Health Scan: Cellular activity and diseases
Neurodegenerative conditions result from an impairment of motor function or cognitive function or both.
A PHOTOGRAPH of cells. Photo: (Hebrew University
A new understanding of what happens on the cellular level during the development
of neurodegenerative diseases – such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Huntington’s diseases – offers promise toward
possible new strategies for combating such diseases, according Hebrew University
researchers. Neurodegenerative conditions result from an impairment of motor
function or cognitive function or both. The impairment results from degeneration
in the particular area of the brain responsible for those
Although these diseases have been functionally linked to toxic
protein deposits, there is much that is unknown about the mechanism through
which aggregation causes toxicity and death at the cellular level. Inclusion
bodies – structures comprised of pathogenic protein aggregates – have long been
seen as a hallmark of disease, but the relationship between inclusions and
disease has remained somewhat mysterious.
In a study published in PNAS
(Proceedings of the [US] National Academy of Sciences), the Jerusalem
researchers – working in the lab of Dr. Daniel Kaganovich in the cell and
developmental biology department – present evidence suggesting that these
inclusion bodies, which have traditionally been thought to accompany disease
onset, actually have a cellbiological function that is not necessarily related
to the disease conditions.
Further, the researchers suggest that some of
those inclusion bodies are not only not toxic, but actually are part of a
natural protective process. The researchers have identified two inclusion
bodies, which they call JUNQ and IPOD.
Aggregation in the JUNQ can lead
to toxicity, whereas aggregation in the IPOD is protective.
findings, say the HU researchers, point to a new potential strategy for
designing therapeutics for neurodegenerative disease. Instead of preventing
proteins from aggregating, which can be very difficult, it may be possible to
enhance the cellular ability to actively enclose harmful aggregates within
protective inclusions, thereby neutralizing the toxic proteins that bring on
further neurodegenerative damage and even death.
TEDDY BEARS IN HOSPITAL
During Hanukka, Bar-Ilan University’s School of Medicine in the Galilee opened a
“teddy bear hospital” designed to reduce anxiety about health care among young
children. Some 150 preschoolers living in Safed, accompanied by their teddy
bears and dolls, parents and older siblings, took part in the educational event,
whose goal was to reduce stress related to medical care in general and hospitals
A virtual hospital with a variety of stations – including
an emergency room, a reception area, operating rooms and an x-ray unit – created
the atmosphere of a real-life medical facility within the School of Medicine
complex. Through simulation, the teddy bears and dolls received the appropriate
“treatment” according to the health problem defined by the children in their
“admission forms.” Medical students acted as doctors – explaining procedures to
the children, helping them care for the “patients” and answering their
At the makeshift pharmacy, the children received “medicine”
(sweet, tasty and healthy candy) and other surprises. Medical clowns entertained
the children and helped reduce anxiety. Children’s songs served as background
music and colorful lighting added to the happy atmosphere.
The teddy bear
hospital, initiated by medical students with the cooperation of the medical
school’s administration, demonstrated the new faculty’s commitment to
strengthening the northern region of Israel through community involvement.