In the spirit of my previous post, what better way to finish the week than with another Good News Friday post.
Let’s start with some excellent news from Israel’s biomedical sector. Israeli researchers have engineered a new substance that can better measure glucose levels for diabetics:
People with diabetes must continually check their glucose to make sure their insulin levels do not jump too high or dip too low. Research from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev could make the process easier and more accurate.
The BGU team has engineered a new “super enzyme” that can detect the glucose level in the blood. This super enzyme improves on the standard method of checking glucose levels, where a protein is mixed with a drop of blood to cause a chemical reaction. The reaction oxidizes the glucose and turns it into a different molecule. The process then sends electrons to an electrode and the current is interpreted as glucose level.
Sound complicated? It is. And it’s prone to inaccurate readings: Other substances in the blood, including vitamins or painkillers, can raise the electrical current level and mislead glucose measurements.
The super enzyme, by contrast, detects glucose but is not sensitive to other substances, and returns much quicker responses. That lowers test-taking time and stands to improve patient compliance.
This is an excellent discovery, one which has the potential to help thousands, if not millions of diabetics throughout the world. Kol hakavod to all the researchers from Ben Gurion University.
An even more exciting discovery is a potential cure for the devastating ALS (or motor neurone or Lou Gehrig’s) disease. This Israeli development doesn’t just slow down the symptoms of ALS, but can actually reverse them:
Current treatments are able to slow ALS’ progression but fail to maintain or restore motor movement. Now, multiple clinical trials conducted by an Israeli firm, Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, show a first-ever reversal in expected decline for patients, likely to transform how we treat ALS.
“We showed a very strong improvement when we compare pre-treatment to post-treatment in the patients that were treated,” said Chaim Lebovits, CEO of Brainstorm, referring to the company’s advanced stem cell therapy treatment. “It means that it’s not even a slowdown of the disease, or a halt, but it’s a reversal of it. It’s unheard of in ALS, if we replicate this in a third trial.”
BrainStorm announced on Monday that its first patients had enrolled in a phase three clinical trial for its treatment of ALS at two American hospitals. The research will occur at Massachusetts General Hospital, UC Irvine Medical Center in California and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota — and it will include some 200 patients, half of whom will be given a placebo.
The company expects that if the stage three trial goes well, that the US Food and Drug Administration may give regulatory approval for mass use among doctors and patients. The trial will be measured by the ALSFR-S score responder analysis and final data is expected by 2019.
“This is unprecedented, I’m not aware of another treatment program where the potential to alter or improve ALS is as great. We’re very encouraged by the promising results seen so far, and the changes in biomarkers that measure the building blocks of the brain — they suggest that the delivery of these substances is having an effect… we’re confident that we’re on the right track,” said Ralph Kern, MD, Brainstorm’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Medical Officer.
For patients suffering from ALS, the disease affects the brain’s motor system, or what controls muscle movement and muscle contraction. Patients who are diagnosed with ALS have, on average, some 30 months to live, and famed British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking who suffers from the disease has been an outlier when it comes to longevity.
What an incredible development! Let us pray that the clinical trials are a success and that this treatment goes into effect very quickly. Kol hakavod to the whole team at Brainstorm. May they go on to even greater success.
Changing the subject now to #BDSFails, Austrian university students overwhelmingly condemned the BDS movement as antisemitic:
The Austrian National Union of Students on Friday condemned the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel as antisemitic, and urged for it to not be given funds or event space.
The resolution received near unanimous support, with no votes against it and one abstention.
The union also adopted a version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”
The Austrian Union of Jewish Students applauded the passage of the resolution, saying in a statement on Friday, “This has been a big step in the fight against antisemitism and we are very happy that after our lobbying effort almost all factions have supported the motion.”
The group extended a “special thanks” to the Greens and Alternative Students (GRAS) for “their continuing support in the fight against all antisemitism.
In its own statement, the GRAS group condemned “the antisemitic BDS campaign and its spread in higher education,” and committed to speaking out against antisemitism.
In August 2016, the student council at Gemany’s prestigious Leipzig University — one of the oldest universities in the world — passed a resolution denouncing the BDS movement, saying its objective “fits seamlessly with the antisemitic campaigns of past centuries, and explicitly with that of the National Socialism; Nazi slogan ‘Don’t Buy From the Jews’ is once again being expressed here.”
This is exceptionally good news as Austria is not exactly famed for its warm feelings towards Jews and/or Israel. Kol hakavod to the student unions that stood up for good versus evil, and voted with their consciences.
And on a similar them, here is Arab-Israeli activist Dema Taya, strongly denouncing accusations of apartheid in Israel, as she stoutly defends her country, calling it the best place to live:
Kol hakavod to Dema and to all her Arab colleagues who stand together defending Israel and promoting its democracy. As the number of such pro-Israel Arabs grows, Israeli society will be ever stronger, and maybe peace will indeed blossom.
And now before I go, I want to wish hearty mazal tov to my younger brother Mark and all his family on Yaniv’s barmitzvah this Shabbat. We are really looking forward to celebrating with you with all the family together. May you have lots of nachat from Yaniv and his siblings! מזל טוב ושתזכו לעוד הרבה שמחות עד 120.
I wish you all Chodesh tov and Shabbat Shalom.