Good News Friday

Another week has rushed past and it’s time for another installment of Good News Friday.

An image of the innovative new antenna, which will revolutionize treatment of small tumors

We’ll start this week with some more good news from Israel’s outstanding biomedical field. Hebrew University students are working on a tiny antenna to treat digestive tract cancers:

Students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem are developing an innovative micro-antenna able to focus radiation at tiny tumors in the digestive tract.

The university noted that there is currently no treatment for tumors in the early stages of cancer, when they measure less than 5 millimeters (0.19 inches). The new antenna would eliminate the need to wait for the tumors to grow big enough to be treated, as well as eliminate the need for complicated, invasive surgery.

The micro-antenna would be inserted into the patient’s stomach via an endoscopic ultrasound tube and would allow radiation to be focused on the tiny tumors, if any such are discovered.

Development of the technique is expected to be completed within a year, pending funding.

The project is the work of Anna Kochnev and Shayke Stern, who were scheduled to present it on Monday at the Engineering and Computer Sciences Faculty at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University, along with presentations by other fourth-year students from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering faculties. Professors Yuri Feldman and Yaakov Nahmias, who mentored the project, noted that it was expected to lead to a breakthrough in the early identification and rapid treatment of tiny cancers in the digestive tract.

“The project was the result of cooperation between our talented students and the Shaare Tzedek Medical Center. The development came out of a real medical need and out of a desire to reach a breakthrough,” the professors said.

What an amazing development! Not only will it save the patient from difficult chemotherapy but it will be an economic saver too. Kol hakavod to Anna Kochnev and Shayke Stern, Professors Yuri Feldman and Yaakov Nahmias and the rest of the reseach team. Millions of cancer patients will be grateful to them.

From the sublime to the not-quite ridiculous, Israeli scientists have developed a computer algorithm to help with weight loss:

A computer algorithm that creates personalized diets for individuals seeking to lose weight could help more than counting calories or exercising alone, a new study suggests.

Results from a study conducted by scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Israel indicate that it is the way in which the stomach’s bacteria react to food that dictates what a person should and should not eat.

The premise that general suggestions for eating healthy — by, for example, consuming more vegetables and fruits — are suitable for everyone, the research indicates, may not hold water. Instead, personally tailored diets, depending on each individual’s unique biological make-up, may be the most effective method.

“Blood glucose is key to weight management and diabetes, and is linked to many, many other diseases, including cancer,” Segal said.

In some people, when they have bread, they show no change in glucose levels, but others spike dramatically,” Segal said.

The scientists then set out to determine what factors led to those differences and homed in on the microorganisms that live in our guts and how they responded to food. In the last stage of the study, they developed computer algorithms to analyze the gathered data and found that they could accurately predict how different people would respond to foods.

In many of the cases, Segal said, the controlled diets given to the participants contained foods most people would not find conducive to losing weight, such as ice cream and buttered bread.

Hmm. I wonder if an algorithm could be developed just for me whereby I could eat chocolate to my heart’s content without gaining weight! 😀

Seriously, this is a very important discovery and I hope it will be able to help all those people (including myself!) who battle to lose weight and keep it off. Kol hakavod to Drs. Eran Segal and Eran Elinav and their colleagues at the Weizman Institute.

Tatiana Prolova and her son, Andrei, before their separation

My next item is of a completely different nature and some of it takes place half a world away. An Israeli mother finally found the son she thought was dead living in Tajikistan which she had left nearly 30 years ago:

Tatiana Prolova’s story could inspire a Hollywood movie. For 17 years, she thought her son was dead, and he thought she was dead. Two years ago, she found him on a Russian social network. And this week, he is set to fly to Israel and the pair will reunite.

Back in 1995, Prolova wanted to immigrate to Israel from Tajikistan, along with her second husband and her two children from her previous marriage. But her first husband refused to sign off on his son’s departure from Dushanbe, the capital of this Muslim country that was once part of the Soviet Union. The son, Andrei, was an 18-year-old soldier at the time and remained in Tajikistan with his father and grandparents, but maintained very close relations with his mother in Israel.

“We moved to Israel with a heavy heart,” says Prolova.

“A year later, my ex-husband’s mother wrote me a letter informing me that my son had died. I cried and begged her to send me a photo of his gravestone or his death certificate, but she insisted that she could not maintain any contact with me anymore.

When Prolova’s daughter married in 2013, her husband gave her a computer as a gift.

“Back then, I didn’t realize what a fateful gift it would be. I got on Odnoklassniki [a Russian social network] and I found many of my friends who had left Tajikistan over the years. My ex-husband’s neighbors told me that he had died, but that my son was alive.

“I couldn’t stop crying and looking for him,” she says.

One day, she said, she searched for his name “and I saw his photos. My heart missed a beat. He looks a lot like me, and despite the years that have passed I immediately recognized my dear son. We began corresponding, and we spoke on the phone.”

Meanwhile, Andrei had been convinced that his mother was dead. In an interview with Israel Hayom via Skype, he said: “I missed my mother immensely, but after she moved to Israel, my grandmother told me that she had died. I couldn’t travel to Israel. All those years I mourned and I longed for my mother’s love and warmth.

This story looks like it’s going to have a wonderful heart-warming ending:

After Prolova learned that her son was alive, she approached the Jewish Agency for help in locating him. Natalia Greenstein, an employee of the Jewish Agency in Israel, relayed the request to the Jewish Agency in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, and they were able to locate a phone number.

Since then, the Jewish Agency has been working closely with Prolova’s family in Israel and in Tajikistan. They helped Andrei undergo the process necessary for the relocation, and ultimately gave him, his wife Ludmilla and their daughter Lydia plane tickets to Israel.

The boy’s family have so much to answer for in lying both to Tatiana and to Andrei. Thank goodness for modern technology that has brought the mother and son back together again.

And now we travel once again back to the ancient past, which is being uncovered near modern-day Jerusalem as we speak.  A pot with a Davidic era inscription was unearthed in Emek Ha’ela (the Ela Valley) by archeologists in what has been termed a “once in a lifetime find”:

An ancient Canaanite inscription including a name shared with a biblical rival to King David was found by archaeologists on a pot unearthed at a site in the Elah Valley, west of Jerusalem, researchers said Tuesday. One of them described it as a “once in a lifetime” find.

The inscription on a large clay storage jar found at Khirbet Qeiyafa dates to the Iron Age, from around 1020 to 980 BCE, and bears the name of Ishba’al son of Beda, researchers wrote in an article published in the latest edition of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

Before the jar was fired some 3,000 years ago, the name was inscribed in clear, large Canaanite letters in the clay, suggesting the hand of a skilled scribe, the scholars said.

The centimeter-high script retains some of the pictographic elements of its antecedents — the aleph has the horns of a bull, the bet looks house-like, and the ayin a staring eye — unlike later proto-Hebrew writings.

A character with the name Ishba’al is mentioned in the Book of Chronicles as the son of King Saul and referred to in the Book of Samuel as Ishboshet, a rival to King David for rule over the nascent Israelite kingdom.

According to the biblical text, he was assassinated by former captains loyal to his late father and was buried in Hebron.

Both the inscription and the biblical character Ishba’al relate to the 11th and 10th centuries BCE, after which names bearing Ba’al, a Semitic storm god, fall out of favor among Judeans.

Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday this was the first time an inscription with the name Ishba’al had been discovered.

“It is interesting to note that the name Ishbaʽal appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE. This name was not used later in the First Temple period,” the two said in an IAA statement.

Speaking at the IAA labs in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Garfinkel said that this latest inscription, found during excavations in 2012, was a discovery made “once in a lifetime, more or less.”

While there is no connection between the biblical figure and the one mentioned in the inscription, Dr. Haggai Misgav, one of the co-authors of the article, said that it showed that the name was popular during the early Israelite period. The use of a Canaanite script at Judean site such as Khirbet Qeiyafa reflected a cultural exchange between the two peoples.

The absence of pig bones and the discovery of proto-Israelite writing at the site suggests it was inhabited by Judeans before it was destroyed between 1006 and 970 BCE. Seven years of excavation at the site between 2007 and 2013 yielded evidence of extensive international trade, including alabaster and scarabs from Egypt, pottery from Cyprus, and basalt from the Golan Heights to the north.

It is riveting  to learn of our country’s fascinating past, and to see how the archeological record chimes in with the writings of the Bible.

And now, to conclude, let’s fly back to the 21st century, to this week to be precise, where I was proud to attend the graduation of our son Dovi at Ariel University in the Shomron. He received his BSc in computer science and maths in a very enjoyable ceremony. The speeches were short (honestly!), the atmosphere was jolly and family-like, the participants were from the entire spectrum of Israeli society: Jews and Arabs, Ethiopians and Russians, Americans and French, haredim, national-religious and secular, males and females, young and old – and with the students in their caps and gowns it really looked like a large Harry Potter convention. 🙂

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Dovi with his proud Mum

Mazal tov Dovi on receiving your degree, kol hakavod for all the hard work you put in and your persistence in continuing even when you felt like giving up. Mazal tov too to all the other thousands of graduates who completed their studies this year, whether from college, university or high school. May you all go on to greater and bigger things.

And with that blessing, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.

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4 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    Wow didI love this post! First congrats on your sons degree!May he go onto bigger&better things.As for the cancer study,just think how many lives that would save.I wish they would’ve discovered this a few years ago for a good friend, but PG they will also be able to use this on other cancers,who knows.You took the very words outta my mouth,regarding the weight algorithm!That’s been my dream ,for someone to discover that I HAVE to have chocolate in order to lose weight!,As for the archaeological find,well that’s great news,of course the Palestinians will claim that Ishbaal was Muhammad’s butler or something!
    Shabbat Shalom

    • anneinpt says:

      the Palestinians will claim that Ishbaal was Muhammad’s butler or something!

      LMAO! That was a very good line! 😀
      (and sadly, so true.)

  2. Pete says:

    Anne – GREAT!
    I always love the Biblical archeology!! The discovery of the fragment of pottery is terrific. But I don’t understand. If the name says Ishba’al, and the name appears in the Bible, then how do scientists conclude “it’s not the Biblical person”?. Surely, I would think that there is very real room to believe that it is the Biblical person!! After all, how many Ishba’al’s in that time period could afford a high-quality scribe to carve their names on pottery???? I have to tell you, researchers say the most profound things, and the most dumb things, all at the same time.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Pete, I had the very same thought about Ishba’al, but sadly I don’t have an answer.

      I agree with you about researchers and other experts sometimes coming up with the dumbest things.

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