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Good Health

Technion researchers on leading edge of innovation

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Life expectancy around the globe has risen dramatically in recent years, resulting in increased demands for better health-related devices, solutions and services. Israel, with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology at the helm, is meeting those demands.

As one of the few elite engineering institutes worldwide to have its own medical school, the Technion is uniquely positioned to make breakthroughs and apply them to create real products and processes. Technion scientists from a number of disciplines, including mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, biology and medicine, are proactively working together to develop innovations that improve the lives of people all over the world. The following are a few examples:

Integrated cancer center

Technion Distinguished Professors Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko unraveled the mystery of how the body marks old and damaged proteins for death.

This breakthrough of the ubiquitin system earned them the Nobel Prize, and led to the development of Velcade, a multiple myeloma drug. Other Technion researchers have made great strides in identifying biomarkers for early cancer detection, combating drug-resistant tumors and developing personalized medicine and targeted drug delivery.

With an official opening date scheduled for November 2016, the Technion Integrated Cancer Center will take advantage of the University’s multidisciplinary research teams and its location next to Rambam Medical Center. Doctors and scientists – including clinicians/oncologists, protein chemists, structural biologists, electrical engineers and computer scientists – will work together to help combat cancer in a comprehensive manner.

The placebo effect is real

The effect of the mind on the immune system is well-documented: mental stress can lead to poor physical condition, and a good mood can alleviate the sensation of pain. Now, Technion professor Asya Rolls, and her team of researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, have demonstrated that the brain’s “reward system” transmits messages – via the peripheral nervous system – that positively affect the immune system.

Triggering the reward system stimulates the immune system, causing it to operate more effectively and eliminate bacteria more quickly.

The immune system also creates a more robust immune memory against the bacteria to which it was exposed so that it will operate more effectively the next time it is exposed to the same bacteria.

The findings show that the immune system is not completely autonomous, and could lead to the optimization of existing therapies against infections and boost the effectiveness of vaccines. They might also one day lead to the development of new drugs that utilize the brain’s potential to cure.

Teaching antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance could have a drastic impact on all of our lives, but it is invisible to the naked eye and impossible for most to comprehend. But that has changed, thanks to Technion professor Roy Kishony, who led a team of researchers at the Technion and Harvard Medical School to design a simple way to observe how bacteria move as they become impervious to drugs meant to kill them.

The researchers constructed a 2-by-4 foot petri dish and filled it with a substance commonly used in labs to nourish organisms as they grow. Videotaped over a period of two weeks, the experiment provided the first large-scale glimpse at the maneuverings of bacteria as they encounter increasingly higher doses of antibiotics and adapt to survive and even thrive.

The video captured the world’s attention, garnering a deluge of media attention, and more than 20 million views in its first week. Kishony was invited by the chief medical officer of the UK to show the video in a side meeting on antimicrobial resistance for senior ministers and government officials in New York City during United Nations Week.

Mark Greenberg is the Arizona director of the American Technion Society. For more information about the Technion, to arrange a tour during a family trip or mission, or to find out more about Technion events in the Valley, contact him at mgreenberg@ats.org.

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