Science & Technology
- 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.)
- Written by KKL-JNF.
First Israeli Green Renovation Project Inaugurated
The aim of this renovation, which forms part of the Ministry of Housing’s Urban Renewal project, was to upgrade an old building and make it the first structure to be refurbished to meetgreen building standards, and those of the Retrofit method in particular. At the end of June the building was inaugurated at a formal ceremony with the participation of KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar, MK Yael Cohen Paran, Ministry of Housing and Construction Director General Eshel Armoni and Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi.
This national endeavor on the part of KKL-JNF, in conjunction with the Israel Energy Forum and the Sderot Municipality, brought to a successful conclusion an energy-saving green renovation project initiated by the Ministry of Housing and Construction. The objective was the renovation of an old 18-apartment building to make it conform as much as possible to green energy-saving construction standards.
The Ministry of Housing and Construction is the initiator of Israel’s Urban Renewal program, and this particular project was an additional step in a series of moves to benefit the residents of dozens of towns and cities, via the renovation of buildings and public areas, social activism, and community empowerment.
- Written by Technion
The Right to Ring Representatives of Mazor Robotics Ltd, which was born in Prof. Moshe Shoham’s lab and the Technion incubator, attend the Closing Bell Ceremony at NASDAQ
Representatives of Mazor Robotics, founded at the Technion in 2001, attended the Closing Bell Ceremony at NASDAQ on Wednesday July 13. The representatives from Mazor, including CEO Ori Hadomi, COO & VP R&D Eli Zehavi and Prof. Moshe Shoham of the Technion, were greeted by NASDAQ officials and representatives of ATS - the American Technion Society.
Attending the Closing Bell Ceremony is a show of respect by NASDAQ, generally granted to its listed companies on the occasion of a milestone in their history. Mazor, traded on NASDAQ as MZOR since August 2013, was invited to ring the bell the day after the unveiling of its new robot, the Mazor X. The privilege of ringing the bell was given to Company CEO Ori Hadomi.
Mazor’s technology was born in the medical robotics lab at the Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. The head of the lab, Prof. Moshe Shoham, led the idea to commercial realization at the Technion incubator, together with student Michael Burman and Eli Zehavi, former director of engineering at Elscint (Israel) Elscint and currently COO & VP R&D at Mazor. The company was founded in 2001 at the Technion incubator and moved to the Caesarea industrial zone two years later.
Mazor Robotics develops robotic systems for back and brain surgery. Mazor’s systems, including the Renaissance robot, are used for treating back problems such as spine deformity, herniated discs and spine instability, and brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, which require accurate electrode insertion for deep brain stimulation (DBS). These systems, currently operating in over 120 hospitals, have been used in some 17,000 operations with more than 100,000 implants, and have never caused permanent nerve damage in any patient. The advantages of the system, according to Prof. Shoham, are its high precision, minimal invasiveness and the reduced dose of radiation for the patient and operating room staff. He said: “The launch of the Mazor X system, and the signing of an agreement with medical device giant Medtronics, is leading the company into a new era in terms of technology and in terms of the ability to realize our motto: Healing through Innovation.”
Photo credit: © Nasdaq 2016
- Written by Technion
Smart Prayer Room
Students at the Technion have developed a system that informs the user whether the Faculty prayer room is occupied or vacant and whether the worshipers are men or women. It does this with the aid of sensors alone, and without using a camera, which could violate the worshippers’ privacy
could violate the worshippers’ privacy
Mosallah (مصلى) is the name of an original system for monitoring the presence of worshippers in the Muslim prayer room at the Technion Faculty of Computer Science. The unique app can identify the current stage of the prayer and, according to this information, the system can estimate when the prayer will end. The innovative system was developed by three students at the Technion Faculty of Computer Science - female students Anwar Dabur and Lina Mudalej and male student Bakr Odeh - as their final project in the course on systems programming in an Arduino environment, held in conjunction with Microsoft R&D.
Dabur relates, “It all started two years ago, when the Faculty provided its Muslim students with a mosallah (dedicated prayer room). It was of course a very important step for us Muslims who want to pray during the day, but we soon found that there was a little problem: a person who wants to pray in the room has no way of knowing whether it’s vacant or occupied.”
Unlike prayers with many participants, where men and women gather in the same hall, prayer in small prayer rooms is not mixed. “Therefore it is important for us to know not only if the room is occupied but also who is inside - men or women. We realized that this was a very complex challenge, but we are students at the Technion - there’s no way we would fail to solve all those problems.”
During the past year, the project year, the three visited many prayer rooms in order to analyze the characteristics that could be monitored during prayers in the mosallah, and developed the system, constantly improving it based on experiments. From the outset, it was clear to them that cameras would not be used, because they violate the worshiper’s privacy. Therefore they developed a smart prayer rug equipped with pressure sensors. The rug provides the system with information enabling it to determine whether the worshippers in the room are men or women. “Women and men pray differently,” Dabur explains. “When men pray, one of the worshippers stands in front and the others behind, while women pray in a single row. The order in which they kneel is also different. Therefore, based on the information obtained from the pressure sensors, we can determine the gender of the worshipers without entering the room.”
The system developed by the three students includes pressure and distance sensors, an Arduino controller and servo motor; software that analyzes the data; and a dedicated app that sends the user prayer reminders on his mobile phone and tells him when the prayer room is vacant or partly vacant. The system can also be used without a smartphone, thanks to an interactive interface based on an LCD touch screen installed outside the prayer room, enabling the user to obtain relevant data and inform the system that he is waiting outside.
“Using the system saves the user a lot of time. Everyone knows that time is a rare commodity when you’re a student at the Technion,” concludes Lina. “This way, instead of standing in line to enter the prayer room, I study at the library and when I see on my phone that the room is vacant, I go there to pray. In the future, we intend to turn the app into a tool for learning prayers and the special movements that go with them.”
The course on systems programming in an Arduino environment is held in conjunction with Microsoft R&D, and enables students to use technology and state-of-the-art software during their studies, including smartphones and tablets for running apps during the development phase. In the course, which is designed to challenge the students with independent product-building projects, the students design smart systems that combine hardware and software using Arduino-based controllers connected to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud.
Photo The student Lina Mudalej / Technion
- Written by Technion
A Selfie from Space
Participants in the International Space University’s 29th Space Studies Program (SSP), currently being held at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, posed for a group photo from space yesterday (July 20th). The photo (attached), taken from a height of 520 kilometers, shows the 104 program participants lying on the main lawn of Technion campus in Haifa, with their bodies forming the letters ISU - the abbreviation of International Space University.
The photo was taken by the EROS-B satellite. The EROS observation satellites, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and operated by the Israeli company ImageSat International (ISI), are equipped with a space camera manufactured by El-Op. ISI previously purchased two such satellites and ordered a third satellite last year, far more advanced than the existing models. EROS satellite photos are sold to both civilian and defense customers worldwide.
The highly acclaimed Space Studies Program (SSP) has been conducted annually by the International Space University since 1988. Each summer, it is held in a different host institutionin locations spanning the globe. This is the first time it is being held in the Middle East - at Technion in Haifa, Israel. As part of the current session, SSP16, the Technion is hosting lectures and panels that are open to the public, free of charge. All the open events are held in English and require advance registration.
Satellite photo credit: courtesy of ISI (ImageSat International) - taken by the EROS-B satellite built by Israel Aerospace Industries