Healthcare Briefs: Robots To Help Humans
Wed, 05/13/2009
Staff Writer
New York businessman and philanthropist Arnold Goldstein and his wife Arlene have donated $5 million to establish the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Satellite Center at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Goldstein said the center would be working with robots that could be used for warfare as well as for medical and humanitarian purposes. “They have a snake-like robot that can go into rubble looking for earthquake victims,” he said. “And they are talking of tiny robots that can go into the human bloodstream” to help in medical experiments and diagnostics.  “I feel it’s important that Israel not have to rely on any country and be self-sufficient,” he said. “Being technologically advanced will help it tremendously.”  Goldstein said that when he first spoke with representatives of the Technion about its many projects, talk quickly turned to robotics. “Because Israel is a small country surrounded by so many enemies, to continue to exist it must be technologically more advanced than its hostile neighbors,” he said. “The robotics program is pretty amazing, and I think it is essential for Israel’s existence.” The center, one of just five in the world, operates under the umbrella of?the Technion’s new interdisciplinary Autonomous Systems Center. Cancer researchers at Bar-Ilan University have discovered what they describe as a “smoking gun” — an enzyme that plays a key role in causing normal tissues to turn cancerous and spread in the colon, prostrate and breast. “The fact that this same mechanism appears in all these cancers indicates that we may have found an important molecular junction where normal tissues turn cancerous,” explained Uri Nir, chairman of the university’s Graduate Program in Biotechnology. In conjunction with other scientists at the university, Nir is also working on a technique that would cause anti-cancer drugs to target the site where the drugs are needed, thereby achieving better results with lower doses and reducing the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Playing violent video games actually enhances a young person’s eyesight, enhancing his ability to discriminate between subtle contrasts in color or shades of gray, according to a study recently reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The study, by Uri Polat of Tel Aviv University’s Goldschlager Eye Institute and the University of Rochester, compared the effects of playing violent action video games like “Call of Duty 2” to others that do not require high levels of visual-motor coordination, such as “The Sims.” “What we see now is that teens who play violent video games are also training their brains to see better,” Polat said. He found that after playing 50 hours of video games, the group of young people who played violent video games showed a 43 percent improvement, on average, in their ability to distinguish between shades of gray when compared with those who played “The Sims 2.” T he U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a material developed by a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem that is designed to prevent scar tissue from forming following surgery in pediatric cardiac patients. The professor, Daniel Cohn, developed the product using biodegradable polymers. It is marketed in the United States by SyntheMed of Iselin, N.J., under the product name REPEL-CV Adhesion Barrier. It is for use in pediatric patients 21 and younger who are likely to require secondary open-heart surgery. Adhesions following heart surgery are of special concern because they may affect cardiac function. And in cases where repeated operations are necessary, adhesions obscure cardiac landmarks that make the procedure all the more dangerous. Women who underwent weight reduction surgery before they became pregnant significantly reduced the risk of medical and obstetrical complications once they became pregnant, according to a study by faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The study, by professor Eyal Sheiner and Dr. Adi Weintraub of Soroka University Medical Center, appeared in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. It found that women who had the surgery before they became pregnant experienced significantly lower rates of hypertensive disorders, and that their risk of gestational diabetes dropped by 60 percent. It found, however, that these women had a significantly higher rate of cesarean births. Cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Usher Syndrome, other genetic diseases and many cancers could be treated by a common antibiotics that has been modified to make it less toxic and capable of repairing genes in human beings, according to researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The drug, gentamicin, is effective for treating a wide range of bacterial infections. Studies have shown that it can counteract genetic diseases, but only at a much higher dose — one that is extremely toxic to humans and can lead to irreversible hearing loss. The modified drug is still in the test stage. New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn announced that it will now be performing a minimally invasive alternative to mitral valve surgery that will negate the need to divide the breastbone in order to reach the heart. With the alternative procedure, only a four-inch incision is required to repair the damaged mitral valve.