Israeli researchers win prize to boost fight against diabetes and obesity

By
December 3, 2017 00:41

They are the first group outside the UK to win the prize, which was presented at the recent 30th Rosetrees Trust Anniversary Symposium in London

4 minute read.



Wine

Wine. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Two Hebrew University scientists have earned a prestigious prize for their bold new model of human metabolism.

Profs. Yaakov Nahmias and Nir Friedman won the Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Prize for 2017 for their research proposal to engineer a platform that mimics the physiological dynamics of human metabolism.

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The research will be instrumental to drug development, offering a route to the rational design of therapeutics for obesity, fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

They are the first group outside the UK to win the prize, which was presented at the recent 30th Rosetrees Trust Anniversary Symposium in London. The prize is given each year to two researchers from different disciplines with the purpose of inspiring collaborative research between medicine and another field, in the hopes of pushing forward medical breakthroughs in the realm of human health.

With funding from the Rosetrees Trust, the two scientists will lead a team of HU scientists in combining Nahmias’s groundbreaking organon- chip platform with Friedman’s key understanding of molecular networks.

This interdisciplinary partnership will unravel the complex interplay between changing metabolism and its underlying genetic regulation in human cells, replacing current animal models that lack clinical relevance. The circadian rhythm or “body clock” is a daily cycle that regulates many physiological processes, such as telling our bodies when to eat or when to sleep.

The Rosetrees Trust is a private, family funded charity founded in 1987 to support medical research.

The theme of the 2017 Rosetrees Interdisciplinary Prize is to promote collaborative research between medicine and engineering; the prize is worth up to 250,000 British pounds over three years.

DAYDREAMING MAY SHOW YOU’RE SMART
Tom Sawyer and many fictional characters – as well as many children – daydream. While it has been thought to be a waste of time, new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming during meetings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might even be a sign that you’re really smart and creative.

“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” said psychology Prof. Eric Schumacher, who co-authored the study.

Schumacher and his students and colleagues, including lead co-author Christine Godwin, measured the brain patterns of more than 100 people while they lay in an MRI machine. Participants were instructed to focus on a stationary fixation point for five minutes.

“The correlated brain regions gave us insight about which areas of the brain work together during an awake, resting state,” said doctoral student Godwin. “Interestingly, research has suggested that these same brain patterns measured during these states are related to different cognitive abilities.”

Once they figured out how the brain works together at rest, the team compared the data with tests of the participants that measured their intellectual and creative ability.

Participants also filled out a questionnaire about how much their mind wandered in daily life. Those who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability and had more efficient brain systems measured in the MRI machine.

“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad.

You try to pay attention and you can’t,” said Schumacher. “Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.” One clue to having an efficient brain is that you can zone in and out of conversations or tasks when appropriate, then naturally tune back in without missing important points or steps.

“Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor – someone who’s brilliant but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings,” said Schumacher, “or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes. While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming.”

DON’T DRINK AT ALL DURING PREGNANCY
There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, a new Birmingham University (State University of New York) study shows. Any amount can cause extreme lasting effects on a child. Psychology Prof.

Marvin Diaz, determined that even a small to moderate amount of alcohol exposure produces significant amounts of anxiety in offspring, lasting through adolescence and into adulthood.

“There’s been a lot of media coverage on whether there’s a safe amount of alcohol to drink,” said Diaz, who published his study in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

“This study shows that there isn’t.”

Pregnant rats were exposed to ethyl alcohol vapor for a six-hour period on their 12th day of gestation; this was the only time the rats were exposed to alcohol. The offspring were then subjected to a series of anxiety tests. The researchers found that anxiety was most apparent in male rats during their adolescence. After entering adulthood, the effects were opposite, with ethanol-exposed male rats showing reduced anxiety, while the females still appear to be unaffected.

“The most important takeaway from this study is that the effects we studied on the rats only took one day of exposure to produce – just six hours,” said Diaz, who seeks to determine exactly what changed in the brain to cause such increased levels of anxiety after alcohol exposure and why the effects are apparent in male rats but not females.


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