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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 28, 2009 PAGE 21A sensor s TEL AVIV--Like the sensi- tive seismographs that can pick up tremors of impending earthquakes long before they strike, a similar invention from Tel Aviv University re- searchers may change the face of molecular biology. Coupling biological ma- terials with an electrode- based device, professor Judith Rishpon of TAU's department of molecular microbiology and biotechnology is able to quickly and precisely detect pathogens and pollution in the environment--and in- finitesimally small amounts of disease biomarkers in our blood. About the size of a TEL AVIV--Found in 30 percent of all human cancer tumors, the Ras protein literally "drives cells crazy," says professor Yoel Kloog, the dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University. Kloog was the first in the world to develop an effective anti-Ras drug against pancreal~ic cancer, cur- rently in clinical trials. Now, new research pub- lished in the June issue of the "European Journal of Pharmacology" shows that the drug might be able to slow the progression of diabetes as well. Kloog's student Adi Mor of TAU's departvnent of neuro-biochemistry and Sackler School of medi- cine has modified Kloog's anti-Ras FTS compound stick of gum, the new inven- tion may be applied to a wide range of environments and situations. The aim is for the device to be disposable and cost about $1. "Biosensors are important for the bio-terror industry, but are also critical for de- tecting pathogens in water, for the food industry, and in medical diagnostics," says Rishpon. Her latest research appeared in the journals "Nanomedicine: Nanotech- nology Biology" and "Medi- cine, Electroanalysis and Bioelectrochemistry." What makes this particular invention particularly appeal- Adi Mor has developed a new drug compound that has provon effective in re- storing insulin production in animals. to develop what could be the first tablet-based ing is its small size and the fact that it can be easily con- nected to a handheld device like a Blackberry or iPhone for quick and reliable results. An electrical signal will pulse "yes" for the presence of a test molecule and a "no" for its absence. Currently, clinical research- ers are testingits application in cancer diagnostics, focusing on the detection of proteins associ- ated with colon and brain can- cer and efficacy of anticancer drugs. Butthe device is capable of detecting various types of substances. "It really depends on what you put at the end of the electrode," says Rishpon. treatment for children and adults with Type I diabetes. Early results show that FTS is effective in restoring insulin production in ani- mal models, which could spell an end to the daily needle injections endured by diabetics. "Our anti-Ras compound has shown very positive results in inhibiting dia- betes," says.Mor. And given the drug's history--FTS has already passed toxicity studies for other diseases and disorders--it has the potential to fast-track through FDA regulatory hurdles, skipping straight to Phase II clinical trials. A new drug fo'r diabetes could be ready in as little as five years' time. Previous studies by Kloog's lab found that the "You can put enzymes, anti: bodies or bacteria on my elec- trodes to sense the existence of a chemical target. Then we can measure the amount of the target, assessing its potency by rising additional enzymes or by looking at the changes of the electrochemi- cal properties on the device," she says. Enzymes released before the onset of a heart' attack can also be detected, so this application has obvious uses in an operating room to give a physician warning of an im- pending attack during a pro- cedure. It Gould be fitted into an implant like a pacemaker FTS compound is effec- tive against autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus, "but the mechanism of its ef- fects on immune cells was not well understood;' says Mor. "I wanted to see if there was a connec- tion between Ras and the regulation of the immune system, and if so if FTS could help regulate it to prevent or slow diabetes." Through treating cells with the Tel Aviv University FTS compound, Mor was able to find and isolate an important immune system regulator protein called Foxp3. This protein keeps T cells in the immune system in check. T cells are the im- mune system's "soldiers" that fight off infection and or another future device to cation.Theorganicfoodmarket alert the user to impending iscallingformorerigoroustest- dangers, thus preventinging and regulations to ensure sudden death, spraying doesn't occur on some Rishpon is also investigat- farms, and that limits are not ing the applic ition of her breached on others. technology to detect for patho- Commercial applications of gensindrinkingwatersuchas Rishpon's basic research are estrogen, a byproduct Of the already underway in many ar- female birth control pill. The eas of diagnostics, but clearly presence of these chemicals there are more to come. "My in America's drinking water is super sensors are cheap, accu- " no minor health concern. And rate and highly sensitive, and before tackling the problem, in principle they could detect water officials need to know and measure the presence of what they are up against. Rish-" almost every biological-based pon's solution could be part of material," Rishpon concludes. the future toolkit, she believes. She is also collaborating on Detecting pesticides in food the device with scientists at is another very desirable appli- Arizona State University. t disease. In her studies in treated group developed t the lab, when Mor blocked diabetes, while 82 percent Ras using the FTS drug, of the untreated group she was able to increase the became diabetic: Also, in- 1t Foxp3 protein that gave a sulin production from beta boost to the all-important cells in the treated group of T cells, mice increased in compari- Mor then theorized that son to insulin production if the amount of regulatory in the non-treated group, T cells in the body was she reports. increased, the progression "Diabetes is my ain ofdiabeteswoulddfminish,concern," Mor conclfides. "My aim was to slow down"So many children and diabetes, which brings aadults continue to suffer suitcase of side-effectsfrom the disorder. Since like circulatory problems the FTS molecule is very ! that lead to blindness and easily absorbed into the amputations," she. says.blood, it could be the first In her recent study, Mordiabetes treatment in pill treated pre-diabetic mice form to moderate insulin for six months. One group production in juvenile was given FTS, another diabetes, slowing down was given no drug at all. the progression of the Theoutcomewasdramatic. disease. It could help a lot Only 16 percent of the of people." BEER-SHEVA, Israel-- Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev will combine the scientific and scholarly expertise of their humanities and computer science experts in a new project to analyze degraded Hebrew documents. The effort to develop new computer algorithms combines BGU's scientific expertise in computer vi- sion, computer graphics, image processing and com- putational geometry with the scholarly expertise of historians and liturgy scholars to provide valu- able answers regarding Jewish liturgical texts and Arabic historical texts that advance scholarship in these fields. The technical goal of the research is to develop new state of the art algo- rithms for analyzing text and combine them into an easy to operate, open source system of tools to ' aid historical document research throughout the world. Experiments are being conducted on degraded doc- uments from sources such as the Cairo Geniza, copies of which are at the national liturgy project at BGU, the EI-Aqsa manuscript library in Jerusalem and the A1- Azar manuscript library in Cairo. Most fragments that have been discovered at the Geniza are now in libraries at Cambridge and Oxford universities, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, The British Library and in Israel and Paris. Until now the documents have not been researched systematically. Professor Uri Ehrlich of the G61d- stein-G0ren~ Department of Jewish Thought is the head of the Prayer Research Project at BGU. He explains that, "There was one book that was originally used as a Hebrew prayer book from the 1-2th century, but had been scratched off, and the parchment used to write an Arabic text (called palimpsest). Our aim was to read the first book and not the second book. So we needed to find out how the Arab book could disappear and would leave only the Hebrew letters of the original book. This is why the computer sciences and humanities depart- ments at BGU decided to collaborate." "To solve the problem, we created an algorithm to cover the text in a dark grey color, which then highlights lighter colored pixels as background space and identifies the darker pixels as outlining the original Hebrew lettering," said professor Klara Kedem of the Department of Com- ues puter Sciences and.one of the system's creators. Many of the new methods will apply to other languag- es as well, including bina- rizati0n of highly degraded documents (converting up to 256 gray colors to black and white to facilitate digitization), segmenta- tion of skewed and curved lines and word spotting in both curved and highly de- graded documents. Other algorithms will be more language specific, such as paleographic analysis of Hebrew and Arabic histori- cal documents that will in- clude automatic indexing of document collections, determining authorship, location and date of the documents. The research is being funded by the Israel Science Foundation. Ehrlich and other BGU scholars in the humanities will be among those to evaluate the system to be built by professor Klara Kedem and Dr. Jihad EI-Sana of the Department of Computer Sciences and professor emeritus Tsiki Dinstein from Electrical Engineering. The group is part of the emerging global effort to understand, manipulate and archive historical documents so that they are available to researchers in paleography, archaeology and historical research. I d. )