Computer technology keyboard 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters/Catherine Benson)
The University of Haifa has launched an international, wide-range research
project aimed at developing a computerized system that will ultimately minimize
the need to go to an outpatient clinic or to the hospital for monitoring and
follow-up therapy sessions.
The European Union has granted about 6
million pounds sterling (about USD 9.4 million) over the course of four years to
fund the project, whose proposal prevailed over 60 other proposals that were
submitted. The project’s main goal is to enable chronic and other patients who
require close watching of their conditions to undergo real-time monitoring and
receive decision-support in their home environment, delivered to their mobile
phones or accessed via web browsers; and to give medical teams state-of-the-art
clinical guidelines so they can give treatment via computerized
Prof. Mor Peleg, head of the University of Haifa’s information
systems department and scientific coordinator for the project, explained: “Most
of the technological components of the system already exist, but until now they
have not been integrated and personalized for patient context and use. This
project will be integrating and extending the systems and ensuring that the
final product will indeed improve patients’ quality of life and lower the
doctors’ workload. “ Collaborating in this international research project,
dubbed “Mobiguide,” are partners from five different countries.
Israeli partners working along with Prof. Peleg and Dr. Pnina Soffer of the
University of Haifa are Prof. Eddy Karnieli of Rambam Medical Center, Prof.
Yuval Shahar and his team from the Medical Informatics Research Center at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and innovation management company Beacon
Tech. Collaborating with the Israeli team are medical, technological and
academic experts from the Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Spain.
project’s aim is to provide patients who require monitoring to lead their normal
lives while receiving continuous monitoring and decision support relating to
various aspects of their condition, such as sugar level, heart rate and blood
pressure. In the first stage, the system will be implemented in Italy to monitor
patients suffering from abnormal heart rate and in Spain to monitor patients
suffering from pregnancy complications such as diabetes and elevated blood
pressure. The decision-support recommendations will be communicated to the
patients’ mobile phones or could be accessed over the Internet via the patients’
or doctors’ PCs. The medical data will be automatically collected via portable
devices worn by the patients, using technology developed by research
collaborators in the Netherlands. The computerized system will enable the
patients and their doctors to make informed decisions on whether the individual
patient can continue conducting routine daily activities or requires a hospital
According to Peleg, the system will provide advice that is
specific to more than just the patient’s medical data; the system will know the
patients’ socioeconomic level, family status and even if they are abroad at the
time of monitoring.
“The system aims to adapt treatment to the personal
and not just clinical state of the patient. As such, for example, the system
would provide different recommendations to a person living alone and to a person
who has the help of family members.
In this system, the patient's data,
integrated from the hospital’s medical records, the monitoring devices and the
decision-support system, will belong to the patient and not to the medical
institution that generated it. This way, the patient will be able to arrive at
the closest hospital and grant the local physicians access to his/her medical
data, which would be able be retrieved via the Internet,” Peleg
concluded.FRESH SWEET POTATOES IN SPACE?
The American holiday of
Thanksgiving, fondly remembered by immigrants long after their move to Israel,
has come and gone. But now researchers at Purdue University in Indiana say that
astronauts who spend the holiday in space will some day not have to forgo one of
the most traditional parts of the day’s feast – fresh sweet potatoes.
Horticulture Prof. Cary Mitchell and colleagues have developed methods for
growing sweet potatoes that reduce the required growing space without decreasing
the amount of food that each plant produces. Their findings were published
recently in the journal Advances in Space Research. Funding came from the US
National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Sweet potato plants have
main vines with many shoots that branch out to the sides. Mitchell said it was
common for one plant to cover the entire surface of a five-sq.m. greenhouse
bench. “Sweet potato is like an invasive plant. It will take over everything,”
said Mitchell. “That's not acceptable if you're going to grow it in space.”
Knowing they needed to contain the plant’s horizontal spread, the team decided
to force it to grow vertically.
Using cones or cylindrically shaped wire
cages, they trained plants’ main vines to wrap around the structures while
removing the space-consuming side shoots. “It turns out the vines are not really
picky about what you do with them,” Massa said. “As long as you leave the main
shoot tip alone, you can remove the side shoots and trim them away without any
The end of the largest vine, called the main shoot tip, is
the only really sensitive part, as it sends hormones through the plant that
stimulate root development.
This is important since it is the roots that
become the sweet potatoes. The side shoots, if picked when still young, are
tender and can be eaten in salads, improving the plant's usefulness, Mitchell
said. On Earth, scientists might want to find ways to get crops to take up less
area, focusing on only two dimensions. A tall, skinny corn stalk, for instance,
takes up little space in a farm field. In space, however, that third dimension –
height – is important because plants may need to be stacked to use all available
Using a cone or cylinder is what might make sweet potato a viable
Since the area inside the cages is empty, astronauts could
put other plants inside and keep them alive with LED lighting.
potato doesn’t seem to care what season it is or what conditions it’s in, said
Mitchell, noting what one sees in home vegetable bins – sweet potatoes
spontaneously growing without any help.