With a dual focus on research and clinical studies, Technion’s mission is to advance knowledge in life and medical sciences, improve health care, and train compassionate clinicians, researchers and teachers. Inspired by their valiant efforts we have pulled together a round-up of recent health oriented topics going around Technion!
The next generation: doctoral student Limor Arbel-Ganon unlocks mysteries of the heart. Her sinoatrial node research won her first place at the Israeli Society of Psychology and Pharmacology this past February!
Educating the population on how to keep themselves healthy is one of the most important things we can do! We are proud of the Technion researchers and graduates for their endeavours within the health sector! Cannot wait to see what is coming next!
If those ubiquitous TV infomercials are to be believed, a person’s age can be determined solely by outward signs, like wrinkled skin, grey hair, and yellow teeth. But according to a team of researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Stanford University, the state of a person’s immune system provides a far more accurate measurement of a person’s health than physical signs or even chronological age. The team has also developed a way to gauge “immune age,” which could bring about new frontiers in personalized medical treatment, drug and vaccine clinical development, and health management and insurance processes.
Over an individual’s life, the immune system declines in function, a process accompanied by an increase in inflammation. This ultimately leads to an inability to cope with infections and a higher risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, the leading causes of death among older people. Due to the high complexity of the immune system, no real metric of immunological health exists in the clinic beyond the Complete Blood Count. This lab test, which has been in existence since 1957, enumerates the abundance of immune cells, but at a resolution too low to identify anything but extreme conditions.
Enter the new monitoring system developed by the Technion-Stanford team. Their study characterized annually, at high resolution and with thousands of different parameters, the immune systems of 135 healthy people at different ages over a period of nine years. The researchers collected rich longitudinal data that allowed for the capture a pattern of immune cellular changes occurring over time that are common to all adults, irrespective of individual differences between peoples’ immune systems.
“Individuals varied only at the rate their immune system changes, not in the actual pattern of change,” said Shai Shen-Orr, Associate Professor in the Technion’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and lead co-senior author of the study. “This allowed us to map a path of how the immune system ages and to quantify an individual’s immune age. Unlike your actual chronological age, the immune-age is intimately tied to the state of one’s immune system, the body’s chief sentinel. We can, therefore, capture medically relevant information using immune age that physicians would otherwise miss.”
Using the new method, the researchers quantified the immune age of more than 2,000 adults who participated in the Framingham Heart Study, which has been carried out among people living in the Boston area for more than half a century. By analyzing the data collected on this large sample, the researchers showed that advanced immune age predicts mortality at an older age beyond known risk factors. In other words, although they may be in the same age group, people with an “older” immune system are at higher risk of dying than people with a “young” immune system.
“This paper represents a very important step towards developing useful measures of immunological health, especially as it could help to identify who is at risk for cardiovascular and other diseases,” said Professor Mark M. Davis, Head of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection and the other co-senior author of the study. “It’s been sixty years since the last immunological benchmarks (CBCs) were introduced into general medical practice and so it’s high time we had something much more sophisticated such as we describe here, that reflects the tremendous explosion of knowledge that we have had in the field in this time.”
Because immune age is also affected by genetics, the researchers want to characterize the immune age of populations with a genetic predisposition to a long life, such as descendants of people who passed the age of 100. “By doing so, we may characterize genes that affect immune age,” said Prof. Shen-Orr. “In addition, the method we developed will make possible identification of lifestyle, habits, and medications that affect immune age positively or negatively.”
The research was published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine and was led by Prof. Shai Shen-Orr of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Prof. Mark Davis of Stanford University, with co-first authors, doctoral student Ayelet Alpert and Dr. Yishai Pickman of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, together with other Technion and Stanford researchers. The research has been supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH-NIAID), the Ellison Foundation, the Howard Hughes Institute, the Israel Science Foundation, the Rappaport Institute, and the Kollek and Taub Family Awards.
An innovative center for the printing of cells, tissues, and organs has been established in the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
Faculty Dean Professor Shulamit Levenberg, who heads the center, said that “the new center is open to all Technion researchers and will lead the Technion’s tissue engineering department into new areas.”
The field of tissue engineering has undergone dizzying progress in recent decades – and the Technion has filled a significant role in this revolution. Technion researchers are developing complex and precise artificial tissues that significantly improve their integration in the target organ. This involves, among other things, the creation of tissue containing a developed system of blood vessels that quickly connect to the patient’s blood vessels.
The 3-D Bio-Printing Center for Cell and Biomaterials Printing will provide a significant boost to the field of tissue engineering. The center operates an innovative printer that prints three-dimensional scaffolds and the cells that grow into tissue. The printer translates the information obtained from the patient’s CT scans into three-dimensional tissue suited to the injury area. The system has additional tools to design scaffolds or cells to make 3D tissues, Levenberg said. “You can design as you wish and seed cells in the proper orientation to allow them to better organize into the right tissue structure.”
The printer is relevant to all areas of regenerative medicine and makes possible the printing of various tissues and the integration of controlled- release systems. It has several different printing heads, enabling the simultaneous creation of printed tissue from different materials. It is equipped with precise motors of variable speed and accuracy of 0.001 mm, as well as a built-in camera that improves the exactitude of the printing needle.
The system is suitable for a wide range of raw materials, such as hydrogels, thermoplastic materials and ointments, with precise temperature and radiation control (ranging from 0 to 70 degrees Celsius and 30 to 250 degrees Celsius and ultraviolet radiation). The printing can be carried out directly into the culture dish.
Even among keynote speeches by Israeli and American leaders, countless presentations, and demonstrations of groundbreaking Israeli innovations on parade at last week’s AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., it’s the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology that will be remembered by many of the 20,000 people in attendance.
The most visual representation of the Technion was the LABSCAPES exhibition displayed in the AIPAC Village for the duration of the conference.
The most visual representation of the Technion was the LABSCAPES exhibition displayed in the AIPAC Village for the duration of the conference. Created and curated by Anat Har-Gil, an artistically gifted member of the Technion’s Computing and Information Systems Department, the exhibition featured unforgettable images taken with microscopes used in the fields of chemistry, physics, life sciences, engineering, and medicine that at first glance evoke thoughts of spectacular natural vistas. In reality, the images show the majesty of crystals, bacteria, human cells, and other entities invisible to the naked eye are revealed through the power of the modern microscope.
Also wowing the AIPAC crowds was Technion alumna Orly Rapaport (B.Sc. Computer Science) presented her startup, “myFavorEats” for consideration to a “Shark Tank”-like panel. According to Rapaport, the company’s founder and CEO, myFavorEats uses Artificial Intelligence to mimic a Chef’s intuitive thinking and a nutritionist’s wisdom, enabling users to instantly personalize their recipes to their dietary needs and adapt them to their digital kitchen appliances. myFavorEats is part of the Technion Drive Accelerator.
Gilad Hizkiyahu (B.Sc., Aerospace Engineering), who is the Co-CEO at Singer Instruments and Control Ltd., gave a fascinating presentation about how defense innovation is not just keeping Israel safe; it is also being utilized for applications in medical technologies that benefit the world.
Finally, in a private reception with Technion supporters, another graduate of the Technion, Eliad Peretz (B.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering) shared about his position was a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow. Currently a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and a researcher for new space missions, he leads the development of materials and technologies that will enable the creation of more advanced detectors used for space exploration.