Science & Technology
- Written by Silvia G Golan
A Cocktail Reception was hosted by His Excellency, the Ambassador Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the State of Israel, and Mrs. Jean Murphy in the new EU Residence in Herzliya Pituach on 11 May 2015. This reception took place on the occasion of Israel National Science Day in 2015, and in order to stress the scientific cooperation between EU and Israel.
Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen opened his speech by expressing his great pleasure to welcome the distinguished guests to the EU reception in honour of Israel's National Science Day in which we celebrate one of the strongest bonds between the EU and Israel – cooperation in the field of scientific and technological research
He continued with the following remarks:
· Our cooperation in science and technology is a model for the type of close relations we hope will continue and which we would like to see in more fields in the future
· It is also proof that it is ludicrous to talk about an EU boycott of Israel
· Israel has been associated to the EU's Framework Programmes for R&D since 1996 and is the only non-European country to be associated
· As you are probably, with a budget of close to 80 million EURO, the current Framework Programme Horizon 2020 is the biggest research programme in the world. We hope that Israel will be as successful in this programme as it was in the previous one -FP7 - which saw Israel researchers participating in over 1,600 projects.
· The EU's cooperation with Israel in the field of science and technology is a thus win-win situation for both of us. We both have a great deal to learn and benefit from each other. It is beyond an issue of numbers – the exposure for both our academia and industry to cutting edge research, the links to leading institutions and to key actors in the private sector are invaluable contributions to both our research worlds and economies
· We will be hearing later on from Professor Hossem Haick of the Technion whose work on the "electronic nose" has been supported by the gamut of Framework Programme actions from the Marie Curie fellowship through the prestigious European Research Council grant to the collaborative research grant
· But our cooperation starts at an even earlier stage than that of post-doc. We will be hearing from high school student Avner Okun who will be speaking on behalf of the six winners of the Israeli Competition for Young Scientists and Developers who will be going on to participate in the EU Competition for Young Scientists that will take place this September in Milan. I would like to take this opportunity to wish them all the best of luck
I would like to conclude by mentioning a few more examples of our cooperation
· Both in Israel and in the European Union, we share a common problem: how to ensure that future generations of young people take an interest in science and decide to take up a career in research
Every year Israel, supported by the Framework Programmes, organizes Researchers Night, an event mirrored all over Europe whose purpose, like that of Israel Science Day, is to bring science to the general public and to instill a passion for science in young people.
· For the fifth year, the EU Delegation is organising the annual EU-Israel Innovation Seminar which brings together innovation experts to exchange ideas and forge the basis for future collaboration. Last year, the seminar was attended by close to 130 participants including 50 from 13 EU countries
Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen ended his speech by wishing all the guests an enjoyable evening and continued excellent cooperation.
The reception continued with a recorded video with greetings from the European Commissioner Carlos Moedas in charge of Research, Science and Innovation.
Then, Mr Ido Sharir, Director General, Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, greeted His Excellency Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the EU Delegation to the State of Israel, and the distinguished guests. He thanked the Delegation of the EU for organizing this event on the occasion of Israel's National Science Day and pointed out the following remarks:
· Science and Technology are an imperative part of our lives; from the moment we open our eyes in the morning and throughout every second of our day.
· All our experiences, starting with what we see and do in our daily behavior, continuing to the instruments and devices we use on a daily basis and ending in the explanation of physiological and sociological phenomena – all are connected to Science and Technology.
· Israel's National Science Day enables us to present and promote the contribution of science to our life and society.
· The National Science Day will be celebrated tomorrow (May 12th) in over a 100 events all over Israel. (We usually mark the Science Day around March 14th - Albert Einstein's birthday, but this year we postponed it due to the general elections held at mid-March.)
· These events include interactive activities for the entire family and are open to the public.
· They will be held at the universities, at science museums, at community centers, at Regional Research and development Center, etc.
The events will showcase the importance of science in our life and aim to encourage the involvement of youth in the field.
· The Ministry of Science, Technology and Space has put on its agenda to reach out to the general public.
· We are conducting training activities for youth, women, orthodox communities and ethnic minorities to bring them closer to science and scientific activities.
· We believe that science is a bridge to minimize gaps in the society.
· Practicing science can allow every man and woman to fulfill their goals and to contribute to society regardless of gender, economic background, or religion.
· The scientific cooperation with the EU, particularly with the R&D Framework Programs, has proven to be one of the most important tools to promote academic - scientific research in Israel in the past decade.
· We are glad to be part of Horizon 2020 and encourage Israeli scientists to take part in this important European Program.
· I hope and know that through the scientific cooperation, all side will benefit and our bilateral ties will bloom.
Mr Ido Sharir ended his speech by thanking Mr. Lars Faaborg-Andersen for his hospitality and wishing all the guests a good evening.
The reception continued with presentations of the following distinguished scientists:
· Professor Hossem Haick, Department of Chemical Engineering and Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, Technion Israel Institute of Technology.
· Mrs Maya Halevy – Director, Bloomfield Science Museum.
· Mr Avner Okun, Young Scientist, Himmelfarb Yeshiva High School, Jerusalem
The important EU Reception on 11 May 2015 is part of a series of events that took place in different sites in Israel along a week in order to commemorate Israel's National Science Day.
Photo Silvia Golan
- Written by Technion
Breakthrough in Cancer Research
The ubiquitin system produces a protein that greatly restricts the development of cancerous tumors
A new study by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology could hold one key to control cancer cell growth and development. In a paper published in the April 9, 2015 edition of CELL. The team reports on the discovery of two cancer-suppressing proteins.
The research was conducted in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover, of the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The team was led by research associate Dr. Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv and , included additional research students and colleagues, as well as physicians from the Rambam, Carmel and Hadassah Medical Centers, who are studying tumors and their treatment.
The heretofore-undiscovered proteins were found during ongoing research on the ubiquitin system, an important and vital pathway in the life of the cell, which is responsible for the degradation of defective proteins that could damage the cell if not removed. The ubiquitin system tags these proteins and sends them for destruction in the cellular complex known as the proteasome. The system also removes functional and healthy proteins that are not needed anymore, thereby regulating the processes that these proteins control.
Usually, the proteins that reach the proteasome are completely broken down, but there are some exceptions, and the current line of research examined p105, a long precursor of a key regulator in the cell called NF-κB. It turns out that p105 can be broken down completely in certain cases following its tagging by ubiquitin, but in other cases it is only cut and shortened and becomes a protein called p50.
NF-κB has been identified as a link between inflammation and cancer. The hypothesis of the connection between inflammatory processes and cancer was first suggested in 1863 by German pathologist Rudolph Virchow, and has been confirmed over the years in a long series of studies. Ever since the discovery (nearly 30 years ago) of NF-κB, numerous articles have been published linking it to malignant transformation. It is involved in tumors of various organs (prostate, breast, lung, head and neck, large intestine, brain, etc.) in several parallel ways, including: inhibition of apoptosis (programmed cell death) normally eliminates transformed cells; acceleration of uncontrolled division of cancer cells; formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), which are vital to tumor growth; and increased resistance of cancerous cells to irradiation and chemotherapy.
As noted, the precursor p105 is “handled” by the ubiquitin system in one of two parallel and equally prevalent ways. It is either destroyed completely, or shortened and transformed to p50. The current research deciphers the decision-making mechanism that determines which process will be applied to the protein: when a ubiquitin system component called KPC1 is involved in the process and attaches ubiquitin to p105, the protein is shortened to become p50. When ubiquitination is mediated by another component of the system (and without KPC1), p105 is degraded.
The decision between these two options has significant implications on the cell, as the presence of high levels of KPC1 (which generates p50) and p50 (the product of the process) – with the accompanying disruption of the normal ratios between the processes – suppresses the malignant growth and apparently protects the healthy tissue. The current research was conducted on models of human tumors grown in mice, as well as on samples of human tumors, and a strong connection was discovered between the suppression of malignancy and the level of the two proteins, clearly indicating that the increased presence of KPC1 and/or p50 in the tissue can protect it from cancerous tumors.
Professor Ciechanover, who is also the president of the Israel Cancer Society, notes that many more years are required “to establish the research and gain a solid understanding of the mechanisms behind the suppression of the tumors. The development of a drug based on this discovery is a possibility, although not a certainty, and the road to such a drug is long and far from simple.”
Professor Ciechanover won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2004 (jointly with Professors Avram Hershko – also from the Technion – and Irwin Rose, of the Fox Chase Cancer Center) for the discovery of the ubiquitin system. The current line of research is a continuation of that discovery.
Distinguished Professor Aaron Ciechanover. Photographer: Dan Porges.
- Written by Tel Aviv Global
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
- Written by Weizmann Institute of Science
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
- Written by Tel Aviv University Spokesperson
On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 17:30 Israel time, the Philae lander will land on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko as planned by a group of comet researchers 25 years ago - a group that includes Prof. Akiva Bar-Nun of Tel Aviv University.
On Wednesday November 12 at 17:30 Israel time, the Philae lander will land on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko - the first ever landing on a comet. The lander will be anchored to the surface by harpoons and screws that will penetrate the comet's icy surface. This anchor is necessary to hold the lander on the brittle ice surface of the comet's exterior.
Twenty-five years ago a group of comet researchers which included Prof. Akiva Bar-Nun of the Department of Geosciences at Tel Aviv University developed the idea of flying the Rosetta spacecraft for a year alongside the comet's nucleus, and to land the Philae lander on its surface, in order to examine the strength and composition of the ice.
Up till now the Rosina Group, in which Prof. Bar-Nun is a member, has received findings indicating that the comet was created at a temperature of minus 250° Celsius at the edge of the solar system. An additional finding diminishes the importance of comets in bringing water and organic material to the young planet Earth, in contrast with previous theories.
"Molecular Nitrogen (N2) is the greatest discovery we've made up till now," says Prof. Bar-Nun. "This was a 'bombshell' because to date we haven't observed nitrogen on comets. Now we expect to find noble gases like Neon, Argon, Krypton and Xenon. As they get closer - the comet and the Rosetta spacecraft - to the sun, the comet heats up and becomes more and more active, which enables us to discover substances in very small concentrations."
The Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency was launched in 2004. On August 6, 2014 the spacecraft entered into an orbit around the comet, and on November 12 the Philae lander will be deployed from the spacecraft and will attempt to land on the comet's surface. Philae should deploy at 10:35 Israel time and, after traveling for 22 kilometers, will land on the comet at 17:30. Messages from the distant spacecraft will reach earth 28 minutes later, so that at 18:00 Israel time we will know whether Philae was able to land and anchor on the ice surface.
"To date, all spacecraft have passed near comets - but none of them has yet landed on one," said Prof. Bar-Nun. "25 years ago we thought about landing on a comet, drilling down and bringing some material back to earth. The problem was that we didn't know at the time the mechanical strength of the surface. The engineers told us: Guys, first go to the comet and measure it, and then come back to us. You have to understand that a comet has very little gravitational pull so that you have to hold on to the surface by force. But the ice surface is not very dense, like snow that has fallen and is still very soft."
This research is funded in the last four years by a grant from the Israel Space Agency, through the Ministry of Science.
Photo : Comet 67P on October 30, 2014
Copyright: European Space Agency