I’ve been absent from the blog scene for around seven weeks due to illness – exactly the same amount of time as between the Jewish festival of Passover and the upcoming festival of Shavuot (Pentecost). During those seven weeks I just about managed to keep track of the recent accomplishments of the Jewish State. And Israel’s advances with medical treatments during the past seven weeks have been simply amazing.
My jaw dropped when just last week, in clinical trials, a human patient with deficient jawbone received a successful bone transplant using bone grown in the laboratories of Israel’s Bonus BioGroup. The patient’s own fat cells were the original source tissue, which means almost zero chance of rejection by the body’s immune system. In the laboratories of Israel’s Technion, scientists have engineered muscle tissue containing major blood vessels for repairing damaged abdomens. A successful transplant was performed in clinical trials, suggesting that full abdominal surgery in humans using laboratory-generated tissue will soon be possible.
Full heart transplants are still very risky, and many Israeli innovations reduce their necessity. Israel’s V Wave has developed an implant-able shunt – a device that treats congestive heart failure patients by reducing pressure on the muscle controlling the blood flow between the heart chambers. The first patient to receive the shunt is already experiencing an improved condition. Meanwhile, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered that the protein Erbin can help prevent the irreversible damage to the heart when it attempts to enlarge itself in the final stage before heart failure.
Several Israeli companies produce devices to protect patients during heart operations. One - Keystone Heart - has just raised the required finance to trial its TriGuard filter. TriGuard protects the brain from blood clots and dangerous material (emboli) released during heart valve replacements and other cardiovascular procedures. Gardia’s WIRON devices, on the other hand, place filters such as the TriGuard into the arteries prior to those procedures. Surgeons at Poland’s John Paul II hospital have recently completed successful trials of the WIRON.
There were at least three Israeli-led advances in the fight against cancer during the past seven weeks. Firstly, in the Research & Development labs of EventusDx, on the outskirts of Jerusalem they have developed a blood test to detect breast cancer. Secondly, the US Food and Drugs Administration has just approved Teva’s Synribo therapy for home use in treating adults with chronic or accelerated phase Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML). Finally, the US FDA has also approved the Duet scanning system, developed by Israeli biotech BioView, for the detection of mutations in lung cancer.
There was positive news in the past seven weeks for sufferers of three types of brain diseases. Tel Aviv University researchers discovered a protein that reverses some of the damage caused by Alzheimer’s. Ben-Gurion University scientists have developed a treatment using Losartan (marketed as Cozaar) that reduces seizures significantly in epilepsy sufferers. And multiple sclerosis sufferers who experience fatigue (common with the illness) may soon benefit from the vitamin D analog synthesized by Dr Anat Achiron of Israel’s Sheba Medical Center in Tel-Hashomer.
Two Israeli brain disease treatments are getting more global exposure. Japan’s Takeda has signed a deal to commercialize Teva’s rasagiline treatment for Parkinson’s, for use in Japan. And Professor Dimitrios Karussis will this week present the progress of the Jerusalem trials of BrainStorm’s ALS stem cell treatment to the Joint Congress of European Neurology in Istanbul, Turkey.
Seven weeks has seen many breakthroughs in the understanding of the genetic causes of disease. Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ) have demonstrated the molecular basis of Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). Other HUJ geneticists have identified the DNA on/off switch that explains why different species of animals can have so many identical genes. Tel Aviv University scientists have pinpointed the genetic regulator “switch” that was corrupted by the drug thalidomide and caused so many deaths and deformities in babies 57 years ago. Scientists at Israel’s Bar Ilan University have identified the gene that controls production of probiotic bacteria in the gut that protects against ulcerative colitis.
Finally, maybe the research of Weizmann Institute graduate Leemor Joshua-Tor will one day prevent many genetic diseases. She has discovered a protein that can destroy defective genes in the RNA that are responsible for viruses and diseases such as macular degeneration and cancer.
Just some of the latest incredible medical achievements from the Jewish State. Be well.