April   2010

Through the Arabic Glass Ceiling


TAU education expert
becomes the nation`s first Arab-Israeli female professor

For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, a female Arab-Israeli citizen has been appointed as a full professor at an institution of higher learning.

Dr. Fadia Nasser-Abu Alhija currently heads the Department of Curriculum Planning and Instruction at Tel Aviv University`s School of Education, and told Haaretz that the appointment was a "real breakthrough." The 54-year-old scholar is the first Arab-Israeli woman to become a full professor at any Israeli university, and joins a minority of 33 Arab-Israeli men currently in Israeli higher education.

Dr. Nasser-Abu Alhija is looking forward to seeing others like her join the world of academia, and reports that she already sees changes taking place at Israeli colleges. "And that process is not only taking place in bachelor`s degree programs," she told Haaretz. "There are several reasons for this — Arab families are attributing more importance to educating their girls. Also, the students themselves have become exposed to successful women who now serve as role models."

To read more about how Tel Aviv University is opening doors and creating opportunities for minorities in Israel, read the full story at Haaretz:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1159003.html

 
THE SACKLER PRIZE IN THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES - PHYSICS

The two outstanding scientists honored this year made ground breaking discoveries in the field of Nano-Photonics and Nano-Plasmonics.

1) Prof. Mark Luitzen Brongersma from Stanford University:

For outstanding experimental and theoretical research in nano-plasmonics and nano-photonics; in particular on the emission of light from nano-structures that support propagating surface plasmons.

Website: http://www.stanford.edu/group/BrongersmaGroup/


2) Prof. Stefan Alexander Maier from the Imperial College of London:

For outstanding theoretical and experimental research in nano-plasmonics and nano-photonics; in particular on the propagation of surface plasmons-polaritons along a chain of metallic nano-particles.

Professor Stefan Maier
Web: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/people/s.maier

The prize will be awarded to the recipients in person on May 10, 2010, during a one-day workshop honoring the distinguished laureates and the annual session of the Tel Aviv University Board of Governors.

 
BRAIN@TAU


Tau will hold on April 25th the first brain
 conference  Presenting Neuroscience research and Neuro-related labs on campus.

 
Operation Cast Lead and its aftermath: Antisemitism and the Holocaust in the 2009 international discourse

The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress at their annual meeting with the Press highlighting the Institute’s findings regarding the situation of antisemitism in 2009.



Antisemitism 2009 − a disproportionate and pre-planned onslaught of radical activists from the left and from among Muslim immigrant communities against Jews and against Israel as a Jewish state, using antisemitism and the Holocaust as political tools.





The year in the wake of Operation Cast Lead was the worst since monitoring of antisemitic manifestations began two decades ago, in terms of both major antisemitic violence and the hostile atmosphere generated worldwide by the mass demonstrations and verbal and visual expressions against Israel and the Jews. The intensity and nature of the wave that began in January 2009 testified to pre-planned mobilization among radicals from the left and among Muslim immigrant communities, resulting in a well-coordinated onslaught which employed a range of antisemitic tools, including the equation between Jews and Israelis. This equivalence, which has infiltrated the mainstream discourse, is intended to de-legitimize the State of Israel and the Jewish people as a single entity. It should be noted that radical Muslim leaders demonstrate a high degree of mobilization and an ability to raise funds and disseminate propaganda. They also cooperate with far left groups, many of which are active on university campuses and which spew an anti-Zionism imbued with antisemitic overtones and identify strongly with the Palestinian cause. It should be noted, too, that Jewish students and Israeli students abroad also number among the leadership of those radical left groups.

The number of violent incidents recorded by the Institute in 2009, 1,129, represented an increase of more than 100 percent over the 2008 figure of 559. In addition, many more hundreds of threats, insults, graffiti signs and slogans and demonstrations featuring virulently antisemitic content were registered, sometimes resulting in violence. Since our policy is to document cases that show clear antisemitic content and intention, hundreds of instances of targeting of Jewish individuals or property (or public property), where there was no clear evidence of antisemitic motive, are not included. It should also be noted that Jews sometimes prefer not to file complaints, fearing reprisal or doubting the outcome. Thus, the number of incidents, both violent and verbal, might actually be far higher than the figures presented here.

According to our criteria and data, the highest rise in numbers of violent incidents was registered in 2009 in the UK – 374 compared to 112 in 2008; France recorded 195 violent events compared to 50 in 2008; Canada – 138 compared to 13, and the US – 116 compared to 98. In Germany, the final reports for 2009 may show a slight increase in the overall number of antisemitic manifestations, but the community feels threatened − a major incident has greater impact than several minor ones. The figures for Russia and Ukraine declined, from 40 and 38 to 28 and 20, respectively. In most other countries, numbers ranged from 1 to 30, but even low numbers when doubled or tripled compared to previous years might indicate the beginning of a tendency: for instance, from 1 to 6 violent cases in Norway, from 0 to 15 in Brazil, and from 0 to 22 in Austria, where the extreme right scored impressive electoral gains. In the UK, the Jewish community`s long-established monitoring system logged over a three-fold increase in antisemitic manifestations of all kinds since 1999, and Canada recorded a five-fold rise since the beginning of the decade. With Jewish synagogues, schools and community centers receiving better protection, close to half of violent cases were perpetrated, sporadically and spontaneously, against persons, and about a sixth against private property, far from Jewish institutions. Although extreme right activists still play a significant role in perpetrating antisemitic incidents, in 2009 most violent cases, especially in western Europe − where identification was obtained − were determined to have been carried out by individuals of Arab or Muslim background.

The highest number of incidents was recorded in January, during Operation Cast Lead. This trend subsided in February and March, but even during the months that followed, the baseline remained higher than before the war. In fact, there has been a rising trend since the early 1990s, even in years when there was no significant Middle East trigger. The origins of the 2009 escalation in antisemitic expressions must therefore lie deeper.

First, there is rampant ignorance of political and historical facts among contemporary youth, for many of whom Israel, Zionism and Jews represent a catchy symbol of evil. Second, an abundance of Muslim propaganda, well-financed by oil money, exploits this anti-Jewish atmosphere, which law enforcement agencies refrain from countering out of “political correctness” and respect for freedom of speech. Third, the Holocaust is continually used as a political tool, mainly through the equation of Israelis/Zionists/Jewish supporters of Israel with Nazis. Official voices calling to suspend the UN-instituted commemoration of the Holocaust on January 27, or the libel accusing IDF soldiers of harvesting Palestinian organs, reflect the effect of this equation.

Finally, beyond the numbers, examples and analyses, it can be said that 2009 was a year of anti-Israel and antisemitic expressions and accusations on the international scene that were unparalleled in their viciousness. The repeated demonization of the Jewish state and its supporters as a symbol of all evil and a major source of the world’s troubles overshadows any factual discussion and leads to the implication, whether wittingly or unwittingly, that the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish state might bring global salvation.

 
Nets of Peace


Nets of Peace was formed to generate creative and innovative ideas to resolve the long-standing Israeli- Palestinian Conflict. The multinational team is composed of five graduate students currently studying at the TAU’s Business Management and Conflict Resolution programs. The Team presented its business idea in the SPIRIT conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 9th, 2010.  
Nets of Peace Vision
Nets of Peace aspires to initiate a feasible program that will ignite a process of change in the area. Understanding that the ancient conflict at hand cannot be resolved overnight, we wish to identify and address the prevailing factors impacting the current state of mistrust, frustration and grief among the two people in this small land. Cultivating a determined approach with a youthful and innovative spirit, Nets of Peace strives to bring foreign investment and operations to the Palestinian territory.
We believe that only by increasing the quality of life for Palestinians through economic growth and financial development can the circumstances change and the circle of violence be broken. Nets of Peace aims to act in the entrepreneurial sphere, knowing that business and responsible management are crucial for providing opportunities and hope to the Palestinian people and the entire region.
Gaza Fish Farm Project
In order to generate change, Nets of Peace focuses on the development of a large scale fish industry in the Gaza Strip. The rationale behind this choice stems from the following factors:
A) Unemployment in Gaza:
The Israeli- Palestinian dispute is one of the world’s most enduring and explosive conflicts, which has seemed only to worsen in the past two decades. Palestinian families who were dependent on Israeli employment were the first victims of terror as the borders were sealed, separating the people and ceasing Palestinian employment by Israelis. Unofficial reports estimate the unemployment rate in the Gaza strip at more than 40 percent. Moreover, about 80 percent of Gaza`s 1.5 million residents depend on food aid from the United Nations and other groups.
With the rise of poverty, radical Islamic movements spread. As evidence to this fact, a recent article states that “most Hamas applicants only want jobs” (Ben Hubbar, the associated press). The paper indicates that for a recent Hamas recruitment for only 1000 positions with very narrowly defined applicant criteria (age, weight and height) over 15,000 candidates applied, most of which just wished to “support the family and build the future”. This, and many more examples, proves the vital need for job opportunities to the Palestinian community.
B) Marine Culture in Gaza:
The Gaza area is a 40 km strip on the shores of the Mediterranean. The fishing industry plays a significant role in the Palestinian culture and economy and is also an important part in the residents’ diet. However, in recent years this industry has suffered tremendously due to high smuggling threats. Palestinian fishermen are very limited in fishing areas, directly affecting the quality and quantity of fish. As a consequence, the average price of seafood has more than doubled in the past few years, thus, far fewer families can afford this important source of protein.
C) Global need for Fish:
In our modern world, commercial fishing is the only remnant of the prehistoric “Hunting- Gathering” era. Today, commercial fishing presents an immediate threat to the fish population around the globe. Fisheries are on the decline worldwide, with virtually every commercial fish species "over-exploited," "fully exploited," or "depleted" (FAO). With fish species being taken from the seas faster than they can regenerate, there is no alternative but fish farming. Fish farms, therefore, present an opportunity and fulfill a global need.
Business Plan
The Gaza Fish Farm Project proposes the development of a large-scale fish farming industry in the Gaza Strip. Israeli involvement would be kept to a minimum and capital expenditure costs would be sourced from international conflict resolution funds (UN/EU). An international fish-farming company would then be sought to effectively own and manage the facility while a minority equity stake would be granted to a trust, funding local marine science education and training schemes.
The Nets of Peace Team wishes to emphasize that the purpose of this operation is to create a model for a foreign business successfully operating from Gaza and benefiting both its shareholders and the Palestinian community. Such an operation would encourage additional foreign investors to take advantage of the financial incentives offered and to branch out to the Gaza Strip. We strongly believe that a well thought-out economic development plan would better the life of both Palestinian and Israeli citizens, and with time, resolve the regional tension.
SPIRIT Initiative
With the same players trying, time after time, to resolve political conflicts, there is a desperate need for fresh spirits, youthful passion and especially new ideas. Students Participating in Resolving International Tensions (SPIRIT) is a social movement started by graduate students from Colombia University in cooperation with the United Nations. (www.spiritinitiative.org)
The Nets of Peace Team:
Osher Perry- Osher was born and raised in Israel. He grew up in Eley Sinai, a village emphasizing communal life that was evacuated during the disengagement plan of 2005. Osher is a graduate of the IDF Military Academy, and the Israeli Naval Academy. A Lieutenant Commander (res.), He served in multiple commanding offices on board Israeli vessels, with the latest being Second in Command of the navy’s largest ship. Later, as a certified yacht skipper, Osher circumnavigated the world, gaining a sense of globalization and of world economics. Mr. Perry is currently attending the International MBA program at Tel Aviv University.
David McGeady- David was born and raised in Dublin, to an Irish Catholic family. He graduated with a first class honours degree in Engineering from Trinity College Dublin, and then spent two years in Finland where he received a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering & Management from Helsinki University of Technology. Following this he spent several years working in investment banking for Bank of America in London, and then worked as a consultant to several technology companies in Ireland. He came to Israel for the first time in October 2009, to take part in the Sofaer International MBA program.
Ohad Kot- Ohad, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, is an MBA student and a medicine student at Tel-Aviv University, after completing his M.Sc in cancer molecular biology research.
He is a part time business and scientific consultant specializing in medical device and bio-tech industries. Ohad took part in a program for junior ambassadors in Israel ministry of foreign affairs, and also participated in peace talks between teenagers together with Palestinians from Gaza during the late 90`s. He has been committed ever since to promoting peace and bringing together the people of Israel and Palestine.
Danielle Angel- Danielle was born in Israel and raised in Turkey. Her mother was formerly an Israeli contestant to Ms. World and a spokesperson for peace and her father is a Turkish entrepreneur. Danielle`s family relocated to Turkey for business purposes, where she grew up with a great appreciation for Intercultural Cooperation. She graduated in 2008 from Brandeis University, and spent a year traveling and working in Turkey. Danielle is currently attending Tel Aviv University`s International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation.
David Welch - Growing up in Sacramento, the capitol of California, David developed an interest in policy making. David participated in mock government conferences and interned for the state legislature during high school, then studied International Relations at Indiana Wesleyan University. Upon graduating with honors, David pursued a short but rewarding career in finance and since, decided to further his education. David now participates in Tel Aviv University`s International MA Program in Conflict Resolution. He was enthused by the SPIRIT Initiative because of the opportunity to blend his experience in economics and finance with his love for grassroots empowerment, social reform and conflict transformation.

 

The International Sackler Prize in Biophysics 2010


Prof. Yigong Shi – Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
Dr. Gerhard Hummer – National Institutes of Health, USA

The Prize ceremony will be held on Monday April 26, 2010 and accompanied by a symposium on “Physics of biomolecular interactions”.

 
Unraveling The Effect Of Spatial Organization On Intracellular Chemistry


Tel Aviv University President Co-authors the Important Paper  
Tel Aviv University President Professor, Joseph Klafter, has co-authored a paper that brings together a myriad of seemingly unrelated chemical reactions creating a unified picture of reaction kinetics. “Geometry-Controlled Kinetics,” published in Nature Chemistry on April 18, contributes to our understanding of how the geometry of a particular medium affects the motion of molecules or other particles within that medium, determining how likely they are to actually meet and react chemically with one another. Applied to living cells, this new insight may serve as fertile ground for the development of new medications. The questions addressed by the paper’s authors may be likened to the following situation: Two friends have agreed to meet during the break of a football match in the stadium’s coffee bar to have coffee together. How likely is this rendezvous to take place before the break is over, and what does this depend upon? Among other things, claim the researchers, the meeting depends upon some geometrical parameters, such as the size of the stadium (or cell), how crowded it is and how far apart the two friends (or molecules) are situated initially.

Professor Klafter, a world-renowned expert on the random motion of molecules and other nanometric particles, and his colleagues from the Department of Theoretical Solid State Physics at Paris 06 University, tackled the problem by universalizing Albert Einstein’s mathematical model for the diffusion of randomly moving particles suspended in a fluid (known as Brownian motion, this process may be exemplified by a drop of ink spreading in a glass of water).

Coining the new phrase “geometry-controlled kinetics,” the researchers argue that geometry, in particular the initial distance between reactants in so-called compact systems, can become a key parameter in mathematical models for processes as varied as regular diffusion, anomalous diffusion and diffusion in disordered media and fractals. Their findings are of special significance for understanding the crucial role of the complex spatial organization of living cells in general, and genes in particular – where molecules of DNA, RNA and other proteins must travel, meet and react with one another quickly and effectively in order to sustain life.

Most importantly, this analysis provides scientists with new tools for investigating the effects of existing medications on cells, as well as developing drugs that are tailored to every patient. In the long run, it may even facilitate genetic manipulation procedures, in which defective genes will be replaced with healthy ones – a possible future cure for some devastating genetic diseases.

 
"The Egyptian - Israeli Peace Treaty: 31 Years After"


The Tel Aviv University Institute for Diplomacy and Regional Cooperation
, in collaboration with The English Speaking Friends of Tel Aviv University

The Ambassador`s Forum
H.E Mr. Yasser Reda,
Ambassador of Egypt
Chairman: Dr. Uzi Rabi
Coordinator: Miriam Ben-Haim

 
Focus on
banner-focus-e.jpg
Power and the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations


A new book edited by Yossi Shain and Eric Langenbacher was published.

 
"Dynasty" Redux?


TAU identifies
the winter home of seventh century Muslim rulers

The Dome of the Rock is the third holiest site in Islam. Now Tel Aviv University archeologists have determined that the ruins of a 7th century palace on the Sea of Galilee was home to the initiators of this sacred monument — ruins previously believed to be an ancient synagogue.

Archaeologists digging at the site in the 1950s believed that the structure was a synagogue, but the theory was put in question by a University of Chicago expert in 2002. Determined to solve the mystery, Dr. Raphael Greenberg of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology probed deeper to reveal the site`s true history.

He determined that the palace was the winter home of rulers from the Umayyad, and among the caliphs to settle there were Abd al-Malik, the famous initiator of the Dome of the Rock at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Islam`s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

"This discovery is significant not only because of the importance of the Umayyad palace," notes Dr. Greenberg, "but also because of its unique location next to an earlier Byzantine church and a short distance away from the historical cemetery of early Zionist pioneers. Taking into account the more ancient remains at the site as well as the lake itself, we have a remarkable convergence of natural and historic values that represent the full complexity of the heritage of present-day Israel."

 
Egypt: Edging Closer to Succession


Bruce Maddy-Weitzman - AMOMENTARY SHUDDER rippled through the Egyptian stock market last week:  President
Hosni Mubarak had undergone very
lengthy surgery on March 6 in Germany
and a week passed before he was shown on
television, sitting in a chair
speaking animatedly with his
doctors.
Mubarak, who turns 82 in May, is already
the longest-serving Egyptian ruler since
Muhammad Ali, the founder of modern Egypt
more than 200 years ago. Vice president under
Anwar Sadat, he ascended to power constitutionally,
following Sadat’s assassination in
1981. He has steered the country through turbulent
times, domestically and regionally, while maintaining overall
political stability and registering considerable macro-economic gains.
Throughout, he has refrained from appointing a vice president, leaving
the succession open. However, ignoring succession may no longer be
possible.
To be sure, the country’s ruling elites appear firmly ensconced, the
Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement is being kept under close
wraps, and the Kifaya (Enough) protest movement which
earlier in the decade demonstrated considerable mobilization
capabilities and courage, has faded to insignificance.
Political uncertainty regarding Mubarak’s successor centers on personalities,
rather than on possible shifts in policies or fundamental orientations.
Still, the very fact that Mubarak has been grooming his 46-
year-old son Gamal to succeed him, even while denying it, has long been
a controversial subject among Egypt’s political classes and will surely be
a prime topic of contention in the coming months. The most commonly
mentioned alternative to Mubarak is the 74-year-old head of Egypt’s
intelligence services, Gen. Omar Suleiman, a man who has largely
worked in the shadows and is little known to the public at large.
Given the extended political stasis and public cynicism towards politics,
which has gripped Egypt in recent years, it was understandable that
the decision by the recently retired Internation Atomic Energy Agency
chief, Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, to return to Egypt to test the
waters regarding a possible presidential candidacy for the 2011 elections,
elicited much excitement. Greeted by more than a thousand supporters
at Cairo Airport on February 19, and bolstered by a Facebook support
group of more than 60,000 members, ElBaradei met with a wide range
of opposition figures and civil society activists as well as Arab League
head Amr Moussa, and gave a series of extensive interviews on television
and in the print media.
The result was a manifesto announcing the establishment of a new
organization dedicated to establishing a political system based on real
democracy and social justice. Initially, it focused on insuring that upcoming
parliamentary elections and next year’s
presidential vote would be conducted fairly
and competitively, with judicial oversight, and
international and domestic monitoring. In
order to achieve these objectives, clauses
in the Egyptian constitution, which severely
limit the ability of anyone not associated
with the ruling National Democratic Party
(NDP) to run for the office of president,
would have to be altered. In addition,
future presidents would be limited to two
turns in office.
Predictably, leaders of other opposition
parties were reluctant to line up in support of
ElBaradei, even as they, too, campaigned for
constitutional reform. Predictably, too, NDP
leaders and supporters in the media attacked ElBaradei for adopting a
confrontational style and for destabilizing the country. Strangely for
someone launching such a profound initiative, ElBaradei departed the
country after just over a week to attend various engagements.
Would the ElBaradei flame be easily rekindled on his return? Given
his lack of any political base, how could he possibly tender his candidacy
for the presidency in lieu of a major constitutional overhaul? And was
he prepared to make a commitment to leading a reform movement? In
any case, the next president will have to have the blessing of the
Egyptian military establishment.
As pointed out in a recent article in Al-Ahram Weekly by Dr. Abdel
Moneim Said Aly, head of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and
Strategic Studies, the issues facing Egypt go far beyond constitutional
matters. Did Egypt want to be part of the 21st century, he asked? Was it
willing to pay the price required to do so, namely, make collective sacrifices
in the service of a better future? Or did it want a slightly improved
version of what Egypt has been for the past six decades?
The recent controversial decision to prohibit women from serving as
judges in State Council administrative courts did not bode well for a
more global-minded Egypt. To be sure, the move provoked fierce criticism
from women’s groups, led by Suzanne Mubarak, the president’s
wife, and was subsequently overturned by the country’s Constitutional
Court. Still, the episode served as a warning of the fragility of liberal values.
Indeed, when Egyptians were polled regarding which country they
thought Egypt should emulate, Saudi Arabia topped the list (38 percent).
Not surprisingly, this same survey showed that the real concerns of
the Egyptian public, which numbers 80 million, are unemployment,
poverty, corruption, educational development and health care, not political
reform, per se. ElBaradei’s prescriptions are perhaps unattainable,
but stagnation is not a very attractive option either. • The author is the Marcia Israel Senior Research Fellow at the
Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel
Aviv University.

 
A Lab Rat -- Created in the Lab


TAU is bioengineering tissues as an alternative to animal testing. Fat cells (dyed orange) produced in a lab setting by Prof. Amit Gefen.

It`s illegal for health products with medical formulations to be accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration without tests on animals — a situation that has serious ethical and moral implications. New research in the field of tissue engineering by Prof. Amit Gefen of Tel Aviv University`s Faculty of Engineering holds a promise that far fewer lab animals will be needed for the necessary experimental trials.

Dr. Gefen`s research into fat cells, published in a recent issue of Tissue Engineering , has led him to conclude that the necessary tissue can be produced from fat, skin, bone and muscle cells. His breakthrough study could have hundreds of applications in the pharmaceutical and medical world.

"Drugs make our lives better, and basic science is needed to push new drugs through clinical trials. But there is no doubt that an untold number of animals are sacrificed in the laboratory setting — both in basic research and in applied conditions when testing particular molecules," says Prof. Gefen, who heads TAU`s Teaching Laboratory for Cell and Tissue Engineering. As a medical researcher himself, he was dependent on animal trials for testing new hypotheses he developed for living systems — until recently.

A more efficient road to scientific research


Prof. Amit Gefen

Bridging the worlds of biology and engineering, Prof. Gefen is now using adult rat stem cells — cells that can be stimulated to create skin, bone, fat and muscle tissue from an animal in a laboratory setting. In his own work on studying the mechanical properties of pressure ulcers, many tissue replications were needed. His new approach no longer requires the sacrifice of large numbers of animals. When an experiment is over, not one animal life has been lost.

The use of engineered tissues, says Prof. Gefen, may also be more scientifically efficient than using those from a living source. "The model we`ve created offers a very reliable method for researchers asking questions about basic science, and those investigating new drugs. We can injure tissue in a very controlled environment and grow muscle tissue without blood vessels, thereby neutralizing certain variables that often cloud what`s happening in an experiment."

Saving lives and improving research at the same time

Though Prof. Gefen`s method may not completely eliminate the need for animal testing, as few as 5% of the animals used today will need to be sacrificed in future tests, he predicts.

"It`s a matter of proportion. Our tools spare an enormous number of lives," Prof. Gefen says. He is currently bringing together a number of discrete research directions from the separate fields of mechanics, tissue engineering and biology. He is also developing a new tool for researchers to investigate fat accumulation in cells (an important question for diabetes researchers) and weight loss drugs. Among his devices is one that can tell doctors how much mechanical stress is being placed on a person`s foot, buttocks or other soft tissues. Another measures how much sensation is left in a diabetic limb. For all these approaches, Prof. Gefen has adopted tissue engineering methods to use fewer animals in his trials.

"We are now able to build a number of `simplified` living tissues quite readily, and we`re able to keep them `alive,`" Prof. Gefen says. "They`re genetically similar to the biological tissue of the animal, so we can factor out irrelevant physiological elements such as bleeding and pain response in an experiment. The fact that this tissue is genetically identical and the environmental factors are so well-controlled means that we can obtain far more experimental reproducibility than with experiments done on live animals."

In the future, Prof. Gefen hopes that similar models can be based on live human tissue, but that could be a number of years down the road.

 
Is Iran Israel`s Problem to Solve?


TAU`s Iranian authority Prof. David Menashri says tougher sanctions from the U.S. and E.U. are needed now


Prof. David Menashri

Less than a year ago, protestors took to Iran`s streets and signalled a possible popular uprising that would bring policy change and even slow the country`s rush toward a nuclear weapon.

But now, with the old guards at the helm, and the increasingly strident declarations of its nuclear intentions, the Iranian threat looms ever larger. What will it take to change that? Is there any time left? And who can influence the future of the Iranian people and a more stable Middle East?

Prof. David Menashri, director of Tel Aviv University`s Center for Iranian Studies, explored these pressing questions and others in a recent conversation. An Israeli who has lived in Iran, Prof. Menashri is an internationally recognized authority on Iranian history and politics and the recipient of numerous grants and awards. His latest publication is the edited volume Iran: Anatomy of Revolution (Hebrew, 2009).

Q: Why haven`t we seen the change of guards many expected after Iran`s last presidential election and the civil uprising last summer?

A: Don`t be misled: Iran has seen a sea change in its domestic situation. The regime which claimed to be based on religion, ideology and morality is now clearly based on the arms of the Revolutionary Guards; Khamenei as Supreme Leader has since downgraded himself to a mere political player in a regime where factions are butting heads with each other. Clearly, the regime lost its legitimacy in the eyes of many of its youth — the children of the revolution. Although it hasn`t produced more dramatic results yet, there is significant and growing resentment among the populace.

What brought protestors to the streets? Not only the fraudulent elections. They were driven by motivators much deeper than that, going back to the unfulfilled expectations of the 1979 Islamic revolution. These were focused in two main areas — bread and civil liberties. The vast majority has come to realise that thirty-one years later, nothing has really changed, either in reducing disparity of wealth or increasing personal freedom.

Another factor that pushed the people to the streets was Obama`s "Yes We Can" campaign and the pledge for dialogue. The more educated reformists believed that going to the streets would put pressure on their government to give more freedom. It didn`t really happen that way.

Q: If there`s so much resentment, why have we seen conservative Islamic celebrationsin the streets recently? Are many Iranians happy with the current regime?

A: It is not new that the government has the power to bring together many people to rally support for it, or to suppress its own people protesting in the streets, but there is no doubt that the vast majority in Iran are not happy with the outcome of the revolution. The revolution wasn`t supposed to be about returning to Islam, but about improving social services and expanding freedom — and by any criteria, that hasn`t happened. At this point, the Green Movement chanting "Death to Dictator" does not seem to have only President Ahmadinejad in mind. Many of them want a more comprehensive change. As some of them have said, they want to change the horse, not the saddle. The reformists may have shaken the foundations, but working against the powerful tools of the regime, they don`t yet have critical mass.

Remember, the conservative element in the government today has significant elements of strength. The regime says it speaks in the name of God and that carries a lot of weight in a country like Iran. Equally important, they have the armed forces at their disposal. With a supposed blessing from Heaven and arms too, the regime has a certain security. They also have the will to use force to maintain their power.

Q: What`s holding back change?

A: While there is clearly a rift between conservatives and reformists, some of the critical factors that shape a mass movement are missing. The reformists are asking "Where is my vote?" and stressing the issues of human and civil rights. But it`s hard to recruit millions of people to the cause of democracy — that alone is insufficient to motivate a mass movement.

What will resonate more broadly and supplement this query is adding another pressing question: "Where is my oil money?" And that`s a great question. Where is the country`s enormous oil revenue? Iran is a rich country full of poor people. One of the shortcomings of the reformist movement in Iran is that they`re not focusing on social and economic change.

Q: So what should Israel do in the meantime? Could Iran really bomb Israel?

A: When you have an Iranian president like Ahmadinejad who says Israel should be wiped off the map, and an Israeli prime minister like Netanyahu countering by calling Ahmadinejad "Hitler" and referring to Iran as an existential threat, things can get out of control.

But a nuclear Iran is not only an Israeli problem: it`s a problem for the Middle East — and beyond. It`s a problem for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. Why does every problem here need to have a solution with an Israeli trademark? Why does Israel pretend to have the solution and appear as willing to take the steps to stop Iran? An Israeli attack on Iran would be difficult, with devastating results. Nuclear Iran is the problem of the world, and it is the international community that should solve the problem.

I don`t really think a military intervention to stop Iran is the solution. I do believe in dialogue, as President Obama suggested in his campaign, and that the U.S. could come up with the right approach. We need to engage Iran, not because engaging them will solve the problem, but before any other, tough measures are taken, we need to speak directly to the Iranian people. A direct Iran-U.S. dialogue, may signal to Iranian youth as well as the American people that Washington has done all that is possible to solve the issue peacefully. But dialogue should have been direct, with clear agenda and deadline — not like what has been experienced in the last year.

The world needs to step in. Other countries are not doing what needs to be done right now, and that includes America and the E.U. countries. As a first step, moral pressure should be put on Iran. Where are the international groups fighting to solve human rights problems in Iran? Europeans are outspoken but they don`t stress Iran`s human rights problems, which are infinitely severe.

Q: Then why isn`t the EU taking a tougher approach?

A: It seems that the EU countries are putting their own narrow economic interests first — oil and trade with Iran. Only once did the EU countries have a unanimous diplomatic step against Islamic Iran: in 1997, when the German courts found Iranian officials guilty of acts of terror in Berlin. And for their part, the Russians also seem to prefer their business interests with Iran.

That`s why a few months ago the Iranian Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi suggested that the EU countries downgrade their diplomatic presentation in Iran. She knows what hurts the leaders of her country.

Sanctions can work. Iran is not as giant a power as they may think, and the U.S. is not a paper tiger. Moral pressure on issues of human rights, targeted economic sanctions and pressure on the Iranian banking system can convince Iran to rethink its nuclear policy. The recent decision by the big powers on sanctions is an important step forward, provided all parties abide to the decision and it will be implemented. This remains to be seen.

Q: If Iran isn`t Israel`s problem alone, is there anything it can do to bring about change?

A: Israel and the moderate Arab countries, facing a common Iranian threat, can weaken Iran considerably by resolving their differences, such as those concerning the Palestinian question or the Israeli Syrian conflict. A Saudi Arabian embassy in Tel Aviv would send a clear message to Iran. Unfortunately, that seems like a dream at this stage.

In the meantime, Israel is an easy target — easier than the US, the "Great Satan" in Iranian revolutionary jargon. Tehran can blame Israel for its woes and use hostility against Israel to divert public opinion from domestic difficulties to a distant enemy and strive for hegemony in the Persian Gulf and leadership in the Muslim Middle East.

 
Developmental Psychopathology: Scientific Exploration of Etiology and Interventions


The Adler Center
with a "Dream Team" of experts in the field of Developmental Psychopathology

 
"The Impotent Summit"


The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies.
Once upon a time, Arab summit conferences were major events, whose outcomes had considerable influence on regional events. Nowadays, however, Arab summits are barely noticed. Nonetheless, the recent Arab summit conference hosted by Libya`s Mu`ammar Qaddafi provides food for thought. Center Senior Fellow Bruce Maddy-Weitzman examines the subject in his latest "Mideast Monitor" column for "The Jerusalem Report."

 
Professor Noam Eliaz


Professor Noam Eliaz has recently received the prestigious H.H. Uhlig Award during CORROSION 2010 conference & expo in San Antonio, TX. This award is granted by NACE International, the leading corrosion organization worldwide, in recognition of outstanding effectiveness in postsecondary corrosion education. Professor Eliaz is the first Israeli to receive this award (or any other award of this organization).

 
Research at TAU
banner-research-e.jpg
Proof: Smoking Is Dumb


TAU researcher
finds link between cigarette smoking and IQ

"Only dopes use dope," goes the memorable warning about drugs. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher cautions that the same goes for cigarettes.

A study led by Prof. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University`s Department of Psychiatry and the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital has determined that young men who smoke are likely to have lower IQs than their non-smoking peers. Tracking 18- to 21-year-old men enlisted in the Israeli army in the largest ever study of its kind, he has been able to demonstrate an important connection between the number of cigarettes young males smoke and their IQ.

The average IQ for a non-smoker was about 101, while the smokers` average was more than seven IQ points lower at about 94, the study determined. The IQs of young men who smoked more than a pack a day were lower still, at about 90. An IQ score in a healthy population of such young men, with no mental disorders, falls within the range of 84 to 116.

An addiction that doesn`t discriminate

"In the health profession, we`ve generally thought that smokers are most likely the kind of people to have grown up in difficult neighborhoods, or who`ve been given less education at good schools," says Prof. Weiser, whose study was reported in a recent version of the journal Addiction. "But because our study included subjects with diverse socio-economic backgrounds, we`ve been able to rule out socio-economics as a major factor. The government might want to rethink how it allocates its educational resources on smoking."

Making the results more significant, the study also measured effects in siblings. In the case where one brother smoked, the non-smoking brother registered a higher IQ on average.

Although a lower IQ may suggest a greater risk for smoking addiction, the cross-sectional data on IQ and smoking found that most of the smokers investigated in the study had IQs within the average range nevertheless.

Obesity, drug addiction also at issue

In the study, the researchers took data from more than 20,000 men before, during and after their time in the military. All men in the study were considered in good health, since pre-screening measures for suitability in the army had already been taken. The researchers found that around 28 percent of their sample smoked one or more cigarettes a day, 3 percent considered themselves ex-smokers, and 68% said they never smoked.

Prof. Weiser says that the study illuminates a general trend in epidemiological studies. "People on the lower end of the average IQ tend to display poorer overall decision-making skills when it comes to their health," says Prof. Weiser. He adds that his finding can help address a serious concern among health counsellors at grade and high schools. Schoolchildren who have been found to have a lower IQ can be considered at risk to begin the habit, and can be targeted with special education and therapy to prevent them from starting or to break the habit after it sets in.

"People with lower IQs are not only prone to addictions such as smoking," Prof. Weiser adds. "These same people are more likely to have obesity, nutrition and narcotics issues. Our study adds to the evidence of this growing body of research, and it may help parents and health professionals help at-risk young people make better choices."

 
Safer Swiping While Voting and Globetrotting


TAU security expert finds security holes in America`s passports and "smart cards" 


Since 2007, every new U.S. passport has been outfitted with a computer chip. Embedded in the back cover of the passport, the "e-passport" contains biometric data, electronic fingerprints and pictures of the holder, and a wireless radio frequency identification (RFID) transmitter.

Although the system was designed to operate at close range, hackers were able to access it from afar — until research by Prof. Avishai Wool of Tel Aviv University`s School of Electrical Engineering helped ensure that the computer chip in American e-passports could be read only when the passport is opened. The research has been cited by organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Now, a new study from Prof. Wool finds serious security drawbacks in similar chips that are being embedded in credit, debit and "smart" cards. The vulnerabilities of this electronic approach — and the vulnerability of the private information contained in the chips — are becoming more acute. Using simple devices constructed from $20 disposable cameras and copper cooking-gas pipes, Prof. Wool and his students Yossi Oren and Dvir Schirman have demonstrated how easily the cards` radio frequency (RF) signals can be disrupted. The work will be presented at the IEEE RFID conference in Orlando, FL, this month.

More than one way to hack a chip


A home-made, extended-range RFID antenna made from cooking gas copper pipes in Prof. Wool`s lab.

Prof. Wool`s most recent research centers on the new "e-voting" technology being implemented in Israel. "We show how the Israeli government`s new system based on the RFID chip is a very risky approach for security reasons. It allows hackers who are not much more than amateurs to break the system," Prof. Wool explains. "One way to catch hackers, criminals and terrorists is by thinking like one."

In his lab, Prof. Wool constructed an attack mechanism — an RFID "zapper" — from a disposable camera. Replacing the camera`s bulb with an RFID antenna, he showed how the EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) signal produced by the camera could destroy the data on nearby RFID chips such as ballots, credit cards or passports. "In a voting system, this would be the equivalent of burning ballots — but without the fire and smoke," he says.

Another attack involves jamming the radio frequencies that read the card. Though the card`s transmissions are designed to be read by antennae no more than two feet distant, Prof. Wool and his students demonstrated how the transmissions can be jammed by a battery-powered transmitter 20 yards away. This means that an attacker can disable an entire voting station from across the street. Similarly, a terror group could "jam" passport systems at U.S. border controls relatively easily, he suggests.

The most insidious type of attack is the "relay attack." In this scenario, the voting station assumes it is communicating with an RFID ballot near it &#mdash; but it`s easy for a hacker or terrorist to make equipment that can trick it. Such an attack can be used to transfer votes from party to party and nullify votes to undesired parties, Prof. Wool demonstrates. A relay attack may also be used to allow a terrorist to cross a border using someone else`s e-passport.

How to make "smart cards" smarter


Prof. Avishai Wool

"All the new technologies we have now seem really cool. But when anything like this first comes onto the market, it will be fraught with security holes," Prof. Wool warns. "In America the Federal government poured a lot of money into e-voting, only to discover later that the deployed systems were vulnerable. Over the last few years we`ve seen a trend back towards systems with paper trails as a result."

But there are some small steps that can be taken to make smart cards smarter, says Prof. Wool. The easiest one is to shield the card with something as simple as aluminium foil to insulate the e-transmission. In the case of e-voting, a ballot box could be made of conductive materials. The State Department has already taken Prof. Wool`s advice: since 2007, they`ve also added conductive fibres to the back of every American passport.

 
A virtual way to enable disabled kids


Her love of ballet led her to work with kids who have motor disabilities.  Now Tel Aviv University`s Dr. Dido Green says that her new therapy using a "virtual tabletop" can more effectively analyze and treat these children.

"Kids with movement disorders have been `over-therapied,` and it`s difficult to get them to practice their exercises," Dr. Green says, but her new approach is now incorporating three-dimensional games -- which have had gratifyingly positive results, as well as making therapy fun.

 
Water, Fair and Foul


TAU demonstrates
that UV light can zap unwanted "life" in your drinking water and save taxpayer dollars
Does your drinking water smell foul, or are you worried that chemicals might be damaging your family`s health? Water treatment facilities currently use chlorine that produces carcinogenic by-products to keep your tapwater clean, but Tel Aviv University scientists have determined that ultra-violet (UV) light might be a better solution.

Dr. Hadas Mamane of Tel Aviv University`s Porter School of Environmental Science and Faculty of Engineering, Prof. Eliora Ron of TAU`s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and their doctoral student Anat Lakretz of TAU`s School of Mechanical Engineering have recently determined the optimal UV wavelength for keeping water clean of microorganisms. Their approach could be used by water treatment plants as well as large-scale desalination facilities to destroy health-threatening microorganisms and make these facilities more efficient.

"UV light irradiation is being increasingly applied as a primary process for water disinfection," says Lakretz. "In our recent study, we`ve shown how this treatment can be optimized to kill free-swimming bacteria in the water — the kinds that also stick inside water distribution pipes and clog filters in desalination plants by producing bacterial biofilms."

This undesired "stickiness" of bacteria to surfaces is called "bio-fouling," which costs taxpayers and governments billions of dollars each year. "No one should be drinking microorganisms in their water. In addition, when microorganisms get stuck in the pores of the membranes of filters, they create serious problems," says Lakretz.

Not all UV light is created equal


Anat Lakretz

Irradiation could be used as a pre-treatment to inactivate suspended microorganisms in water, with the secondary goal of preventing bio-fouling. In their study, reported in the journal Biofouling, the researchers looked at targeted UV light wavelengths on the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, commonly found in drinking water.

The TAU researchers investigated UV wavelengths within between the 220-280 nanometre (nm) scale, and found that any wavelength between 254 and 270 nm effectively cleaned the water. Those in the same region were also best for keeping membranes clear of bacterial build-up in desalination plants, they reported. Special lamps that emit a multi-wavelength UV spectrum — more advanced than the single-wavelength UV lamps found in home water systems — were used.

The UV "zap" also prevented bacterial re-growth in the water after UV inactivation. "The best way to control and kill these micro-organisms was to damage their DNA," says Lakretz. "The damage that the UV light causes has no known negative effect on the water," she adds.

In addition, the prevention of biofilm formation by bacteria was UV dose-dependent. The researchers reported less bio-fouling when a bigger dose of UV light was applied to the water around the film.

A light to save lives

The approach is even more helpful against parasites that aren`t adversely affected by chlorine treatment, such as Giarrdia and Cryptosporidium, two harmful parasites that cause severe diarrhea and can lead to death. Children, the elderly and those in developing nations are particularly vulnerable. "Sewage leakage into water supplies poses a big problem in terms of bacterial contamination, and is something UV light could remediate," says Lakretz.

Small amounts of chorine or other oxidants will still be necessary to make sure that residual bacteria don`t enter the water further along the distribution pipeline. But Lakretz says this new approach to disinfecting water while controlling biofouling can also reduce the amount of carcinogenic by-products that chlorine produces.

The Tel Aviv University team is part of the MAGNET consortium, an Israeli research-oriented project aimed at researching and commercializing “clean” technologies.

 
An Artificial Eye on Your Driving


TAU develops
new safety technology for automotive industry
With just a half second`s notice, a driver can swerve to avoid a fatal accident or slam on the brakes to miss hitting a child running after a ball. But first, the driver must perceive the danger.

Research shows that a rapid alert system can help mitigate the risks, fatalities and severe injuries from road accidents, says Prof. Shai Avidan of Tel Aviv University`s Faculty of Engineering. He is currently collaborating with researchers from General Motors Research Israel to keep cars on the road and people out of hospitals.

An expert in image processing, Prof. Avidan and his team are working to develop advanced algorithms that will help cameras mounted on GM cars detect threats, alerting drivers to make split-second decisions. His research has been published in leading journals, including the IEEE Transaction on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence and featured at conferences in the field.

The challenge, says Prof. Avidan, is to develop a system that can recognize people, distinguishing them from other moving objects — and to create a model that can react almost instantaneously. Ultimately, he is hoping computer vision research will make cars smarter, and roads a lot safer.

An upgrade you can`t live without

Cars are not much different from one another. They all have engines, seats, and steering wheels. But new products are adding another dimension by making cars more intelligent. One such product is the smart camera system by MobilEye, an Israeli startup company. Prof. Avidan was part of the MobilEye technical team that developed a system to detect vehicles and track them in real-time.

He is now extending that research to develop the next generation of smart cameras — cameras that are aware of their surroundings. His goal is a camera capable of distinguishing pedestrians from other moving objects that can then warn the driver of an impending accident.

The challenge is in the development of a method that can detect and categorize moving objects reliably and quickly. Prof. Avidan hopes to realize such a method by combining powerful algorithms to recognize and track objects. Such a tool could double check for vehicles in your blind spot, help you swerve when a child runs into the street, or automatically block your door from opening if a cyclist is racing toward you, he says.

Eventually, he hopes cameras will be able to recognize just about anything moving through the physical world, offering a tantalizing vision of applications such as autonomous vehicles. The underlying technology could also be used in computer gaming to track a player`s movements, or for surveillance to detect a potential intruder.

An automatic auto response

Previously, detection systems used radar, which is expensive and not particularly sensitive to human beings. A smart camera fuelled by a powerful chip, on the other hand, could detect the activities of people and animals, and prompt the car to react accordingly, braking more or locking the doors, for example.

To date, Prof. Avidan has demonstrated that his technology works on infrared, greyscale, and color cameras. "Cameras are quite dumb machines unless you know how to extract information from them," he says. "Now, as the price of cameras drop and computer power grows, we`ll see more exciting applications that will keep us safe and make our lives more comfortable."

 
Where There`s Smoke ...


TAU says lightning can show how pollution alters thunderstorm intensity

Native Americans used smoke signals to indicate danger, and a white plume is sent up by the Vatican when a new Pope is chosen. Now, a new research project by Tel Aviv University researchers and their colleagues shows that where there`s "smoke" there may be significant consequences for local weather patterns, rainfall and thunderstorms.

In a new study, Prof. Colin Price, head of Tel Aviv University`s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Science, researched data on lightning patterns in the Amazon to show how clouds are affected by particulate matter emitted by the fires used for slash-and-burn foresting practices. His findings, recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, could be used by climate change researchers trying to understand the impact of pollution on global weather patterns.

Along with colleagues at the Weizmann Institute and the Open University in Israel, Prof. Price demonstrated how pollution`s effects on cloud development could negatively impact our environment. While low levels of particulate matter actually help the development of thunderstorms, the reverse is true once a certain concentration is reached — the particles then inhibit the formation of clouds and thunderstorms.

"The clouds just dry up," he says.

Lightning strikes to the center of the issue


Prof. Colin Price

Scientists have known for some time that man-made aerosols affect cloud formation, but specific scientific findings have been inconclusive. How clouds and storms change in response to air pollution is central to the debate about climate change and global warming, since clouds have a general cooling effect on the Earth`s climate.

But how man-made pollution impacts clouds, rainfall and weather patterns remains poorly understood, and natural particulates, such as those generated by Iceland`s recent volcano eruptions may add to this effect. The thick volcanic ash cloud absorbs solar radiation, heating the upper atmosphere, similar to the forest fire smoke, and can hence also impact the development of clouds and rainfall, Price said.

While studying the climatology of the Amazon forest during its annual dry season, the researchers noticed how thousands of man-made forest fires injected smoke into the atmosphere. Since thunderstorms still occur during the dry season, it was the perfect opportunity for studying the effects of these particulates on thundercloud development.

Cloud droplets form on small particles called "cloud condensation nuclei" (CCN). As the number of CCN increase due to the fire activity, the lightning activity increased in the storms ingesting the smoke. More CCN implies more small droplets that can be carried aloft into the upper parts of the cloud where lightning is generated. Increased lightning activity generally also implies increasing rainfall over the Amazon. But when particulate matter became too dense, they observed, clouds didn`t form, and the lightning activity in thunderstorms diminished dramatically.

Seeking answers to vital questions

These results may have significant implications for polluted regions of the world that rely on rainfall for agriculture and human consumption. "One of the most debated topics related to future climate change is what will happen to clouds, and rainfall, if the earth warms up," says Prof. Price, "and how will clouds react to more air pollution in the atmosphere?"

Clouds deflect the sun`s rays, cooling the Earth`s climate. If we change the duration of cloud cover, the aerial coverage of clouds, or the brightness of clouds, we can significantly impact the climate, Prof. Price and his colleagues explain. And too many aerosols may have disastrous impacts on rainfall patterns as well.

Air pollution from car exhausts and smokestacks at power plants and factories contribute to increasing particulate matter in our atmosphere. This is the first study of its kind that uses lightning as a quantitative way to measure the impact of air pollution on cloud development over a large area, and across a number of years.

"Lightning is a sensitive index to the inner workings of polluted clouds over the Amazon Basin," concludes Prof. Price.

 
Changing "Channels" to Eliminate Chronic Pain


TAU researcher maps drug target to wipe pain away


In most cases of chronic pain — lingering pain that never seems to go away after accidents or prolonged illnesses — no pill exists to dull the hurt. Billions of dollars are lost every year in sick days taken to alleviate chronic pain, and as much money is spent by the healthcare system to diagnose what`s wrong.

Dr. Joel Hirsch of Tel Aviv University conducts basic research investigating calcium channels in the human body, established targets for the alleviation of chronic pain. His research, recently presented at the Biophysical Society in San Francisco, provides new information into how these channels work. His laboratory is developing computer-derived models of drugs that might affect chronic pain — such as pain from backaches, sore limbs and arthritis — which are targeted for calcium channels.

"We have determined structures of calcium channel components which provide a framework for drug design and targeting," Dr. Hirsch says. "There is still much to learn about calcium channels, which enable pain signals to travel from the body to the brain."

Once he and his colleagues understand the deeper mechanisms of these channels, they hope to use new drugs to modulate them "on" and "off" as needed — and provide relief to the millions of people who suffer from the condition.

Finding where it hurts

According to the American Chronic Pain Association, chronic pain is pain that persists a month or more beyond the usual recovery period for an injury or illness. It can continue for months or years, is not always constant, but usually interferes with one`s quality of life at all levels.

Three drugs on the market target calcium channels for pain indications such as Lyrica®, Neurotonin and ziconitide. But they are not effective in many cases, while ziconitide requires an injection into the spine. Hence, there is a considerable need for alternative drugs.

"Calcium channels are still poorly understood, but we do know that they are also important players in pathways that cause epilepsy. Our research into neuropathy, or finding treatments for chronic pain, may yield a new class of compounds that serve multiple purposes," says Dr. Hirsch. "Our challenge is to target calcium channel modulators to specific tissues or channel types a single drug for all forms of chronic pain isn`t likely.

"There are literally millions of people that already take calcium channel blockers for angina and hypertension. More research on how this family of channels works could yield a new kind of drug for a specific subfamily of these channels," Dr. Hirsch concludes.

 
Different Strokes for Married Folks?


TAU reports that a happy marriage may prevent fatal strokes in men

"Love and marriage," sang philosopher Frank Sinatra, "is an institute you can`t disparage." Especially, a new Tel Aviv University study suggests, when a happy marriage may help to prevent fatal strokes in men.

The first study of its kind to assess the quality of a marriage and its association with stroke risk, Prof. Uri Goldbourt of Tel Aviv University`s Neufeld Cardiac Institute found a correlation between reported "happiness" in marriage and the likelihood that a man will die from stroke. Drawn from data collected from 10,000 men, all of them civil servants, beginning in 1965, the research was presented to experts at the American Stroke Association`s International Conference earlier this year.

In the retrospective study, men were surveyed about their happiness levels and marital status; 34 years later, a follow-up study determined how many of the men died from stroke. Single men were found to have a 64% higher risk of a fatal stroke than married men. The quality of the marriage appeared to matter as well — men in an unhappy union had a 64% higher risk of a fatal stroke than those who reported being happy in their marriage.

A foundation for future study


Prof. Uri Goldbourt

"The association we`ve found adjusts for factors such as age, blood type and cholesterol levels," Prof. Goldbourt notes, but he cautions that his results are only preliminary, taking into consideration only a few of many possible variables while laying the groundwork for future research. The survey measured fatal strokes only, not those that were survived, for example. And similar data was not collected from women. "It`s too bad we don`t have that kind of information," Prof. Goldbourt notes.

Dr. Goldbourt hopes that his research will be taken up by younger researchers as a foundational study. While many studies today report the benefits of marriage, the negative effects of an unhappy marriage may be hidden. It is plausible, Prof. Goldbourt`s study suggests, that a bad marriage is just as bad for one`s health as not being married at all.

Happiness is no magic bullet

Prof. Goldbourt describes his new research as "a hypothesis generator" instead of statistical proof, because only about 4% of the men reported being completely satisfied and happy in their marriage. And the study didn`t include follow-up research on the different kinds of strokes men can succumb to. "Happiness may very well likely create healthier men and reduce the risk of a fatal stroke," he says, "but we don`t have all the information necessary to say that this is the magic bullet."

Previous medical studies have suggested that happiness can stave off the flu, promote positive cardiac health, and may even help people fight cancer. Much more research is needed on the happiness question, Prof. Goldbourt says, taking into account such factors as medication and the effects of happiness over time.

"We have opened a new channel of research into factors associated with death-by-stroke risk. Until that research is done, the best way to avoid one," Prof. Goldbourt concludes, "is still to maintain a healthy lifestyle."

 

Editor: Limor Simhony

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