Health Briefs
Tue, 02/08/2011
Staff Writer

 Clowns Help Fertility Treatment

Getting pregnant is a serious matter, but a little laughter doesn’t hurt, an Israeli study has found.

According to research conducted by Dr. Shevach Friedler, an infertility expert at the Assaf HaRofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv, the pregnancy rate of women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments nearly doubled — from 20 percent to 36 percent —when they were entertained by 15 minutes of clowns’ jokes and magic after the embryo transfer. The doctor, who is also a graduate of a mime and theater school, explained that the clowning reduces stress.

Friedler, whose findings were reported in the Fertility and Sterility journal, called laughter “one of the least hazardous interventions in our field. “Patients suffering from infertility undergoing IVF are exceptionally stressed.”

New Tool For Plastic Surgeons

Dr. Alex Bronstein of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Electrical Engineering has designed a three-dimensional “before and after”' tool for plastic surgery that generates an anatomically more accurate post-surgery image of a patient than was previously possible. His research, published recently in the ACM Transactions on Graphics journal, will permit surgeons to avoid unexpected results and determine the most favorable outcome for patients.

His software, which combines aspects of art and science, was designed with the help of numerous pre- and post-surgery images fed into a computer to “teach” it to more accurately generate post-surgery images. “Our program is more like a virtual mirror. It gives surgeons and their patients a way to see a 3D before-and-after image as though the patient has really undergone the operation,” Bronstein said.

The software is now under commercial development. Bronstein predicted that similar tools will become even more accessible, affordable and powerful in the coming years as consumer 3D video cameras become more widespread.

 

New Protection Against Nerve Gas Developed

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have developed an enzyme that breaks down the deadly agents in nerve gas before damage to nerves and muscles is caused. According to research recently published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, recent experiments performed in a U.S. military laboratory showed that injecting a relatively small amount of this enzyme into animals provides protection against certain types of nerve agents, for which current treatments show limited efficacy.

Nerve agents disrupt the chemical messages sent between nerve and muscle cells, causing loss of muscle control and ultimately leading to death by suffocation. Existing drugs are somewhat effective when exposed to small doses of the nerve agent, but do not provide protection against high-dose exposure and are not effective against all types of nerve agents.

A Weizmann team led by Prof. Dan Tawfik of the Department of Biological Chemistry developed a special method to artificially induce “natural selection” of enzymes in a test tube, enabling them to engineer “tailor-made” enzymes.

The scientists plan to expand their research to develop preventive treatment that provides protection against all types of existing nerve agents.

Robot Does Surgery
At Haifa Hospital

A 72-year-old Haifa resident with prostate cancer recently made history: as the first patient at the Rambam Health Care Campus to undergo a prostatectomy by means of a sophisticated $2.6 million da Vinci robot, and the first patient in Israel to be operated upon by the world’s leading surgeon in the removal of prostate tumors, Dr. David Samadi.

Samadi, considered the world's leading expert in the removal of prostate tumors, used the robot that was acquired by Rambam, bringing Rambam into the company of world-class hospitals. Patients who undergo robot-assisted prostate surgery require a shorter length of stay in the hospital, and have an excellent chance of retaining sexual function.