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A cell programming technique developed at the Weizmann Institute turns them into the earliest precursors of sperm and ova


Groups at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Cambridge University have jointly managed the feat of turning back the clock on human cells to create primordial germ cells – the embryonic cells that give rise to sperm and ova – in the lab. This is the first time that human cells have been programmed into this early developmental stage. The results of their study, which were published today in Cell, could help provide answers as to the causes of fertility problems, yield insight into the earliest stages of embryonic development and potentially, in the future, enable the development of new kinds of reproductive technology.

"Researchers have been attempting to create human primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the petri dish for years," says Dr. Jacob Hanna of the Institute's Molecular Genetics Department, who led the study together with research student Leehee Weinberger. PGCs arise within the early weeks of embryonic growth, as the embryonic stem cells in the fertilized egg begin to differentiate into the very basic cell types. Once these primordial cells become "specified," they continue developing toward precursor sperm cells or ova "pretty much on autopilot," says Hanna. The idea of creating these cells in the lab took off with the 2006 invention of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – adult cells that are "reprogrammed" to look and act like embryonic stem cells, which can then differentiate into any cell type. Thus several years ago, when researchers in Japan created mouse iPS cells and then got them to differentiate into PGCs, scientists immediately set about trying to replicate the achievement in human cells. But until now, none had been successful.

Previous research in Hanna's lab pointed to new methods that could take human cells to the PGC state. That research had focused on the question of how human iPS cells and mouse embryonic cells differ: The mouse embryonic cells are easily kept in their stem cell state in the lab, while human iPS cells that have been reprogrammed – a technique that involves the insertion of four genes – have a strong drive to differentiate, and they often retain traces of "priming." Hanna and his group then created a method for tuning down the genetic pathway for differentiation, thus creating a new type of iPS cell that they dubbed "naïve cells." These naïve cells appeared to rejuvenate iPS cells one step further, closer to the original embryonic state from which they can truly differentiate into any cell type. Since these naïve cells are more similar to their mouse counterparts, Hanna and his group thought they could be coaxed to differentiate into primordial germ cells.

Working with naïve human embryonic stem and iPS cells, and applying the techniques that had been successful in the mouse cell experiments, the research team managed to produce cells that, in both cases, appeared to be identical to human PGCs. Together with the lab group of Prof. Azim Surani of Cambridge University, the scientists further tested and refined the method jointly in both labs. By adding a glowing red fluorescent marker to the genes for PGCs, they were able to gauge how many of the cells had been programmed. Their results showed that quite a high rate – up to 40% – had become PGCs; this quantity enables easy analysis.

Hanna points out that PGCs are only the first step in creating human sperm and ova. A number of hurdles remain before labs will be able to complete the chain of events that move an adult cell through the cycle of embryonic stem cell and around to sperm or ova. For one, at some point in the process, these cells must learn to perform the neat trick of dividing their DNA in half before they can become viable reproductive cells. Still, he is confident that those hurdles will one day be overcome, raising the possibility, for example, of enabling women who have undergone chemotherapy or premature menopause to conceive.

In the meantime, the study has already yielded some interesting results that may have significant implications for further research on PGCs and possibly other early embryonic cells. The team managed to trace part of the genetic chain of events that directs a stem cell to differentiate into a primordial germ cell, and they discovered a master gene, Sox17, that regulates the process in humans, but not in mice. Because this gene network is quite different from the one that had been identified in mice, the researchers suspect that more than a few surprises may await scientists who study the process in humans.

Hanna: "Having the ability to create human PGCs in the petri dish will enable us to investigate the process of differentiation on the molecular level. For example, we found that only 'fresh' naïve cells can become PGCs; but after a week in conventional growth conditions they lose this capability once again. We want to know why this is. What is it about human stem cell states that makes them more or less competent? And what exactly drives the process of differentiation once a cell has been reprogrammed to its more naïve state? It is the answers to these basic questions that will, ultimately, advance iPS cell technology to the point of medical use."


Dr. Jacob Hanna's research is supported by Pascal and Ilana Mantoux, France/Israel; the New York Stem Cell Foundation, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI), the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation, the Benoziyo Endowment Fund for the Advancement of Science; the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Sir Charles Clore Research Prize; Erica A. Drake and Robert Drake; the Abisch Frenkel Foundation for the Promotion of Life Sciences; the European Research Council; the Israel Science Foundation, and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. Dr. Hanna is a New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator.


This work was made possible by a grant from BIRAX Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership – Regenerative Medicine Initiative.


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  The Weizmann Institute














Tel Aviv has previously received official recognition from UNESCO as a world heritage site for its extraordinary and beautiful collection of more than 4000 original white Bauhaus buildings scattered throughout the city. Today, the White City is to enjoy an additional title of Creative City as Tel Aviv is now the newest member of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network in the category of Media Arts.


UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization established the Creative Cities Network in order to encourage cooperation between international cities as a means to promote local creative industries, harnessing entrepreneurship and creativity to strengthen the local economy and social development. This evening, Tel Aviv will join 41 other cities each recognized in one of seven categories: Literature, Film, Music, Craft and Folk Art, Design, Media Arts and Gastronomy. Other notable members include Dublin (Literature), Liverpool (Music), Sydney (Film) and Berlin (Design).


Link to UNESCO's website: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/creativity/creative-cities-network/



Tel Aviv will become a member of the Creative Cities Network recognized in the field of Media Arts. Cities in this area are characterized by the existence of creative industries and cultural activity driven by the use of digital technology and the successful implementation of media arts for the benefit of improving urban life. This is measured by the accessibility of cultural events and products through digital technology and the existence of electronic art forms and their integration into the life of civil society and their ability to strengthening local working studios and media arts projects.


The city's flourishing high-tech scene and enterprises, especially in the media arts field - both earned Tel Aviv its place in the Creative Cities Network. Currently there are more than 700 early stage startups in Tel Aviv, a city with just over 400,000 residents. Tel Aviv has the second highest number of startups of any city in the world, and has the highest number of startups per capita.


The acceptance of Tel Aviv into the Creative Cities Network is a great honor for the city and will only strengthen the development of activities, projects and initiatives in the field of Media Arts and culture, and continue the Municipalities activities with the wide range of communities living in the city, academia, the business sector, industry, cultural institutions and more. Alongside local activities, an important aspect of the Network is creating international partnerships between the cities. Partnerships based on cooperative learning and the exchange of knowledge, enabling each partner to harness the creativity in their local economy and use it for social development. In order to retain the title, Tel Aviv will present annually to the organization and demonstrate the past-years cooperative initiatives with officials in the city and internationally.


Commenting on the achievement, the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Ron Huldai said:
"Ten years ago, UNESCO declared the White City of Tel Aviv as a world heritage site. The world recognized the importance of the city's architectural past. Starting from today, Tel Aviv's entrance to UNESCO's Creative Cities Network UNESCO reflects the world's recognition of the city's contribution to the present and the future - recognition of Tel Aviv as a vibrant center of cultural creation and breakthrough technology, the creative industries and the focus of the original visionary scene of digital innovation and initiatives".



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxvevYZ2suw         Urban Symphony featuring the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo






Comical clip about Tel Aviv with quotes from Barack Obama





photo by  Kfir Bolotin









The Emergency Department of the Ministry of Health recently adopted one of the most advanced computerized information and control systems in the world—developed at Rambam Health Care Campus. With the beginning of "Protective Edge" it is now being used for the first time.

During emergency situations hospitals must quickly adapt to the circumstances. To that end, this award winning innovation, called emergency System, facilitates multi-tasking and rapid transfer to emergency operations throughout a hospital. It also enables informed decisions by hospital management under emergency situations, based on integrated real-time data received from all other hospital systems together with essential and scenario-based information.

Following the Second Lebanon War, the system was conceptualized under the visionary guidance of Professor Shimon Reisner, the Deputy Director and Director of Rambam under Emergency Situations, assisted by Leora Otitz, the hospital's emergency situations coordinator. The system was developed by Rambam's IT Department, headed by Sara Tzafrir. Prior to its first use by the Ministry of Health, the system was tested during various emergency drills in which Rambam participated.

Rambam's Computing Division customized the system for the Emergency Department of Israel's Ministry of Health. The ministry has expressed interest in integrating the system with Israeli hospitals to facilitate communication between emergency operations rooms nationwide.

The Ministry of Health is also utilizing another system developed by Rambam—"Adam." The Adam System automatically provides a full picture of patients received by hospitals during security incidents and helps decision-makers follow their care based on up-to-date information. This system is being used during operation "Protective Edge," enabling the ministry to receive updates on all casualties evacuated to hospitals over the past few weeks.


 Photo  : Rambam's Emergency Staff working with the emergency system during a drill

Photo credit: Ben Yuster






Thirteen Israeli Life Science Companies to Hold More than 700 B2B Meetings in China in Next Two Weeks, with an Eye on Cementing R&D and Business Ties with Chinese Companies
Jerusalem, November 2nd, 2014 - The 4th annual Company Roadshow to China, organized by the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy, commences today. This year's delegation is dedicated to life sciences and will visit seven cities at the heart of the Chinese hi-tech industry (Beijing, Jinan, Changzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Shenzhen).

The delegation will include companies in the life science industries including pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, medical communication and software, bio-informatics and others. The companies have more than 700 meetings scheduled with Chinese companies and business entities with potential for future cooperation. The roadshow is another part of the multi-tiered efforts the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Economy is making to increase accessibility to the Chinese market by Israeli companies.

Israel's Chief Scientist Avi Hasson: "In recent years, the Office of the Chief Scientist has been making significant efforts to increase cooperation with China in light of the huge, as-yet untapped potential of this market. Experience shows that the roadshow's activity yields real fruit for companies, by cementing deals and long term cooperation."

Avi Luvton, Executive Director, Asia Pacific at the Israeli Industry Center for R&D (MATIMOP, the executive branch of the Office of the Chief Scientist), said, "Within two weeks, a company that presents at the roadshow creates the same impact that it would need a whole year to achieve if it were to do so independently. The China desk at MATIMOP, in cooperation with the China Science and Technology Exchange Center (CSTEC) at the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, have invested months of work in creating an intensive, high-quality schedule with private meetings with each of the companies comprising this unique delegation."

The delegation's goal is to enable the Israeli companies to meet with hundreds of Chinese companies, venture capital funds, investment bodies, research institutions, representatives of industrial parks, representatives of major hospitals and others. The meetings, which are scheduled in advance, constitute a platform to create opportunities for cooperation in R&D, to create trade and business ties for the Israeli companies and to maximize their visibility in the Chinese market.

"The roadshow is effective in several ways," said Luvton. "The exposure the companies will receive would be hard to recreate in their normal day-to-day management. The costs for Israeli companies are significantly lower than if they would approach the Chinese market on their own. The activity is focused on the right sectors and therefore attracts several investment bodies, companies and representatives of business and economic players in China. More than anything, this roadshow creates a real opportunity for each of the participating companies for strong cooperation with Chinese partners working in compatible fields."



Photo Mr Avi Hasson





The Solution to Solving Security Vulnerabilities in all Devices and Protocols – Educating Developers Not to Release a Product until Thoroughly Tested


The solution to solving security vulnerabilities in all devices and protocols lies in the proper education of developers, who should be taught not to release a product until it has been thoroughly tested.


This is what was said by Professor Eli Biham at the Seminar Day on Cyber & Information Security, held this week at the Technion. The seminar was organized by Professor Biham, Dr. Sara Bitan and the Technion Computer Engineering Center (TCE), which was founded jointly by the Faculty of Computer Science and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering.
Ohad Bobrov from Lacoon Security said at the seminar that it is very easy to plan a security breach for the purposes of spying on a particular person through any mobile device. "One in a thousand mobile devices contains a dedicated spyware. The problem is that manufacturers are aware of the loopholes, but it takes them a long time to respond," he emphasized.

According to Professor Biham, the problem is not connected just to the ability of hackers to break into computers and mobile devices, but to the vulnerabilities that make it possible. "There is a significant problem in the education of programmers around the world; institutions are less concerned about enlightening individuals studying to be programmers about all of the attacks that the software they are learning to develop may suffer from. All those trying to meet product release deadlines almost always sidestep security. The problem is that customers don't care either, and are willing to buy these products even if it isn't secure, whether in the mobile market, the PC market and any other product."

"Only after consumers start refusing to buy products that haven't undergone testing for security aspects will any type of modification be made to programming education," added Professor Biham. "I have yet to see a person who is ready to go to the post office and buy a transparent envelope at half the price, with which to send his/her secret mail. But when it comes to telephones or computers, no one asks if it's see-through."


As for the timing of the conference, at a date when massive attacks are plotted and carried out on servers all around Israel, Professor Biham stated that these types of security attacks are ongoing occurrences, usually not planned for any particular date. "Today we are getting ready for DOS attacks (Denial of Service)," he explained. "This kind of attack only succeeds if numerous requests are sent to a server simultaneously, and therefore, they are usually more coordinated than other kinds of attacks. Many have suggested that we shutdown servers on this day, and my answer to this is that this is precisely the hackers' intensions – that we shutdown our servers, why should we help them accomplish their goals?"

During the first session of the seminar, Professor Orna Grumberg from the Technion's Faculty of Computer Science presented a system she developed along with Dr. Gabi Nakibly – an algorithm capable of automatically routing out security breaches in OSPF network traffic protocols, which determines the data routes sent from computer to computer. An OSPF protocol studies the network structure in order to know how to transmit packets, and it is impossible to run a network without such a protocol. Until now, the only way of tracking breaches was by employing experts who examined the protocols manually. The algorithm successfully simulated a security breach event that amazed scientists.
Ohad Bobrov, co-founder of Lacoon Security, demonstrated how easy it is to download data from a network by simple and common means: how to hack into any phone, view a list of contacts, listen to a microphone, turn on the camera, and anything else that comes to the mind of the hacker.

"The examples were astounding. I always knew that it was awfully easy to break into any mobile device, but today I was amazed to see just how easy it is," concluded Professor Biham.
In the photo: Professor Eli Biham at the Seminar Day on Cyber & Information Security.

Photographed by: Shiatzo Photography Services, the Technion's Spokesperson's Office