer," says Dr. Levy. "We hope that our findings will help turn melanoma into a nonthreatening, easily curable disease."
The group at Tel Aviv University worked in close collaboration with Prof. Jörg D. Hoheisel and Laureen Sander at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Dr. Shoshi Greenberger at the Sheba Medical Center and Dr. Ronen Brenner at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. Lab research was led by Dr. Shani Dror of Dr. Levy's research group.
(The research was funded with the support of the Science, Technology and Space Ministry in the framework of a joint German-Israeli canc er research program.)