Good News Friday

It’s time for another dose of Good News Friday.

Shai Meretzki with a bone sample

My first item today is another amazing advance from Israel’s vaunted bio-med sector: An Israeli company grows new bones from patients’ fat!

… while repairing bones with casts or synthetic or autologous bone grafts (bone harvested from another part of the patient’s body) is common, these can be inadequate solutions.

That is where Israeli biotech company Bonus BioGroup comes in, with a revolutionary procedure that can grow new bone from a person’s fat.

The company has just received approval to transplant in vitro-developed bone implant into humans and will perform the first bone transplant in the coming week.

Cutting bone from one part of the body and putting it in another part is a painful  and costly procedure,” Shai Meretzki, CEO of Bonus Biogroup, which was founded in 2008, tells NoCamels. In addition, he says, it is sometimes impossible to graft the amount of bone needed. “So we thought, ‘why don’t we grow new bone by using cells from patients?’”

This pioneering technology grows and regenerates 3D high-density bone graft from fat cells. Growing bone graft from a person’s own DNA, Meretzki explains, also “avoids any possible bone rejection from the body since it is accepted by the immune system right away.”

Making it fit

To construct the new bone, Bonus BioGroup receives samples of the patient’s fat tissue, extracted through liposuction, along with a CT scan of the damaged bone. The team then constructs a scaffold made of biodegradable sponge-like material, where a live bone can grow, a procedure that takes about a month.

Using three dimensional scans of the damaged bone to build the gel-like scaffold means the team can create bone that matches the exact shape needed.Once the bone is created, the scaffold decomposes naturally and what remains is the live bone, which is then sent back to the hospital for the patient to undergo the transplant.

Grows like any other part of the body

“This is a better solution for the body than plastic or metal pieces,” Meretzki claims. These bones are “active live bones that can grow; remodel and change as your body does.” Even with young children, when the bone graft is surgically inserted, the new addition adjusts and grows like any other part of the body.


Next step: Growing cartilage for joint healing

Meretzki previously founded Pluristem Therapeutics, a biotech company focused on cell therapy and after developing the ability to grow a 3D culture of cells, he decided to launch Bonus Biogroup to deal specifically with cell tissue and organs. This field, Meretzki recalls, was “really in need of a development for new active tissue growth.”

“Currently,” Meretzki tells NoCamels, “we are growing bone and cartilage but we’re working on a system that combines the property of both bone and cartilage.” Hoping to break into the field of healing joints, which is more complex has it includes cartilage. “It’s an extremely desperate and vast market with a limited solution,” says Meretzki.

I don’t need to tell you how brilliant this development is. All I can say is that with my supply of fat, my future is guaranteed!  🙂   Kol hakavod to Shai Meretzki and his team of researchers at Bonus Biogroup. May they literally grow from strength to strength.

Dr. Akhilesh Kumar

My next item is from a related field, that of agri-tech.  Israel is helping India develop a better potato which is able to withstand long storage and distribution problems:

When he visits family on vacation from his post at Israel’s Vulcani Agricultural Research Institute, Dr. Akhilesh Kumar is always struck by the two very different New Delhis he experiences. One is the city of haves, where people can phone up a fast food joint and get a nice meal delivered. The other is the city of have nots, down in the street, among the penniless, hungry beggars that the delivery person has to wade through to make his delivery. “The food is there, but it isn’t getting to everyone,” Kumar said. “The problem in India is not a lack of food. In truth, India grows enough food to feed itself.”
The problem isn’t one of poor agriculture, but poor distribution, Kumar told The Times of Israel in an exclusive interview. “The biggest crop in India is the potato, … But those potatoes are mostly produced in the winter, and when harvest time comes, there is a glut on the market.
“Producer prices are very low at that time, and farmers who sell their potatoes in the market can only get a little money for their produce. And, there’s only so many potatoes the market can absorb at one time,” said Kumar.
“The excess potatoes are bought up by distributors who store them in cold-storage warehouses,” he continued. “Later on when the weather is warm, they bring out the potatoes, and sell them for three times or more the price that they bought them for after the harvest. Those same farmers who sold the distributors their potatoes at low cost after the harvest now have to buy them back at greatly inflated prices.”
Solving this problem is one of Kumar’s objectives, and as a plant biotechnologist specializing in transgenic research, he is conducting basic research in extending the shelf life of potatoes. “If we could extend the time farmers could hold on to their potatoes in typical room-temperature situations, there would be less need for them to sell off their crop right away, prices would not drop as much at harvest time, and the power of the distributor trust would be diluted,” he said.
In his research, Kumar is trying to decipher the molecular mechanism of glycoalkaloid (toxic secondary metabolites) biosynthesis in potato tubers – the process that turns potatoes green and sprout little “roots.” The green area and sprouts indicates the presence of solanine, which is poisonous. By developing ways to reduce glycoalkaloid biosynthesis, Kumar hopes to prevent or at least postpone the blight that makes it impossible for farmers to hold onto their potatoes.
According to Kumar, Israel — and the Vulcani Institute in particular – is the right place to do this research. “Israel has developed technology to deal with this problem, and applying it on a large scale, I believe, will greatly improve the agricultural situation in India.”
Israeli solar energy technology could also be used to help India’s poor farmers, Kumar said. “Farmers could build small storerooms with solar panels on top to generate electricity for small refrigeration units. The solar panels could also power batteries which will keep the rooms cold at night as well.”

This initiative could do wonders both for the poor of India and for trade and diplomatic relations between India and Israel.  The fact that India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations has deterred better relations in the past, but as Kumar points out:

Ten years ago doing business with Israel was much more difficult, but as time has gone by people see that having a good relationship with Israel has brought about many positive benefits to India,” said Kumar. Water technology, agricultural technology, and scientific cooperation with Israel have gone a long way to convince even Muslim politicians that working with Israel has its benefits.

Kol hakavod to Dr. Akhilesh Kumar and the Vulcani Institute for their cooperation and research. May the ties between India and Israel continue to grow stronger for the benefit of both countries.

3,300 year old earrings discovered at Biblical site

And now, moving back in time several millennia, my next item concerns some 3,300 year-old silver earrings, discovered at an archeological dig in the north:

Sitting at the headwaters of the Jordan on a tell overlooking the Hula Valley, Abel Beth Maacah was an Iron Age town on the northern marches of the Israelite kingdom. The Book of Kings chronicles its conquest by Ben-hadad I of Damascus in the early 9th century BCE and by Neo-Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III in 733 BCE.
During excavations in the summer of 2013, a team of archaeologists from Azusa Pacific University and Hebrew University found a massive stone structure, “possibly a tower that was part of a fortification” overlooking the Hula Valley, according to a article recently published in the journal Strata.
Near the base of the massive structure, whose purpose is not yet clear, the team found “several basalt ring weights, parts of a collared-rim jar and a complete jug.” Most astonishing, however, was “a small jug that contained a silver hoard composed of earrings and ingots.” Based on the pottery surrounding the small jug, archaeologists date the tiny trove to the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age — around 3,300 years ago — the period associated with emergence of the Israelites.


Bronze Age jug and some of the silver hoard

Since the find predates the invention of currency by nearly a millennium, the hoard of silver could have served as a life savings. “Before coins were invented in the 5th century BCE, people would weigh out bits of silver on pan scales against known weights, such as the famous shekel of the Bible,” Mullins said. “These pieces were evidently placed into a jug whose neck was missing, probably for safekeeping, though we have no proof that the jug and its contents were hidden below a floor.”

Abel Beth Maacah was likely ruled by the Canaanites in the Bronze Age, and may have been conquered by one of the neighboring Aramean kingdoms in the early Iron Age, Mullins said, but the ethnic identity of its inhabitants remains unknown. The style of pottery matched that from the nearby site of Tel Dan, which was also under Aramean rule during this period.

What a fascinating discovery! I wonder whose ears those earrings adorned and under what circumstances they were placed in the jug for safe-keeping. These archeological discoveries bring the Bible and our country’s history alive in an inimitable way.

To finish this week’s installment, here is a message from Dry Bones who is trying to sell his illustrated Hagaddah:

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Have a great weekend everyone, and Shabbat Shalom to all!

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2 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. OyiaBrown says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  2. Reality says:

    A great post as always!I’m more than happy to donte my excess fst to any skinny people who need bone grafts!!What an amazing idea.Wonderful news that we are helping India with our hi tech agricultural know how.Its about time we looked at other markets &countries instead of only relying on American &European countries.This way when they threaten us with isolation at least we have others to support us.

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