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For Mideast plants, it’s dew or die

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

TEL AVIV (Press Release)― When the scientific and spiritual worlds collide, they do so in the most surprising ways. Classical meteorological and plant science has, in the last century, insisted that dew negatively affects plant life, leading to rot and fungus. But in the Judeo-Christian tradition, dew is most welcomed as an important source of vegetative and plant life, celebrated in poetry and prayer.

Now Prof. Pinhas Alpert of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences has developed an explanation for the perplexing paradox with his colleagues. According to scientific literature, he says, dew that accumulates through the night has a negative effect on vegetation and fruits because it creates a “spongy” effect. But in a recent issue of the Water Resources Journal, Prof. Alpert demonstrates that dew is an important water source for plant life in climates such as those in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Judeo-Christian tradition originated, and parts of the U.S. Great Basin Desert.

Read more…

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New software may help physicians repair your RNA’s

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

TEL AVIV (Press Release) – About ten years ago, the discovery of microRNAs ― tiny cellular molecules that regulate our genetic code ― unlocked a world of scientific possibilities, including a deeper understanding of human disease.

One new analytical technology is “deep sequencing,” which gives scientists the ability to discover invaluable information about human diseases at a genetic level. Now, Tel Aviv University researchers have developed the cutting-edge technology to better analyze these results.

The software, called miRNAkey, was developed by Roy Ronen as part of a team of researchers headed by Dr. Noam Shomron of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Shomron says that miRNAkey searches for microRNA patterns in both healthy and diseased tissues, improving scientists’ understanding of the data collected from deep sequencing technology.

The software package was recently described in the journal Bioinformatics

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Lakes on Saturn moon Titus filled with liquid hydrocarbons

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

TEL AVIV (Press Release)–Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, is the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere ― ten times denser than the atmosphere of Earth. Five years ago, the Cassini–Huygens mission to Saturn, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA, sent a probe through Titan’s atmosphere, revealing that Titan is home to a landscape that includes hills, valleys and most notably lakes.

A researcher involved with the mission, Prof. Akiva Bar-Nun of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, has now determined the composition of these lakes. Taking into account the chemical components of Titan’s atmosphere, he has demonstrated that the lakes are not composed of water but contain liquid hydrocarbons like ethane and methane, which are also found in oil and gas wells on Earth.

His in-depth analysis of the chemical composition of Titan’s atmosphere and lakes was recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets. Read more…

Tel Aviv professor and Ph.D. student try to stay a step ahead of the hackers

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

TEL AVIV (Press Release) — Used in a variety of products from credit cards to satellite televisions, secure chips are designed to keep encoded data safe. But hackers continue to develop methods to crack the chips’ security codes and access the information within.

Thinking like hackers, Prof. Avishai Wool and his Ph.D. student Yossi Oren of Tel Aviv University’s School of Electrical Engineering have developed an innovative way of extracting information from chip technology. By combining modern cryptology methods with constraint programming ― an area of computer science designed to solve a series of complex equations ― Prof. Wool and Oren were able to extract more information from secure chips. Their research, which could lead to important new advances in computer security, was recently presented at the 12th Workshop on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems (CHES) in Santa Barbara, CA.  Read more…

Apollo signet ring found by Israeli archaeologists

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

HAIFA (Press Release)–A rare bronze signet ring with the impression of the face of the Greek sun god, Apollo, has been discovered at Tel Dor, in northern Israel, by University of Haifa diggers.

“A piece of high-quality art such as this, doubtlessly created by a top-of-the-line artist, indicates that local elites developing a taste for fine art and the ability to afford it were also living in provincial towns, and not only in the capital cities of the Hellenistic kingdoms,” explains Dr. Ayelet Gilboa, Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who headed the excavations at Dor along with Dr. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

When the ring was recovered from a waste pit near Hellenistic structures, it was covered with layers of earth and corrosion, and the archaeologists had no indication whatsoever that it would reveal the shape of a legendary figure. Only after the ring was cleaned up at the Restoration and Conservation laboratory at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, was the profile of a beardless young male with long hair, clean-shaven and adorned with a laurel wreath, revealed. Read more…

American group grants $600,000 for Israeli cancer research

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

BEER-SHEVA, Israel (Press Release) – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Professor Varda Shoshan-Barmatz has been awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U.S. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to develop target-specific, anti-cancer drugs.

Professor Shoshan-Barmatz, the Hyman Kreitman Chair in Bioenergetics at BGU, has developed a peptide that targets and kills cancer cells while sparing normal cells. The drugs she will be developing target B-CLL (B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia), one of the most common and incurable hematological malignancies.

“Conventional chemotherapy is limited by its lack of specificity, multi-drug resistance of tumor cells, and toxicity to normal cells,” says  Shoshan-Barmatz. “The benefits to be gained by this new drug are enormous. These therapeutic peptides have a great potential as ant-cancer agents due to their target specificity and potential for reduced side-effects.” 

Prof. Varda Shoshan-Barmatz is also the Director of the BGU National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev. Only 10 per cent of The Leukemia & Lymphona Society grants have been awarded outside the U.S., and about one-third of the non-U.S. grants are awarded to Canada.

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Preceding provided by American Associates of Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Mechanical engineering, studying chipped teeth, may determine what mammalian ancestors ate

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

TEL AVIV (Press Release) ― Were our early mammalian ancestors vegetarians, vegans or omnivores? It’s difficult for anthropologists to determine the diet of early mammalians because current fossil analysis provides too little information. But a new method that measures the size of chips in tooth fossils can help determine the kinds of foods these early humans consumed.

Prof. Herzl Chai of Tel Aviv University’s School of Mechanical Engineering, in collaboration with scientists from George Washington University and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has developed an equation for determining how the size of a chip found in the enamel of a tooth relates to the bite force needed to produce the chip. With the aid of this information, researchers can better determine the type of food that animals, and early humans, could have consumed during their lifetimes.

Teeth are the only relevant fossils with staying power, Prof. Chai explains. Made of hard, mineralized material, teeth from animals that are thousands of years old remain relatively intact. Teeth that display a greater number of large chips indicate that animals like our early ancestors were consuming harder foods such as nuts, seeds or items with bones. A lesser amount of small chips  demonstrates that the animal’s diet more likely consisted of softer foods, such as vegetation. Dr. Chai’s findings were recently reported in the journal Biology Letters. Read more…