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Grand Challenges Israel announces 10 global health innovations

Innovators from Israel receive seed grants for bold ideas, tackling issues in global public Health and food security in low-resource nations.

The winners of the Grand Challenges Israel 2014 Awards were announced today by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and his Canadian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird at a festive ceremony in Jerusalem. The Foreign Ministers also signed four agreements, two of which were MOUs and two declarations of intent, underlining the strong diplomatic and economic ties between Israel and Canada.

Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird: "The friendship between Canada and Israel is the foundation for increasing dynamic partnerships, partnership in diplomacy and government but also a partnership in innovation, science, business and cultural ties."

The funding announcement comes one year after the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) at the Israeli Ministry of Economy together with MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, launched Grand Challenges Israel. This program is dedicated to supporting technological and innovative solutions to grand challenges in global health and food security in developing countries, in addition to expanding efforts to integrate Israeli innovation in developing markets.

Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson: "In Israel, there is a large community of developers and entrepreneurs whose innovations are focused primarily on Western European and North American markets. The goal of this program is to steer Israeli entrepreneurs towards finding solutions for developing nations - those markets in which there's a real need for urgent solutions - as well as opening up a huge, untapped business potential for Israeli entrepreneurs and industrialists. Nothing speaks louder than success, and today the success that these entrepreneurs and innovators have achieved will pave the way for our future scientists and entrepreneurs, working together to 'do good and do well.'"

MASHAV Head Amb. Gil Haskel: "This special program reflects Israel's desire to continue to aid developing nations in areas of relevance to them, marking the point at which Israeli diplomacy and technological innovation meet."

The Grand Challenges Israel initiative is modeled on the Stars in Global Health program of Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, which is already making substantial contributions to global health and is part of the Grand Challenges Initiative launched by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation in 2003.

Within this framework, Grand Challenges Israel is offering yearly grants of up to 500,000 NIS to Israeli researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs for the proof of concept and development of their product/innovation in areas of global public health and food security, while providing a suitable framework for channeling and introducing Israeli innovative technology and services to this challenging and growing market.
After a call for proposals by Grand Challenges Israel in early 2014, ten Israeli companies - out of more than 100 applicants - with promising innovations were awarded a seed grant of up to 500,000 NIS each to develop their bold idea.
Awarding of the Grand Challenges Israel grants
The projects are:

Health care:

• Ariel Beeri, Everywhere Diagnostics: Ending cervical cancer by enabling screening using mobile phones.
• Yossi Alder, Respimometer: Early detection of pneumonia with a simple & efficient diagnostic tool.
• Tomer Keren, Biogal, Galed Labs Acs Ltd.: Point of Care PCR-like detection test kit for Leptospirosis, a neglected worldwide public health problem.
• Sagi Gliksman, Nanovation-GS: Sticky patch for early detection of pneumonia.
• Amir Galili, Westham Ltd.: New approach-method for controlling African Malaria vectors.

Water, Food Security & Agriculture:

• Rom Kshuk, Oplone Pure Science: Oplone Safe Water Strip.
• Pablo Kaplan, Sharp Mentoring (originally Wheelchairs of Hope): Delivering mobility, empowering access to education and independence.
• Alan Bauer, Aquatest: Personal Water Safety Device.
• Ram Reifen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem: Chickpea - the superfood.
• Haim Avioz, Tiran University: Development of biotechnology for all-male African River prawn aquaculture.

Dark Chocolate Reaps Heart-Healthy Benefits

  • Published in Health
VOA, Jessica Berman

Researchers have known for some time that chocolate - especially dark chocolate - is good for the heart. Now, they know why.

Besides tasting good, researchers found dark chocolate is protective against heart disease in two ways; it restores flexibility to stiffening arteries and prevents white blood cells from sticking to the insides of blood vessel walls. Both conditions can lead to the formation of plaque, which blocks arteries, causing heart disease.

The findings were made by Dutch researchers in a study of 44 middle-aged, overweight men who ate 70 grams of both dark and milk chocolate per day over two periods of four weeks.

The heart healthy substance in chocolate is an organic compound called flavanol. Flavanols are also found in vegetables, fruits and green tea.

Gerald Weissmann is editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal, which published the study.

He says researchers discovered that there’s something about the flavanols in dark chocolate that makes people prefer it to milk chocolate.

“In this controlled study, the first time it’s ever been done, they gave the same amount of flavanol in dark chocolate and regular chocolate. And lo and behold, the men didn’t have different amounts of flavanols in the diet. But they ate more of the dark chocolate one because they liked it better," said Weissmann.

Researchers evaluated the men’s preference for dark chocolate by asking them to rate its sensory properties including smell and taste. Again, Gerald Weissmann.

“So, the taste component or psychological component of dark chocolate improved, number one, the elasticity and response of the arteries to blood flow, number two, the way that neutrophils - white cells - stick to the lining of blood vessels and number three, markers of inflammation," he said.

And knowing it was heart healthy seemed to make the men felt less guilty about indulging their sweet tooth.

Researchers may someday develop a therapy that has the same health benefits as dark chocolate. But even if they do, eating a bar of dark chocolate will still be more enjoyable.

Israeli Company launches world's first GPS based mobile App to help cardiac patients manage elevated risk

CathMaps+, Which Was Launched Today in the U.S., Combines HIPAA Compliant Storage of Cardiac Medical Records With Interactive Map of Catheterization Labs Worldwide

NEW YORK and Jerusalem, Israel,  CathMaps+, the world’s first HIPAA-compliant mobile application for cardiac patients and people living with elevated risk of a cardiac incident, that integrates their cardiac history with an interactive map of Cath Labs throughout most of the world, was launched for the U.S. market today. CathMaps+ mission is simple: to use mobile technology to provide peace of mind and emergency assistance to hundreds of thousands of Americans in their most urgent time of need. The app was created by Danny Oberman, an Israeli who is originally from Melbourne, Australia and made Aliyah in 1975.

CathMaps+, owned by Kickstart LLC, is available for most Android and iOS users, and provides cardiac patients with tailored emergency tools in case of a follow-on incident, as well as GPS mapping of the nearest Catheterization Labs in many countries around the world. It also allows cardiologists fast access to critical medical history in an emergency, ensuring more informed, personalized and effective treatment.

According to the CDC, each year approximately 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 190,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. With the launch of the new CathMaps+ app, in the event of another heart attack, patients will be able to locate and receive directions to the nearest catheterization labs throughout most of the world, as well as securely access and share their medical records with the Cath Lab staff.

CathMaps+ was created by Founder and CEO, Danny Oberman, who himself experienced a cardiac incident in 2013. Because of this experience, and his personal understanding of what it means to live with an elevated risk for a heart attack, Oberman envisioned creating a tool that would help alleviate the associated anxiety. As a technology expert, his vision is to provide other cardiac patients with peace of mind through a simple, easy to use and functional app in times of emergency.

“As a cardiologist, I must commend Danny Oberman and his company’s work on developing this new application,” says Dr. Jack Stroh, an Interventional Cardiologist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “With the levels of heart disease on the rise in the U.S., the medical community must remain vigilant in our efforts to provide patients with tools and information that can help improve their quality of their lives. I am pleased to have provided my own professional insights in the development of the application and I encourage my colleagues to consider CathMaps+ as an essential element of patient after care.”

CathMaps+ is the only app to integrate a patient’s cardiac history with an interactive map of catheterization facilities throughout most of the world. CathMaps+ is accurate, fast and easy to use. It is also private, though with user permission, information can be shared with loved ones, caregivers or emergency professionals.

“By creating and launching the CathMaps+ app, it is my hope that heart disease patients and their families will be equipped with a sense of normalcy and peace of mind as they go about their daily lives, and even travel” says Danny Oberman. “As a life or death condition, the idea of suffering a repeat incident can be an almost constant concern. This app will help offset patient anxiety while also serving as a valuable tool for cardiologists and the medical community overall.”

CathMaps+ provides a user with three primary levels of support:

Peace of Mind
• CathMaps+ provides a sense of security and preparedness for cardiac patients, especially when travelling
• CathMaps+ allows access to the medical history of loved ones
• CathMaps+ allows users to easily update their medical records after visits to a cardiologist so they remain current and up to date
• CathMaps+ is designed to be a vital, reliable resource in time of emergency
• CathMaps+ is a secure HIPAA compliant app thus ensuring medical history is secure

Emergency Help

• CathMaps+ is the only healthcare app that provides preparedness tools for future cardiac events
• CathMaps+ is the only global map of Cath Lab facilities
• CathMaps+ supports immediate local emergency dialing, in most countries around the world
• CathMaps+ allows users to access and share their medical records with the ER or Cath Lab in advance via email, regardless of location, allowing better treatment by the cardiologist

CathMaps+ is available in English and Spanish, and is now available on the App Store and Google Store for $4.99. CathMaps+ has plans to release the app in additional languages throughout 2014. For more information, please visit us at:

• Website:
• Facebook:
• YouTube:
• YouTube:
• Twitter:
• Google+:


Study: Cookies as Addictive as Cocaine

  • Published in Health
VOA News

Can a cookie be as addictive as cocaine?

Researchers say that for lab rats at least, the answer is yes. Rodents in a study at Connecticut College became hooked on Oreos, the most popular cookie in the United States during a study aimed at shedding light on the potential addictiveness of high-fat and high-sugar foods.

According to the scientists, lab rats formed an equally strong association between the pleasurable effects of eating Oreos and a specific environment as they did between cocaine or morphine and a specific environment. They also found that eating cookies activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse.

Researchers also noted that like humans, rats like to eat the creamy center of Oreos first.

“Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” said Professor Joseph Schroeder. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

Oreos have been available in the U.S. since 1912 and consist of two chocolate cookie discs with a sweet cream filling. They are now available in many flavors.

To test the cookie’s addictiveness, researchers placed rats in a maze. On one side of the maze, they would give hungry rats Oreos, and on the other side, rice cakes. They would then give the rats the option of spending time on either side of the maze.

Those results were compared to rats who were placed in a maze that offered an injection of cocaine or morphine versus an injection of saline solution.

The research showed the rats conditioned with Oreos spent as much time on the Oreo side of the maze as the rats conditioned with cocaine or morphine.

Researchers also monitored activity in the brain’s pleasure center.

“It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos,” said Schroeder.

They found that the Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine.

“This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to the hypothesis that high-fat/ high-sugar foods are addictive,” said Schroeder.

The research will be presented next month at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego, California.

Soft Drink Consumption Linked to Behavioral Problems in Young Children

  • Published in Health
Americans buy more soft drinks per capita than people in any other country. These drinks are consumed by individuals of all ages, including very young children. Although soft drink consumption is associated with aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, the relationship had not been evaluated in younger children. A new study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, University of Vermont, and Harvard School of Public Health in The Journal of Pediatrics finds that aggression, attention problems, and withdrawal behavior are all associated with soft drink consumption in young children.

Shakira Suglia, ScD, Mailman School assistant professor of Epidemiology, and colleagues assessed approximately 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a prospective birth cohort that follows mother-child pairs from 20 large U.S. cities. Mothers reported their child’s soft drink consumption and completed the Child Behavior Checklist based on their child’s behavior during the previous two months. The researchers found that 43% of the children consumed at least 1 serving of soft drinks per day, and 4% consumed 4 or more.

Aggression, withdrawal, and attention problems were associated with soda consumption. Even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, maternal depression, intimate partner violence, and paternal incarceration, any soft drink consumption was associated with increased aggressive behavior. Children who drank four or more soft drinks per day were more than twice as likely to destroy things belonging to others, get into fights, and physically attack people. They also had increased attention problems and withdrawal behavior compared with those who did not consume soft drinks.

“We found that the child’s aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day,” said Dr. Suglia. Although this study cannot identify the exact nature of the association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviors, limiting or eliminating a child’s soft drink consumption may reduce behavioral problems.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (grant number R01HD36916).

Copper Implicated as a Possible Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Published in Health
Jessica Berman
Scientists say copper may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder that causes dementia and eventually death.

Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of dementia worldwide in people ages 65 and older. According to the organization Alzheimer's Disease International, almost 36 million people were living with dementia globally in 2010, and the number is projected to rise to 115 million by 2050.

Alzheimer’s is caused by the toxic accumulation of a protein called amyloid beta. Amyloid beta forms plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of the disease. But the mechanism underlying the collection of the protein is unknown.

Now, researchers have concluded that one of the main environmental triggers of Alzheimer’s disease appears to be copper, an important metal that is in meat, fruits and vegetables as well as drinking water. Copper plays an important role in nerve conduction, bone growth and hormone secretion.

Rashid Deane is a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

According to Deane, copper accumulates in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s, contributing to the collection of beta amyloid, normally swept away in healthy individuals by a protein called LRP1, which Deane likens to a garbage truck.

“It looks like in the copper-dosed animals that are aging, the capacity to remove the toxin amyloid from the brain is reduced in these animals because there isn’t so many garbage trucks to take it away," said Deane.

Researchers led by Deane fed copper-laced drinking water to mice for three months. Investigators found the copper in the blood stream made its way to the walls of capillaries that protect the brain from toxins, including copper.

Over time, Deane says, the copper broke down the so-called blood-brain barrier that prevents harmful substances, such as copper, from entering and harming the brain. Researchers noted the same effect in human brain cells.

The mystery is why copper collects in the brains of some individuals, potentially causing Alzheimer’s disease, and not in others.

Deane says those who develop Alzheimer’s are at risk because of genetics as well as their body's ability to prevent damage to cells. And then there’s the impact of modern life.

“Humans live in different places sometimes over their lives, they eat things, they try different foods. And some people are very conscious in what they are eating now because they are wise about the composition of the food and they know the nutritional value of the food they are eating. So, that may be one variable component which may tend to explain why it develops," said Deane.

Because copper is in everything, other researchers say trace amounts are unlikely to account for the epidemic of Alzheimer's disease. An article on copper's potential role in Alzheimer's disease is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Early Treatment for HIV Can Save Millions of Lives

  • Published in Health


Lisa Schlein

GENEVA — The World Health Organization says early treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can save millions of lives.

WHO is issuing new treatment guidelines for people infected with HIV as a major international AIDS Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia gets under way.

The World Health Organization reports earlier antiretroviral therapy - ART - could avert an additional 3 million deaths and prevent 3.5 million more new HIV infections between now and 2025.

WHO says recent evidence indicates that treating people with HIV earlier, with safe, affordable and easier-to-manage medicines will help them live longer, healthier lives. Because the medication lowers the amount of virus in the blood, WHO says this will greatly reduce the risk of transmitting the HIV infection to others.

Use of lifesaving drugs on the rise

Coordinator of WHO’s HIV-AIDS Department, Gundo Weiler, says 9.7 million people were taking lifesaving antiretroviral drugs at the end of 2012, an amazing increase from the figure of 300,000 10 years ago. He says the increase in the use of ART drugs is making a huge impact on the lives of individuals and on the AIDS epidemic.

Weiler says, “Over the last decade, the scale-up of antiretroviral treatment in low and middle income countries has averted more than four million deaths-4.2 million deaths exactly-and also, it has averted more than 800,000 infections among children due to the prevention of mother and child transmission…Antiretroviral treatment is not only good for the health of the person who is taking the treatment, but it also reduces the likelihood of transmission. So, the scale-up of ART has an effect on the HIV epidemic together with all the other prevention efforts.”

WHO reports 32 million people are living with HIV and 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2011. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest burden of HIV. WHO notes treatment coverage has increased in every region of the world, with Africa leading the way. It says four of five people in sub-Saharan Africa started treatment in 2012.

While progress is being made, United Nations health officials are concerned that some groups of people who need treatment are not getting it. It notes fewer children than adults are receiving ART, with only one in three children receiving them.

They say other groups susceptible to getting the disease, including injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and sex workers have less access to antiretroviral therapy. They say it is important to reach these people who are stigmatized and excluded from services.

WHO steps up recommendations

The new WHO recommendations call for antiretroviral therapy to be provided to all children with HIV under five years of age, to pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, as well as to all HIV-positive partners where one partner in the relationship is uninfected.

Director of WHO's HIV-AIDS Department, Gottfried Hirnschall, says people starting treatment today have a much easier regimen to follow than in the past.

“Ten years ago, there were many tablets several times a day," says Hirnschall. "People started late when they got sick when they started. We are now at a single tablet, once a day, early in the infection. That is the new paradigm shift. It will keep people alive, healthy, for long periods of time and it will also prevent that people can transmit the infection to their partners, to whoever they engage sexually or through other means.”

Hirnschall says the price of HIV drugs for developing countries has been drastically reduced to an average of $140 per person per year. The same drug in wealthy countries, he says can run to $10,000 or more a year.

The U.N. health agency recommends a more integrated approach in the treatment of HIV. It says HIV services should be more closely linked with other health services, such as those for tuberculosis, maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, and treatment for drug dependence.


Fibromyalgia and the chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Published in Health

 Omrit Ben Sira

Israel, Each and every one of us has a rationed allowance of daily energy. This allowance equals to the total energy required to maintain our body's basic functions and carry our daily tasks.

The sense of fatigue serves as a natural regulator used to manage and maintain that energy.

When we feel exhausted we pause and allow our body to recover and renew its energy reservoir with fresh and available energy.

BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate

The basal metabolic rate relays on the amount of calories required to maintain our body's essential functions, such as our heart beat, breathing, brain functions etc.

BMR is accountable to about 70% of the body's daily energy consumption.

The additional amount of energy which is required to carry out other tasks is divided to two basic elements:

The energy required to perform a variety of actions and movements (Such as talking, walking, sports activities etc.), and the energy on which mental and emotional functions are based on (Such as thinking, creative motivation and emotional reaction).

In periods of emotional stress, one tends to get easily irritated and thus ones energy wears out. As a result one may feel tired and exhausted.

Nearly every person is familiar with the sense of exhaustion experienced after irritation, anger or facing stress over a considerable period of time.

Most people will succeed to restore their energy level after a reasonable period of rest. However the bodies of people suffering from Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia fail to recapture their vital energy levels required for normal physic and mental functions.

The reasons are varied and may result of the following:

* Malfunction of the Mitochondria (The concentration of energy in cell productive organs).

* Malfunction of the adrenal glands (Adrenalin and noradrenalin productive glands).

* Malfunction of the Thyroid gland (Metabolic managing gland).

* Insufficient or unbalanced nutrition.

The liver consumes about 27% of the BMR (whilst the brain consumes 19% and the heart consumes 7%), therefore the basic therapeutic approach should initially include cleansing and balancing liver treatment.

The more we ease the load on the liver, the more we enable our body to obtain a quick recovery.

However this basic rule is a fundamental element of the therapeutic approach to almost every pathology or syndrome.

Immune process is considered as another substantial energy consumer.

The body embraces the lymphatic nodes with a fatty tissue aimed at supplying a reach and accessible energy source to the immune processes.

As long as immune processes are carried out in a healthy body chances of ineffective competence are slim.

However in some conditions these functions may go out of control, such as in cases of allergies (Situations of excessive immune reactions) or autoimmune malfunctions (Situations in which neurotic instructions are disturbed).

In these conditions a tremendous mass of energy is wasted, way above our ability regain.

In such conditions the treatment shall be focused at strengthening and balancing the immune system in a way that would enable regaining normal functionality.


Mononucleosis (also known as the Epstein bar syndrome) is a viral disease which is usually caused by the Epstein bar virus.

The virus is usually conveyed from one person to another by saliva transference occurring as a result of coughing and sneezing.

It is believed that about 90% of the individuals in western societies are carrying the Epstein Bar Virus even without experiencing the symptoms or being aware of the fact that they carry the virus in their body.

The typical signs of Mononucleosis are:

* Fatigue.

* Languishment

* Necessity of long sleeping hours.

* Throat aches.

* Oversized lymphatic glands.

* Headaches.

* Concentration and focus disruptions.

* Memory disruptions.

* Confusion.

* Frequent nocturnal awakening and sleeping disorders.

* A yellowish skin color.

* Swallowed lower eyelids and a worn-out appearance.

* High Leukocytes level in blood counts.

Mononucleosis life cycle:

The disease usually becomes evident after an incubating period that may last a few weeks.

During this period one may already feel fatigue whilst neither of the other signs becomes evident.

After the symptomatic eruption individual cases may dramatically differ one from the other.

Some patients may independently regain their strength after a few days whilst others may suffer for a few weeks. In some of the cases the disease may result in a symptom which is generally related to as Chronic Fatigue.

The assumption is that the organism's emotional and physical status in the pre-eruption period may dictate the person's ability gain quick and effective recovery.

The conventional treatment:

Being a viral disease, Mononucleosis has no conventional medicinal treatment. In most cases the doctor's order shall include temperature control treatment, pain killers, adequate rest and plenty of liquids.

The natural treatment:

The optimal natural treatment shall combine a qualitative diet comprising of natural unprocessed foods with high nutritional values.

My professional advice to Epstein Bar carriers would be to consume a special organic diet; this diet should include "Super foods" which are highly reached in nutritional values. Amongst which are:

Vegetables in a variety of colors (green, orange and purple are a must), natural oils with high omega 3 content, beehive products as pollen and royal jelly, pulses, whole cereals, a rationed portion of sea weed etc.

At the same time one should avoid consuming types of foods that would heavy the load on body systems. Therefore my advice would be to avoid white sugars, carbohydrates, livestock products (especially meat and dairy products).

This diet will support the detoxification process and allow the body to relief the load on the liver and the lymphatic system, a load which is a major negative energy consumer.

In addition I would normally recommend a tailored herbal formula that would have a supportive effect on the immune system and the body as a whole.

Some of the cases may require adding a liver cleansing formula as a supportive treatment. Premade formulas are also available off the shelf and their effectiveness is well proven.

Homeopathic treatment:

In my clinic I would normally tailor a homeopathic formula that would help the patient's body to cope with the infection and effectively face the disease causing pathogens. The positive results gained so far were dramatic.

In children, the effect of the homeopathic treatment becomes evident after only a few hours and when adults are concerned, the combination of the homeopathic formula with the herbal medicine results in a positive reaction after merely a few days.

Results witnessed so far show that combining homeopathy may effectively shorten the recovery period and ease the patient's misery.


Tracking trauma in the brain

  • Published in Health


Locating areas of the brain vulnerable to the effects of stress can lead to better outcomes for post-traumatic stress disorder, say Israeli researchers.




By Rivka Borochov

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a huge risk for first responders like emergency medical technicians, police officers and firefighters. They deal with horrific scenes of disaster that most of us only watch in Hollywood movies.

Though PTSD is a poorly understood condition with no methodologies for long-term care, help is on the way from Israel for better prediction of susceptibility -- and therefore better treatment for each individual.

Professors Talma Hendler and Nathan Intrator from Tel Aviv University are working on groundbreaking tools that pair a commonplace electroencephalography (EEG) and a more complex functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track PTSD deep in the brain. Their approach is to locate the traces of PTSD in the brain and monitor those areas over time to determine “stress vulnerability” in each patient.

“The unique thing about our research is that we are looking at individuals over time -- not just when they have the disease -- in order to see the vulnerability measurements for PTSD,” says Hendler. “We were able to predict developing symptoms after a year and a half.”

The two professors and other researchers worked with a test group of Israeli military medics through the Functional Brain Center of the Wohl Institute for Advanced Imaging at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. The subjects were examined before they entered their mandatory military service and after their subsequent exposure to stressful events while deployed in combat units.

Hendler says this group represented a rare opportunity for studying PTSD: Unlike most other combat medics around the world, Israeli medics are on active duty; they comprise a slice of the general population; and due to the small size of the country, the researchers were able to easily access the soldiers over time to monitor their condition.

Finding the potential to heal

Hendler says another unique aspect of the study was identifying areas of “plasticity,” or places in the brain that were able to bounce back from PTSD injury.

“We saw events like these which are changing the brain, and this is happening in the brain areas of memory and learning like in the hippocampus,” says Hendler. “These regions are changing over time, which suggests that this might be a good target for treatment if you catch it at the right time.”

The symptoms of PTSD manifest differently in different people, and can range from anxiety and depression to suicidal tendencies. Medical practitioners around the world are looking for better ways to diagnose and manage the poorly understood but widely experienced disorder.

The Israeli approach has been documented in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Cerebral Cortex.

Partnering with MIT

Using EEG to record electrical impulses in the brain and fMRI to study oxygenated blood in the brain, the researchers subjected the test participants to stress stimuli. Advanced algorithms were then built to identify brain activity associated with certain emotional experiences, and these emotions were linked to cognitive areas in the brain.

In the future, the algorithms they devised can be applied on EEG readouts to gain a better understanding of brain pathology, without the use of the more expensive and less readily available fMRI. This powerful tool, the researchers hope, will eventually give doctors an easier way of customizing treatment for patients with PTSD before significant psychopathological effects have taken place.

Work toward bringing the Israeli PTSD research to medical communities everywhere is now underway at Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Diet Rich in Tomatoes May Reduce Stroke Risk

  • Published in Health


Jessica Berman

A long-term study has found that people who routinely eat a lot of tomatoes are less likely to suffer strokes. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that scientists believe reduces the risk of heart disease.

Researchers followed the dietary habits of more than 1,000 men living near the University of Eastern Finland. The subjects were divided into four groups based on how much lycopene was measured in their blood at the start of the study. After more than a dozen years, there were 25 strokes in a group of 258 men with the lowest levels of lycopene, compared to just 11 strokes in the high-lycopene group of 259 males, a reduction in stroke risk of 55 percent.

Larry Goldstein, director of the Duke University Stroke Center in Durham, North Carolina, believes lycopene may reduce the risk of stroke by protecting cells against the damaging effects of free radicals. These are harmful molecules produced by the breakdown of food and toxic environmental substances such as tobacco smoke and radiation. Experts say antioxidants can reduce the inflammation and blood clotting that can lead to stroke.

Goldstein says lycopene is a powerful antioxidant.

“Having said that, other ..compounds in that class really haven’t been associated with reduced risk of stroke. So, again, this is an area for further research," said Goldstein.

Lycopene is the substance in fruits and vegetables that gives them their bright red or orange color, including not only tomatoes but red peppers, papayas and watermelon.

Goldstein cautions that studies such as the one carried out in Finland have to be repeated to confirm the results. He says participants questioned at the beginning of the study a dozen years ago may not remember what they ate over the course of the investigation, and the findings would need to be repeated in different populations - and in groups of women, as well - to draw any firm conclusions.

What has been established, according to Goldstein, is that taking lycopene supplements does not appear to reduce the risk of stroke.

“So it may be something else that we are not measuring that really is leading to the better outcomes," he said.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily diet of five servings of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes.

An article on lycopene and the reduced risk of stroke is published in the journal Neurology.

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