Research revealing a link between the birth month and life expectancy, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in 2001, showed that people born between September and November have the best chance of living longer.
The Israeli researchers examined the records of 44,487 patients who were treated in hospital for cancerous growths between 1994 and 2011. Statistical breakdowns revealed that corresponding to the findings of a decade ago, the highest number of male cancer sufferers were born in the first third of the year, especially in January, March and April, with a reduced risk for those born in February.
Of the male patients in the study, 11.4 percent were born in March, 9.9 percent in January and 9.5 percent in April, compared with 8.6 percent in December, 8.4 percent in May, 8 percent in February, 7.8 percent in July, 7.7 percent in October, 7.4 percent in August, 7.1 percent in June and September, and 7 percent in November.
A similar, if less marked trend was found among female patients. “People born in the first third of the year are more exposed to the danger of developing malignant growths in their bodies,” the researchers concluded. The results of this research study were recently published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology.
The findings overlap those of a study of 4,732 Israeli patients who underwent urgent catheterizations or had stents inserted into their blood vessels following a heart attack in the years 2000-2010, and a further study by a Lithuanian university that examined the records of 22,047 heart attack sufferers between 1990 and 2010, both of which found a similar trend of increased births of heart condition sufferers in the first months of the year, between January and April, with a decline in February.
This finding even overlaps a study conducted at the University of Chicago’s Center on Aging that recently examined over 2,000 people aged 100 to 122, which found that the risk of developing cancer and heart diseases in old age is lower primarily among those born between September and November.
The researchers suggest several explanations for the link between month of birth and risk of cancer, including changes in the earth’s physical activity and environmental factors such as changes in nutrition and air pollution levels in different seasons.
Evidence of physical influences on the development of cancer were found in three studies in the years 2000-2001 that found increased chances of cancer among airline pilots and stewards, who spend a relatively large amount of time in the air.
According to the research team leader, Prof. Eliyahu Stoupel, a senior cardiologist at Beilinson Hospital, “It is known that particles from space can affect the activity of enzymes in the body, and it could be that these cause cancer to develop and block the muscles of the heart. Particles from cosmic radiation reach the earth as neutrons, and these could have an effect on the rate of cell-splitting in the body in a way that is liable to support the development of cancer, during certain months.”
Stoupel has conducted several studies of the effects of cosmic radiation on sickness rates, which he in 1989 coined “clinical cosmobiology.”
“This is the influence of physics and the environment on physiological and pathological processes,” he explains.
Studies have already demonstrated a link between higher levels of heart attacks, blood pressure-related diseases and blood clot development in days of storms in the earth’s magnetic field, which occur 3.5 percent to 6 percent of the year. One study from recent years found far more cases of sudden death due to heart conditions on days of low electromagnetic activity.
A new clue to Alzheimer’s disease has been found by University of Haifa researchers.
They discovered a link between dementia, which is reaching epidemic proportions due to aging of the world’s population, and the activity level of a protein called eIF2alpha. The study, recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, brings hope for eventual new treatments.
Prof. Kobi Rosenblum, head of the university’s Sagol Department of Neurobiology, said that altering the performance of this protein through drug therapy could constitute a treatment for the incurable, progressive disease.
Alzheimer’s research has mainly focused in recent years on battling the disease once symptoms have appeared, even though researchers have known for years that it is present in the brain for many years before symptoms make their presence known.
In advanced stages of the disease, Rosenblum explained, small lumps of amyloid protein called plaques are identified forming in the brain. These plaques, he said, are typical of Alzheimer’s sufferers and undermine brain functioning.
Much research has been directed at understanding these plaques and trying to eliminate them or to restrict their formation and growth.
Research has also involved mostly familial (genetically transmitted) dementia, which is caused by known mutations. This new research tried to understand the mechanisms in the development of Alzheimer’s that are linked to molecular response to the metabolic distress that increases with age.
The study, conducted by research student Yifat Segev in the Haifa university’s Laboratory for Research of Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Underlying Learning and Memory that is headed by Rosenblum, in cooperation with Prof. Danny Michaelson of Tel Aviv University, sought to identify factors that could be linked to Alzheimer’s even before the plaques are formed and that are connected to age, the disease’s primary risk factor.
According to Segev, this is the first time that a link has been found between the activity of eIF2alpha and the Apoe4 gene in relation to Alzheimer’s disease. She noted that modification treatments for the eIF2alpha mechanism are being widely researched and are developing quickly, and that the more that can be understood about the connection between this mechanism and Alzheimer’s, the more researchers can find ways to identify and slow the progress of the disease.
A previous study coauthored by Canadian researchers and Rosenblum’s lab revealed that cognitive abilities could be improved by altering the activity of the eIF2alpha protein, which regulates the creation of proteins in all cells, including nerve cells. That research gave Alzheimer’s researchers a glimmer of hope: Perhaps it would be possible to improve cognitive abilities or even prevent cognitive damage in Alzheimer’s patients at an early stage of the disease by intervening in the mechanisms that regulate protein generation in nerve cells.
The current study compared mice that expressed the human Apoe4 gene – known as a central risk factor for Alzheimer’s – with a group of mice with the parallel Apoe3 gene, which does not constitute a risk factor for the disease.
Mice in the former group showed a change in the regulating mechanism for protein generation involving the eIF2alpha protein that damaged the cognitive abilities of those mice at a young age. This sort of mechanism change is characteristic of aging, and so also hints at the tendency of these mice toward premature aging.
Arab-Israeli scientist Amal Ayoub is going for the gold –not aiming for a medal in an Olympic sport, but to help cure cancer.
Ayoub’s startup, Metallo Therapy, is premised on her earlier research showing that metal nanoparticles – especially gold – introduced into malignant tumors can enhance the effects of radiation therapy while reducing damage to neighboring healthy cells.
“Gold is a big atom containing a lot of electrons,” she explains to ISRAEL21c. “Under radiation it can absorb the rays better than smaller atoms can, and its electrons can emit secondary radiation efficient in destroying the cancer cells.”
Working with two Arab-Israeli employees – a male chemical engineer with a degree from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and a female biologist – Ayoub is perfecting a method to produce the gold nanoparticles efficiently on an industrial scale, and has developed a molecule to coat them so that they do not cause toxic interactions with body tissues.
Isn’t gold a very expensive material to work with? “Yes, but since we are talking about very small amounts — a couple of milligrams — the price is not an issue,” she explains. “It’s the same cost as developing any other drug.”
So far, she’s done all this with three years’ worth of funding provided by the Israeli Chief Scientist’s Office through the NGT Technology Incubator in Nazareth, the only applied sciences company devoted specifically to the Arab-Israeli community’s scientific, technological and entrepreneurial potential.
In addition, Metallo Therapy recently received $300,000 from the pharmaceutical division of Arkin Holdings, a fund established by Israeli healthcare entrepreneur Mori Arkin, to begin advanced animal trials using mice.
“They are waiting for results before deciding if they’ll invest more,” relates Ayoub, who is the company’s chief executive and chief technology officer. “We are now fine-tuning [in the lab], and at some point in a couple of months we will move on to more in-vivo studies when we know the exact amounts and concentrations to use.”
Arkin Holdings’ Pini Orbach stated: “We decided to invest in Metallo Therapy because we believe it has innovative technology for treating cancer, excellent basic science and management with the necessary skills. We also believe that the Arab community has much talent in the life sciences, and that investments of this kind will help promote Jewish-Arab cooperation in various fields.”
Though chemotherapy for cancer can save lives, it also can have severe side effects, including an increased risk of infection. Currently, the major criterion to assess the risk of infection is the blood cell count, where the risk of infection is considered high if the number of white blood cells falls below a critical threshold. Neutropenia occurs when levels of white blood cells, mainly neutrophils, are dangerously low. This condition often emerges after chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant, and severe infections can develop if the immune system does not perform its crucial function of devouring and destroying bacteria.
“Our mathematical model has revealed previously unknown mechanisms responsible for the variability in the vulnerability of neutropenia patients to infections,” says research leader Professor Vered Rom-Kedar of the Weizmann Institute’s Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department.
The model finds that variety in the effectiveness of neutrophils between healthy people usually has no significant consequences. However, for patients with neutropenia, the individual variability can make the difference between life and death. The study has drawn this conclusion based on analyzing blood from four healthy volunteers, and the analysis needs to be applied to large populations for the model to be used in the clinic.
The model explains why acute infections develop in certain patients after chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant, even if their neutrophil levels have returned to relatively normal levels. Chemotherapy lowers both neutrophil levels and function, so the tissues of these patients are more penetrable to bacteria. The model suggests that this results in a rapid increase in bacterial concentrations that gives a head start to the bacteria, and then the neutrophil recovery is insufficient to overcome the infection.
“Our study suggests that to achieve optimal results in applying chemotherapy, and/or in patients with innate neutrophil dysfunction, it is of value to assess the patient’s neutrophils periodically, as well as the bacterial concentration. Such assessments will help reduce the morbidity and the mortality, as well as the cost, associated with unnecessary hospitalizations and the administration of expensive medications. Moreover, by cutting down on the use of antibiotics, these assessments can help in preventing the rise in antibiotic resistance,” stated Professor Baruch Wolach, MD, of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and one of the study authors.
It comes as a phone call out of the blue. You can’t lobby or plan for it. All you can do is hope for it, and usually that’s in vain. Each year only 20 citizens of the U.S. receive this call, in which they are informed that they have won MacArthur Foundation fellowships for extraordinary originality.
The award, popularly known as a genius grant, comes with a check for $500,000.
Mandolin player and composer Chris Thile, one of 23 recipients of the 2012 MacArthur fellowship, described his feelings after receiving the phone call to the Los Angeles Times.
“I think I must have turned white,” he said. “I’ve never felt so internally warm. My heart was racing. All of a sudden, I felt very askew physically. I was trying to catch my breath…. I thought, ‘Oh my God, did I win a MacArthur?’”
The MacArthur grants have been awarded since the 1980s to persons of extraordinary creativity and originality. The fellowships span an array of categories and pursuits: writers, scientists, artists, sociologists, filmmakers, teachers and others.
Recipients are chosen on the basis of the originality of their work and their potential for future creative work; the award is not based on past achievement, and recipients do not have to report on how they spend the fellowship money.
In contrast to other fellowship awards, the MacArthur Foundation does not receive applications. About a hundred key persons from a variety of spheres are invited each year to propose candidates for the prize; only they can nominate candidates. They are sworn to complete secrecy; and they correspond with one another anonymously. The award’s intention is to support people, not projects, the MacArthur Foundation explains.
The names of the 2012 genius grant winners were leaked yesterday by the Huffington Post a few hours before the official announcement. Thirteen males and ten females won the fellowship. Their ages are from 31 (in the case of the musician-composer Thile) to 66 (the age of Maurice Lim Miller, whose Family Independence Initiative rewards self-sufficiency among residents of low-income neighborhoods. One of the proud recipients was Maria Chudnovsky, an Israeli-American aged 35, from Columbia University. Chudnovsky, whose research explores connections between graph theory and other branches of mathematics, including linear programming and geometry, received her undergraduate and Masters level degrees from the Technion, in Haifa.
Other 2012 MacArthur genius grant recipients are Uta Barth, 54, from Los Angeles, a conceptual photographer, Claire Chase, 34, from Brooklyn, whose International Contemporary Ensemble engages audiences in the appreciation of contemporary classical music, Raj Chetty, 33, an economist at Harvard University, whose research analyzes how policy decisions affect real-world behavior; Eric Coleman, a geriatrician at the University of Colorado School of medicine whose work helps patients make the transition from hospitals to homes or other care facilities; Junot Diaz, a fiction writer affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose works explore experiences of immigrants; David Finkel, a Washington Post journalist known for his reporting on military affairs; and Olivier Guyon, an optical physicist and astronomer at the University of Arizona.
Chudnovsky was born in Russia, and immigrated with her family to Israel when she was 13. After completing her first and second degrees at the Technion, she pursued her doctorate at Princeton University. She has worked as a professor at Columbia University since 2006.
Chudnovsky’s work focuses on graph theory. “I research abstract, theoretical constructs connected to graphs,” she explains.
Explicating the conferral of the 2012 fellowship to Chudnovsky, the MacArthur Foundation site stated:”In an early breakthrough, Chudnovsky and colleagues proved a conjecture offered in the early 1960s, known as the “Strong Perfect Graph Theorem,” that identifies specific criteria required for a graph to fall into the “perfect” class. Any perfect graph can be colored efficiently − and graph coloring bears a direct relation to finding efficient solutions to problems such as allocating non-interfering radio frequencies in communication networks. Since this landmark accomplishment, Chudnovsky has continued to generate a series of important results in graph theory. Although her research is highly abstract, she is laying the conceptual foundations for deepening the connections between graph theory and other major branches of mathematics, such as linear programming, geometry, and complexity theory.”
One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in women worldwide, and also strikes thousands of men.
Though the three areas with the highest breast cancer rates are Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Northern Europe, Israel has taken a leading role in researching causes and treatments. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s very first international research grant was awarded in 2001 to Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad to do a comprehensive Israeli Breast Cancer Study, now an international model for genetic breast cancer prevention screening.
Over the past 12 months, ISRAEL21c has reported on exciting news in cancer research from Israeli laboratories. We present 10 of the most promising advances here with our hope that breast cancer may soon be relegated to history.
The novel Israeli medical device IceSense3, made by IceCure, is already helping American doctors destroy benign breast lumps by freezing them. In June, a leading Japanese breast surgeon started clinical trials using the minimally invasive, ultrasound-guided procedure to successfully obliterate small cancerous tumors as well. Similar trials will soon begin in the United States.
The cryoablation process takes five or 10 minutes in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center under local anesthesia. No recovery period or post-care is necessary, and there is no scarring.
The Israeli company Real Imaging offers a no-radiation, no-contact alternative to mammography pioneered by electro-optical engineer Boaz Arnon and named in memory of his mother, who died of breast cancer in 2004.
RUTH uses a new trademarked platform that enables automatic quantitative analysis of 3D and infrared signals emitted from cancerous and benign breast tissue. Results are interpreted by computer, with unprecedented accuracy in patients of all ages — 90 percent as opposed to 80% for mammography. Thousands of women have been involved in clinical trials for RUTH since 2007. The next step is CE and FDA approval.
Dune Medical, a graduate of the Misgav Venture Accelerator, in June received pre-market approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for MarginProbe, its trademarked system that uses electromagnetic waves to identify possibly cancerous tissue on the edges of a breast tumor in real time. The application was based on data from a 600-patient study conducted primarily in the United States.
MarginProbe is meant to improve on the current rate of 30 percent to 60% of women who must undergo secondary breast cancer surgery after a lumpectomy because the initial surgery failed to get rid of all cancerous tissue at the margins of the tumor.
Herceptin, a frequently prescribed drug for blocking the chemical signals that stimulate uncontrolled growth of breast cancer cells, is one of an advanced class of pharmaceuticals called monoclonal antibody drugs. Currently, these drugs must be administered together with chemotherapy.
The two-year-old Israeli company Immune Pharmaceuticals is developing a “guided missile” system, licensed from the Hebrew University, which encloses thousands of chemotherapy molecules inside a monoclonal antibody nanoparticle. The drug payload isn’t released until reaching the cancerous tissue.
In addition, Immune is collaborating with the Weizmann Institute to develop antibody therapeutics targeting a growth factor that causes chemotherapy resistance in many patients with breast and ovarian cancer.
Tel Aviv University PhD student Livnat Jerby won a prestigious 2012 Dan David Scholarship for performing the first genome-scale study of the metabolic progression of breast cancer — an algorithm that can profile the traits of each individual patient’s tumor. These profiles help in studying the underlining mechanisms of the disease, classifying patients according to their prognosis and identifying potential metabolic biomarkers as a non-invasive, cost-effective means for early diagnosis and monitoring treatment efficiency.
“The Holy Grail of our work is to provide the basis for rational drug discovery, aiming to find drugs that — unlike most conventional treatments — will harm only the tumor, and not the healthy cells,” Jerby tells ISRAEL21c. “We had some success with providing a new potential target for treating renal cancer and published those results in Nature. With breast cancer, we can apply the same computational tools to better diagnose and choose the best treatment for the individual patient.”