13 of the Biggest Health Breakthroughs in Israel in 2017
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13 of the Biggest Health Breakthroughs in Israel in 2017

Nicky Blackburn — Israel21c.org
Jan 1, 2018

A compound that disables cancer cells, an artificial cornea, the world's first bone implant: 2017 saw major medical advances. We bring you the best.

[Israel21c.org] 1. Compound kills energy generating system of cancer (Photo Credit: A Year of Wonder via Israel21c.org)

An Israeli researcher devised a synthetic compound to disable the enzymes that allow cancer cells to metastasize.

When cancer cells leave the primary tumor and spread to other organs, they reprogram their energy-generating system in order to survive in harsh conditions with a shortage of nutrients like glucose.

Prof. Uri Nir of Bar-Ilan University identified an enzyme called FerT in the energy-generating mitochondria of metastatic cancer cells—an enzyme normally only found in sperm cells (which need to function outside the body they came from). When he targeted FerT in lab mice, the malignant cells soon died.

Using advanced chemical and robotic approaches, Nir's lab team developed a synthetic compound, E260, which can be administered orally or by injection, causing a complete collapse of the entire mitochondria "power station."

"We have treated mice with metastatic cancer and this compound completely cured them with no adverse or toxic affect that we can see," reported Nir, adding that normal cells were not affected.

Phase 1 clinical trials are planned over the next 18 months.

2. Personal menu to help avoid diabetes

In 2015, two researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel released a groundbreaking study showing that specific foods and food combinations affect each individual's blood-sugar level differently. (Photo: Prof. Uri Nir (fourth from right) and his lab team/Photo courtesy of Bar-Ilan University/via Israel21c.org)

That discovery was incorporated into a made-in-Israel app, DayTwo, which helps pre-diabetics and diabetics who are not insulin dependent choose dishes that can best balance their individual blood-sugar levels. The algorithm predicts blood-glucose response to thousands of foods based on gut microbiome information and other personal parameters.

High blood sugar is linked to energy dips, excessive hunger and weight gain as well as increased risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

To use the app, which went on sale in the US in 2017, users need to answer a questionnaire about their medical history, physical characteristics, lifestyle and diet. A stool-sample kit is then FedExed to the user, who sends it on to DayTwo's lab. There the microbiome DNA is sequenced and the data is plugged into an advanced machine-learning algorithm.

In about six to eight weeks, users receive a microbiome report and a six-month plan of personalized meal recommendations to help balance blood sugar.

3. World's first bone implants

In August and December, doctors at Emek Medical Center in Afula performed rare bone implants – one on a man missing part of his arm bone and the second on a man missing five centimeters of his shinbone, both as the result of car accidents.

Normally, the human body cannot restore bone segments, but revolutionary tissue-engineering technology developed by Haifa-based Bonus BioGroup enables growing semi-solid live bone tissue from the patient's own fat cells.

The tissue is then injected back into the patient's body in the expectation that the missing bone fragment will be regenerated in around six weeks without any danger of implant rejection or the complications of traditional bone transplants.

"This surgery is truly science fiction; it changes the entire game in orthopedics," said Dr. Nimrod Rozen, head of orthopedics at Emek, who carried out the experimental procedure.

In the future, the Bonus BioGroup regeneration technology could be used for a variety of bone-loss conditions, including bone cancer, for which there is currently no solution.

4. Artificial cornea

An early-stage Israeli ophthalmic medical devices startup developed a revolutionary artificial cornea implant that holds out hope to millions of blind and visually impaired people. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com)

The nanotech-based synthetic cornea by CorNeat Vision of Ra'anana proved successful in initial tests on animals. The company plans human implantations in Israel in mid-2018, and a larger clinical trial in the United States.

According to the World Health Organization, diseases of the cornea are the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting as many as 30 million people.

"Unlike previous devices, which attempt to integrate optics into the native cornea, CorNeat's implant leverages a virtual space under the conjunctiva that is rich with fibroblast cells, heals quickly and provides robust long-term integration," said CorNeat Vision's Almog Aley-Raz. The surgical procedure takes just 30 minutes…

Continue reading about all the other medical advances here.

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