Archive for January 17th, 2013

Reporters: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Press Release  1/1/2013

Building blocks of the universe: Top physicists teach about early galaxy formation at Jerusalem Winter School in Theoretical PhysicsHeaded by Nobel Laureate, ten day School runs December 31 to January 10

Galaxies in formation
Galaxies in formation

The 30th Jerusalem Winter School in Theoretical Physics opens on December 31 at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The topic this year is Early Galaxy Formation in LCDM Cosmology. One hundred students from around the world will participate in lectures and workshops by world-renowned experts in the field.

The 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics and Hebrew University alumnus Prof. David Gross will head the school for the sixth time. Prof. Gross earned his bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received the Nobel Prize for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction, the force operating between quarks.

Prof. Avishai Dekel, the Andre Aisenstadt Chair of Theoretical Physics at the Hebrew University’s Racah Institute of Physics, will manage the school with Prof. Reinhard Genzel from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. According to Prof. Dekel, ”Galaxy formation is the hot topic in physical cosmology today. Galaxies are the building blocks of the universe, and understanding the evolution of galaxies is an important step in understanding the formation of planets and life in the universe.”

Prof. Dekel is one of the world’s leading theoretical cosmologists. He developed the modern theory of galaxy evolution by flow of cold material from the cosmic fabric. In recent years he has focused on the early universe, one to five billion years after the Big Bang.

”The lectures at the school will start with the basics and reach the most advanced issues in current research,” added Prof. Dekel. “My research, for example, deals with a model for galaxy formation by streams of cold gas. This model replaces the hitherto accepted model, whereby the most influential process on galaxy evolution was clashes between galaxies.”

Professor Reinhard Genzel from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics is one of the leading researchers in the subject of galaxy formation. He discovered the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and he is one of the most prominent researchers of galaxies in the early universe. During the School he will talk about the evolution of galaxies.

The Winter School in Theoretical Physics takes place from 31 December to 10 January. All lectures are in English at the Israel Institute of Advanced Studies, Feldman Building, Edmond J. Safra campus in Givat Ram. Registration is required by email to shani@ias.huji.ac.il.


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Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Press Release

13 January, 2013

Hebrew University study finds key mechanism in calcium regulation.  The finding is important element in road towards development of new drugs for neurodegenerative diseases


All living cells keep their cellular calcium concentration at a very low level. Since a small increase in calcium can affect many critical cellular functions (an elevated calcium concentration over an extended period can induce cell death), powerful cellular mechanisms ensure that calcium concentration quickly returns to its low level.

It is known that impairments of cellular calcium regulation underlie almost all neurodegenerative diseases. For example, age-related loss of calcium regulation was shown to promote cell vulnerability in Alzheimer’s disease.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers, along with others from Israel and the US, presented their findings of a previously undescribed cellular mechanism which is essential for keeping cellular calcium concentration low. 
This mechanism operates together with other already characterized mechanisms.

Dr. Shirley Weiss and Prof. Baruch Minke of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) characterized this mechanism using photoreceptor cells of the fruit fly, which is a powerful model for studying basic biological processes. 

They found that a protein-designated calphotin (a calcium buffer) operates by sequestering elevated calcium concentration. Genetic elimination of calphotin led to a light-induced rise in cellular calcium for an abnormally extended time, leading to retinal photoreceptor degeneration in the fruit flies.

The researchers stress that this kind of research, leading to a better understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying cellular calcium regulation, is critical for the development of new drugs and treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. 




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Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Press Release 16 January, 2013

Dr. Rotem Karni and PhD student Vered Ben Hur at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada of the Hebrew University,

Dr. Rotem Karni and PhD student Vered Ben Hur at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada of the Hebrew University,

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Word Cloud By Danielle Smolyar

Mechanism involved in breast cancer cell growth provides opening for early detection, treatment

Researchers at the Hebrew University Institute of Medical Research Israel-Canada have discovered a new mechanism by which breast cancer cells switch on their aggressive cancerous behavior. The discovery provides a valuable marker for the early diagnosis and follow-up treatment of malignant growths.

In normal cell reproduction, a process of RNA splicing takes place. RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a family of large biological molecules that performs multiple, vital roles in the coding, decoding, regulation and expression of genes. Cellular organisms use messenger RNA, called mRNA, to convey genetic information that directs synthesis of specific proteins.

RNA splicing is similar to the process of editing a movie. In this process, the information needed for the production of a mature protein is encoded in segments called exons (which like important movie scenes are needed in a specific sequence in order to understand the movie). In the splicing process, the non-coding segments of the RNA (unimportant scenes, called introns) are spliced from the pre-mRNA and the exons are joined together.

Alternative splicing is when a specific ”scene” (or exon) is either inserted or deleted from the movie (mRNA), thus changing its meaning. Over 90 percent of the genes in our genome undergo alternative splicing of one or more of their exons, and the resulting changes in the proteins encoded by these different mRNAs are required for normal function. In cancer, the normal
process of alternative splicing is altered, and ”bad” protein forms are generated that aid cancer cell proliferation and survival.

In a study published in the online edition of Cell Reports, conducted by Ph.D. student Vered Ben Hur in the lab of Dr. Rotem Karni at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada of the Hebrew University, the researchers found that breast cancer cells change the alternative splicing of an important enzyme, called S6K1, which is a protein involved in the transmission of information into the cell.

The researchers found that when this happens, breast cancer cells start to produce shorter versions of this enzyme and that these shorter versions transmit signals ordering the cells to grow, proliferate, survive and invade other tissues. On the other hand, the researchers found that the long form of this protein acts as a tumor suppressor that protects normal cells from becoming cancerous.

There are several medical implications emanating from the research, say the researchers. One of them is the use of the newly discovered short forms of S6K1 as a diagnostic marker for the detection of breast cancer. Several new anticancer drugs, which have entered the clinic recently, can inhibit the cancerous activity of the short forms of S6K1. Thus, the detection of these new forms can predict the efficacy of these drugs to treat cancer patients.

These implications were recently submitted as a patent application by Yissum, the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University. Another future application will be to ”reverse” the alternative splicing of S6K1 in cancer cells back to the normal situation as a novel anti-cancer therapy. The research group of Dr. Karni is actively engaged in this effort.


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