Hadassah Medical Center uses state-of-the-art technology. (Photo: Hadassah) Hadassah Medical Center uses state-of-the-art technology. (Photo: Hadassah)

Dr. Eli C. Lewis

Dr. Eli C. Lewis, head of the Clinical Islet Laboratory at Ben Gurion University. (Photo: BGU)

While the international media insists on placing a negative focus on Israel, it’s important to know about the positive contributions Israel makes.  Here’s some of the latest news from Israel in the area of medicine.

Preventing Deadly Infections

An anti-inflammatory drug, alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT), could be effective in preventing deadly infections in patients with compromised immune systems, researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) announced last week.

As reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the study, led by Dr. Eli C. Lewis and his team of BGU researchers, examined the effectiveness of AAT as treatment against the growth and spread of bacteria.

Bacterial infections in patients with compromised immune systems can lead to sepsis, multiple organ dysfunction and death, even with the treatment of antibiotics. This is especially problematic when such individuals experience prolonged hospitalization, where they are exposed to large amounts of bacteria.

The unexpected discovery occurred when mice were treated with AAT in an effort to determine whether the drug would strengthen infections. To the researchers’ surprise, the treated mice combated lethal infections better than did untreated mice, and bacteria directly introduced into their systems were almost completely eradicated by the AAT therapy within 24 hours.

This discovery is especially promising as the current rate of bacterial resistance in antibiotics and the rate of development of new antibiotics are insufficient. Dr. Lewis, world-renowned expert on autoimmune disease and head of the Clinical Islet Laboratory at BGU, says the implications are immense.

The BGU team is working on developing this information into safe, preemptive and readily accessible treatment for humans. As the research develops, their work will be published in future studies.

Nano-Particles to Attack Cancer

Tel Aviv University Professors Rimona Margalit and Dan Peer have developed a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer that has caught the attention of the international medical community.

The breakthrough is a drug delivery platform that uses “GAGomers,” a new class of nanoparticles, coated with glycosaminoglycan or GAGs, a polysugar that specifically targets tumors and blood cancers. The technology utilizes a biomarker that is expressed on malignant tissue.

In 2010, Pontifax, a leading Israeli venture capital firm, established Quiet Therapeutics, a bio-pharmaceutical company, in order to make Margalit’s and Peer’s platform accessible and marketable to oncology patients and their doctors.

In a nutshell, this new technology allows for much more efficient treatment by targeting the cancer cells with fewer drugs and, therefore, minimizing side effects.

Early Detection

Researchers at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem have made a breakthrough discovery that would allow early detection, and possibly prevention, of colon and uterine cancers.

According to the study, a specific genetic mutation has been found that increases the risk of developing these types of cancers. This would help to identify at-risk patients, thus increasing successful treatment and reducing costs.

The research group was led by Dr. Yael Goldberg of the Sharett Institute of Oncology at Hadassah and included scientists from Hadassah, Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva and Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

“The study is of immense importance in the prevention and early treatment of cancer. Identifying the genetic mutation allows us to find subsets of healthy people who carry that mutation and put them on an early prevention and observation program. Early detection of cancer is one of the most important tools in healing the deadly disease,” Prof. Tamar Peretz, senior oncologist and acting director-general of Hadassah, stated.

By Penina Taylor, United with Israel