An innovative technique for resetting the bone of a nineyear- old boy born with a serious congenital defect in which his thigh was backwards has been successfully repaired. The “rotationplasty” was carried out at Bnei Brak’s Ma’ayanei Hayeshua Medical Center using a computer program that reduces complications and resets the leg in the exact place it needs to be. A few days later, the boy was sent home.
Dr. Itai Holtzer, head of the hospital’s orthopedic department and Dr. Eitan Segev, an expert in repairing orthopedic defects in children, headed the team that performed the surgery.
“The program, fed with the patient’s data, conducts an analysis and presents detailed instructions to the surgeons to gradually cut out the bone and reconnect it, as well as extending the limb to make the two legs the same length. The bone grows and is rebuilt, while the surgeon can control exactly the angle and referred structure so that the defect is repaired,” said Holtzer.
NEW RAPE CLINIC DIRECTOR Nearly every other day on average, the Bat-Ami clinic at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem treats women and girls and some males who have undergone rape and other sexual abuse. The number of 170 cases annually was disclosed with the recent announcement that Dr. Dvora Bauman has been appointed to head it, replacing the clinic founder and director Dr.
Sagit Arbel-Alon, who has decided to leave Hadassah and will study and work in the Health Ministry.
The clinic, founded in 2009, has a multidisciplinary team of experts who provide both medical treatment and emotional support for rape victims; staffers also collect evidence used by the police to convict perpetrators.
Bauman, a senior gynecologist, was head of gynecological surgery at Bikur Cholim Hospital and moved to Hadassah to work in the field of pediatric and adolescent gynecology. She was chairman of the Israeli Society for Pediatric and Adolescent gynecology from 2007 to 2013.
“I believe that a human was created in God’s image and has the greatest value. At Bat-Ami, we believe in this and give comprehensive help to sexual abuse ictims without judging them and in a way that restores their feeling of value and the deep understanding that the only guilty party is the attacker,” Bauman said.
FIRST THERAPEUTIC VENOM DATABASE CREATED What doesn’t kill you could cure you – a growing interest in the therapeutic value of animal venom has led a pair of Columbia University data scientists to create the first catalog of known animal toxins and their physiological effects on humans. It has been published in the journal Scientific Data.
VenomKB, short for Venom Knowledge Base, summarizes the results of 5,117 studies in the medical literature describing the use of venom toxins as painkillers and as treatments for diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart failure. Drawn from an automated analysis of the literature, VenomKB documents nearly 42,723 effects on the body. Though modern medicine makes use of only a small fraction of the toxins documented thus far, the researchers hope that the catalog will spur the discovery of new compounds and medical treatments.
“With this list we can take stock of what we know about venoms and their therapeutic effects,” said biomedical informatics Prof. Nicholas Tatonetti at Columbia University Medical Center who, with graduate student Joseph Romano, searched on the term “venoms/therapeutic use” in a database of 22 million medical research papers. This produced a list of 5,117 venom-related studies whose results they summarized using a pair of computer algorithms. After cross-referencing toxins and drugs listed under multiple names and correcting other irregularities in the data, they found 42,723 unique mentions of venoms having a specific effect on the body.
Venom’s capacity to heal is paradoxically linked to its fast-acting, lethal effects in the wild. Found in more than 173,000 species, venoms evolved over millions of years to target molecules that are often involved in disease.
About a dozen major drugs have emerged from this strategy so far; one of the first, an anticoagulant called Arvin, gained favor in the late 1960s after a doctor discovered that ancrod, a protein found in the venom of the Malayan pit viper, could treat blood clots in the legs.
The widely used type-2 diabetes drug Byetta, is made from the toxin exenatide, found in the saliva of the venomous Gila monster, a lizard native to the US and Mexico.
Another drug, bombesin, uses a toxin found in the skin of the venomous European fire-bellied toad to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Bombesin’s ability to bind to neuronal tumors has led to interest in developing a florescent version that could guide surgeons around the edges of a tumor. Five compounds produced by the venomous cone snail have made it to clinical trials, including ziconotide, the generic term for an analgesic similar to morphine.
Databases of compounds and their biological effects have been used in recent years to discover and develop new drugs as well as uncover problems with drugs already in use. Tatonetti and his colleagues mined a federal database of documented drug side effects, the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) and discovered that the interaction of the anti-depressant paroxetine, sold under the brand name Paxil, and the statin pravastatin, sold as Pravachol, could raise blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.
With VenomKB up and running, Tatonetti and Romano plan to contribute data of their own. Starting with samples of dried venom from the black mamba, they will perform experiments and explore new treatments for chronic pain, diabetes and heart disease.