Common Medications May Reduce Risk of Metastases after Colon and Rectal Cancer

Research

Dec 8th, 2022
Common Medications May Reduce Risk of Metastases after Colon and Rectal Cancer

Existing drugs to prevent anxiety, stress reactions and inflammation reduced the risk of the spread of cancer metastases after surgery to remove a colon tumor by tens of percent

  • Social Sciences
  • Life Sciences
  • Medicine

Although surgery to remove primary tumors is the mainstay of all cancer treatments, the risk of metastases after tumor removal is estimated at 35% among colon cancer patients, with higher risk in patients with more advance stages of the disease. However, a short, simple, and safe drug treatment developed at Tel Aviv University reduced the risk of the spread of cancer metastases after surgery to remove the primary tumor - according to the first clinical study of its kind conducted among 34 colon cancer patients operated on at Sheba Tel Hashomer Medical Center.

 

The research was led by Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and School of Psychological Sciences at the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences and Prof. Oded Zamora of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and its results were published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology. At the same time, an overview of the theory and principles underlying the research was published in Nature Review Cancer.

 

"The stress during the waiting period for surgery, the stress and inflammation reactions that the body produces during the surgery itself and the physical recovery period, and finally the following anxiety of cancer recurring - all have an adverse effect on the body's ability to fight metastatic processes," explains Prof. Ben-Eliyahu. "These mental and physiological conditions create stress-inflammatory responses, which cause ample release of hormones from the prostaglandin and catecholamine families. These hormones suppress anti-metastatic immune activity, and thus encourage the development of metastases."

 

"In addition, these hormones directly help the cancer cells that remain in the body even after surgery: due to exposure to these hormones, the cancerous tissue becomes more aggressive and metastatic. The good news is that we know how to treat both stress and inflammation using off-the-shelf medications."

 

 

"This is a short, cheap drug treatment with no significant side effects. We deliberately sought the safest and cheapest drugs capable of lowering the body's stress-inflammatory response to surgery, in order to save lives." Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu

 

 

Significant and Encouraging Results

The researchers from Tel Aviv University gave 34 colon cancer patients two safe drugs that are available in every pharmacy: propranolol (Darlin), used to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, and etodolac (Etopan), used to prevent pain and inflammation.

 

Sixteen randomly chosen patients took the medication for 20 days - from five days before to two weeks after surgery at the Sheba Medical Center. The other 18 patients received placebo drugs (control group). Five years later, nine of the 18 patients who received the placebo (50%) developed cancer metastases, compared to two of the 16 patients who took Darlin and Etofen (12.5%).

 

"Although at five years after the operation, the statistical significance is clear, we need to conduct larger clinical studies," says Prof. Ben-Eliyahu. "Our treatment reduced markers of metastasis in the tumor tissue and reduced the chances of cancer recurrence. This is a short, cheap drug treatment with no significant side effects. We deliberately sought the safest and cheapest drugs capable of lowering the body's stress-inflammatory response to surgery, in order to save lives."

 

"It sounds too good to be true, but similar results in breast cancer tissue were obtained in a study we conducted in 2017. Due to the small number of subjects in both studies, it is impossible to accurately estimate the magnitude of the beneficial effect, but the effects are statistically significant, meaning that they are not accidental."

 

 

"We seek to save lives without financial gain, and we have received financial support from several Israeli and international sources, but these are insufficient for large clinical studies." Prof. Shamgar  Ben-Eliyahu

 

 

Saving Lives Without Financial Gain

According to Prof. Ben-Eliyahu, part of the medical establishment distrusts the effects of stress-inflammatory reactions, particularly those resulting from psychological factors such as waiting for surgery or fear of the disease spreading. Another problem concerns the financing of clinical studies.

 

"One should bear in mind that the pharmaceutical companies have no financial incentive to support such studies. Our medicines are not patented; they are safe, cheap, and administered in a short treatment lasting just a few days. The drug companies look for patents on expensive drugs and prefer that the patient be dependent on the drug for the rest of their life."

 

"Unfortunately, the major science foundations in Israel do not fund clinical research on drugs, assuming that the drug companies will fund them. We seek to save lives without financial gain, and we have received financial support from several Israeli and international sources, but these are insufficient for large clinical studies. I hope that funding will be found for a large-scale clinical study that we have now embarked on, with the intention of recruiting hundreds of colon and rectal cancer patients in Israel, because without such research - we will not be able to convince the medical establishment of the treatment's effectiveness."

Elongation of the body of the female locust while laying eggs in the ground

Research

Dec 7th, 2022
The Superpowers of the Female Locust

She can stretch up to 2-3 times her original length when laying eggs in the ground, without causing irreparable damage

  • Life Sciences
  • Medicine
  • Engineering

Every mother will do anything to know that her offspring are in a safe place. The female locust, however, takes it to a whole new level: A new Tel Aviv University study has discovered that these females have superpowers. The female locust’s central nervous system has elastic properties, allowing her to stretch up to two or three times her original length when laying her eggs in the ground, without causing any irreparable damage.

 

“We are not aware of a similar ability in almost any living creature,” say the researchers. “Nerves in the human nervous system, for example, can stretch only up to 30% without tearing or being permanently damaged. In the future, these findings may contribute to new developments in the field of regenerative medicine, as a basis for nerve restoration and the development of synthetic tissues.”

 

 

“The superpower of the locust is almost something out of science fiction. There are only two other known examples in nature of a similar phenomenon: the tongue of the sperm whale, and a certain type of sea snail whose nervous systems are able to extend significantly due to an accordion-like mechanism they have." Prof. Amir Ayali

 

 

WATCH: TAU Researchers Describe their Surprising Discovery - The Female Locust has Superhero-like Abilities

 

 

Showing Flexibility

The study was conducted by a team of Tel Aviv University researchers led by Dr. Bat-El Pinchasik of the School of Mechanical Engineering in The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering and Prof. Amir Ayali of the School of Zoology in the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. Also participating in the study were Dr. Rakesh Das from the School of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Moshe Guershon from the School of Zoology, and Prof. Eran Perlson and Amjd Ibraheem from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Sackler Faculty of Medicine. The research was published in iScience.

 

“When the female locust is ready to lay her eggs, she digs a hole in the ground that will offer them protection and optimal conditions for hatching," explains Dr. Pinchasik. "For this purpose, she is equipped with a unique digging apparatus, consisting of two pairs of digging valves located at the tip of the abdomen, on either side of the ovipositor (a tube-like organ used for laying eggs)."

 

"As she digs, she extends her body, until sensors located along its length signal that she has reached a suitable point for depositing her eggs. Thus, an adult female, whose body length is about four to five centimeters, may, for the purpose of laying her eggs, stretch her body to a length of 10-15 centimeters, then quickly return to her normal length, and then extend again for the next egg-laying.”

 

“The superpower of the locust is almost something out of science fiction," muses Prof. Ayali. "There are only two other known examples in nature of a similar phenomenon: the tongue of the sperm whale, and a certain type of sea snail whose nervous systems are able to extend significantly due to an accordion-like mechanism they have. We sought to identify the biomechanical mechanism that gives the female locust its wonderful ability.”

 

From left to right: Prof. Amir Ayali, Dr. Rakesh Das and Dr. Bat-El Pinchasik

 

 

"Contrary to previous hypotheses and examples we are familiar with, we did not find any accordion-like mechanism. We discovered that the nervous system of the female locust has elastic properties, which enable it to elongate and then return by itself to its original state, ready for reuse, without any damage caused to the tissue. This finding is almost incomprehensible from a biomechanical and morphological point of view." Dr. Bat-El Pinchasik

 

 

Key to Rehabilitation Treatments and Regenerative Medicine?

In the study, the researchers removed the central nervous systems from female locusts and placed them in a liquid simulating their natural environment, under physiological conditions similar to those inside the body. Using highly sensitive measuring instruments, they measured the forces needed to extend the nervous system.

 

Dr. Pinchasik: “Contrary to previous hypotheses and examples we are familiar with, we did not find any accordion-like mechanism. We discovered that the nervous system of the female locust has elastic properties, which enable it to elongate and then return by itself to its original state, ready for reuse, without any damage caused to the tissue. This finding is almost incomprehensible from a biomechanical and morphological point of view.”

 

Prof. Ayali adds that, "in further studies, we will investigate the matter in depth, with the aim of identifying the specific mechanism that enables this unique feature. We hope that in the future our findings will help to develop synthetic tissues with a high level of flexibility, and to restore nerves in regenerative medicine therapies.”

Earliest galaxies in the Universe (photo: NASA - James Webb Space Telescope)

Research

Dec 4th, 2022
Researchers Characterize Earliest Galaxies in the Universe

First-of-its-kind study sheds light on epoch of the first stars, 200M years after the Big Bang

  • Exact Sciences

An international team of astrophysicists, including Prof. Rennan Barkana from Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy at Raymond & Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences, has managed for the first time to statistically characterize the first galaxies in the Universe, which formed only 200 million years after the Big Bang.

 

According to the groundbreaking results, the earliest galaxies were relatively small and dim. They were fainter than present-day galaxies, and likely processed only 5% or less of their gas into stars. Moreover, the intensity of the radio waves emitted by the earliest galaxies wasn't much higher than that of modern galaxies.

 

 

“We are trying to understand the epoch of the first stars in the Universe, known as the 'cosmic dawn', about 200 million years after the Big Bang." Prof. Rennan Barkana

 

 

Researching the "Cosmic Dawn"

This new study, carried out together with the SARAS observation team, was led by the research group of Dr. Anastasia Fialkov from the University of Cambridge, England, a former PhD student of TAU's Prof. Barkana. The results of this innovative study were published in the prestigious journal Nature Astronomy.

 

“This is a very new field and a first-of-its-kind study”, explains Prof. Barkana. “We are trying to understand the epoch of the first stars in the Universe, known as the 'cosmic dawn', about 200 million years after the Big Bang."

 

"The James Webb Space Telescope, for example, can’t really see these stars. It might only detect a few particularly bright galaxies from a somewhat later period. Our goal is to probe the entire population of the first stars.” 

 

 

"Since stellar radiation affects the light emitted by hydrogen atoms, we use hydrogen as a detector in our search for the first stars: if we can detect the effect of stars on hydrogen, we will know when they were born, and in what types of galaxies." Prof. Rennan Barkana

 

 

Prof. Rennan Barkana from TAU's Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy

 

Searching for the First Stars

According to the standard picture, before stars began to fuse heavier elements inside their cores, our Universe was nothing but a cloud of hydrogen atoms from the Big Bang (other than some helium and a lot of dark matter).

 

Today, the Universe is also filled with hydrogen, but in the modern Universe it is mostly ionized due to radiation from stars.

 

“Hydrogen atoms naturally emit light at a wavelength of 21cm, which falls within the spectrum of radio waves”, explains Prof. Barkana. “Since stellar radiation affects the light emitted by hydrogen atoms, we use hydrogen as a detector in our search for the first stars: if we can detect the effect of stars on hydrogen, we will know when they were born, and in what types of galaxies. I was among the first theorists to develop this concept 20 years ago, and now observers are able to implement it in actual experiments. Teams of experimentalists all over the world are currently attempting to discover the 21cm signal from hydrogen in the early Universe.”

 

One of these teams is EDGES, which uses a small radio antenna that measures the average intensity on the entire sky of radio waves arriving from different periods of the cosmic dawn. In 2018, the EDGES team announced that it had found the 21cm signal from ancient hydrogen.

 

“There was a problem with their findings, however," says Prof. Barkana. "We could not be sure that the measured signal did indeed come from hydrogen in the early Universe. It could have been a fake signal produced by the electrical conductivity of the ground below the antenna. Therefore, we all waited for an independent measurement that would either confirm or refute these results."

 

 

"Every year the experiments become more reliable and precise, and consequently we expect to find stronger upper limits, giving us even better constraints on the cosmic dawn." Prof. Rennan Barkana

 

 

Setting Limits

"Last year, astronomers in India carried out an experiment called SARAS, in which the antenna was made to float on a lake, a uniform surface of water that could not mimic the desired signal. According to the results of the new experiment, there was a 95% probability that EDGES did not, in fact, detect a real signal from the early Universe."

 

"SARAS found an upper limit for the genuine signal, implying that the signal from early hydrogen is likely significantly weaker than the one measured by EDGES. We modeled the SARAS result and worked out the implications for the first galaxies, i.e., what their properties were, given the upper limit determined by SARAS.  Now we can say for the first time that galaxies of certain types could not have existed at that early time.”

 

Prof. Barkana concludes: “Modern galaxies, such as our own Milky Way, emit large amounts of radio waves. In our study we placed an upper limit on the star formation rate in ancient galaxies and on their overall radio emission. And this is only the beginning. Every year the experiments become more reliable and precise, and consequently we expect to find stronger upper limits, giving us even better constraints on the cosmic dawn. We hope that in the near future we will have not only limits, but a precise, reliable measurement of the signal itself.”

Are Today's Gynecologists Ignoring Women's Health Issues?

Research

Nov 30th, 2022
Are Today's Gynecologists Ignoring Women's Health Issues?

Women's health and wellbeing receive little attention compared to childbirth and reproduction, both in research and in clinic

  • Social Sciences
  • Medicine
  • Management

A new preliminary study from Tel Aviv University reveals that due to masculine dominance of the gynecological science field, most gynecological research focuses on childbirth and reproduction rather than women's health and wellbeing. Mapping scientific journals in the category of gynecology and obstetrics, the study found that the majority deal with fertility, pregnancy, fetuses, and childbirth, while many topics that are much more critical to women's quality of life receive little attention, both in scientific research and in the clinic.

 

The study was conducted by Dr. Netta Avnoon of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University. The preliminary results were published in the prestigious journal Nature Reviews Urology

 

 

"Men have dominated gynecology for almost a thousand years, and their gender identity impacts everything that happens in this specialty, including research design and medical practices." Dr Netta Avnoon

 

 

Male Dominated Discipline

According to the preliminary study important issues that have been marginalized for centuries include diseases and damage to the muscles and nerves of the female pelvis and sexual organs, female sexual pleasure, rights and autonomy in childbirth, the connection between the menstrual cycle and the immune system, menopause, and the later years of life, and more.

 

"Men have dominated gynecology for almost a thousand years, and their gender identity impacts everything that happens in this specialty, including research design and medical practices," says Dr. Avnoon. "Even if they are unaware of their own bias and have the best intentions, men traditionally regard the female body as an object for producing babies or satisfying men's sexual desires. The time has come for women to dominate the discipline that is meant to care for their health."

 

Dr. Avnoon explains that no social activity is neutral, objective or contextless, and science and medicine are no exception. Inevitably, social positions and dispositions impact the attitudes of those who create science.

 

Extensive historical and feminist scholarship has shown that gynecology as a medical specialty was masculinized 800 years ago, and still adheres to patriarchal values. In ancient times women were usually treated by women-experts, who even wrote books on the subject, but during the Middle Ages, these women and their knowledge were gradually ousted and replaced by men.

 

Since the 16th century the specialty has been wholly dominated by males, and consequently they were the ones to determine which topics are 'interesting' and worth studying; they were the ones who set practices and protocols and introduced treatments, technologies, and techniques, all too often subjecting patients to medical practices that are not necessarily benevolent.

 

Dr. Netta Avnoon

 

Exposing Current Focus

To expose the actual focus of gynecological research today, in line with previous feminist studies, Dr. Avnoon chose a tell-tale indicator: the titles of international scientific journals in the 'gynecology and obstetrics' category.

 

She analyzed the list appearing in the Journal Citation Reports, a database that provides general and statistical information about scientific journals worldwide, and the results were clear-cut: of the 83 journals listed by title in the category, 49% are dedicated solely to reproductive functions, pregnancy, fetuses, and childbirth; 24% focus on both gynecology and obstetrics; only 12% deal with health issues in the female sexual organs that are unrelated to reproductive functions; 6% deal with breasts; 5% deal with gynecological cancers; and a mere 4% (3 journals) address the health of women before and after childbearing age, including menopause.

 

Dr. Avnoon notes a recent instance of gynecology's gender bias: the transvaginal mesh scandal. In 2019 the FDA banned the use of the transvaginal mesh - a common gynecological procedure used since the 1950s to repair pelvis organ prolapse in the anterior vaginal compartment, which had caused extensive morbidity and even 77 documented deaths in the USA.

 

Patients' activism moved the regulator to intervene, exposing the decades-long failure of gynecological science to clinically assess the outcomes of this surgical procedure, and revealing the bias in how researchers presented these results in scientific publications.

 

 

"Care for the fetus, essential in its own right, must not come at the expense of the mother's health." Dr. Netta Avnoon

 

 

It's Time: Women-Centered Gynecology

What solution does Dr. Avnoon have in mind? She proposes the following: "Obstetrics, focusing on fertility, reproduction, pregnancy, the fetus and childbirth, should be separated from gynecology, a specialty dedicated to women's health."

 

"Care for the fetus, essential in its own right, must not come at the expense of the mother's health."

 

"Also, gynecology training must include a major chapter of gender and feminist studies, and existing medical protocols should be amended to focus on the needs of the women - rather than those of their babies, their spouses, or their doctors. Moreover, legislation and legal procedures are in order, especially in courts of human rights, to protect women's right to health and optimal medical care."

 

"The time has come for women-centered gynecology," says Dr. Avnoon. "Women's voices must be heard."

 

"To date, medical schools offer their students very scant and unsatisfactory knowledge about female anatomy and physiology, specifically in terms of women’s sexuality. Even though the overall numbers of female gynecologists are on the rise (in the US there are by now more women than men in this profession), their education is still based on age-old masculine and chauvinistic traditions."

 

"In order to generate real change, doctors must be trained to regard women's rights, health, and sexuality as the focus of women's medicine, and to treat their patients with respect. Greater emphasis should be given to patient experience and autonomy in medical settings, and to much-needed innovation in research, instruments, technologies, protocols, surgical procedures, and medications."

The World's Oldest Grilled Fish Recipe

Research

Nov 22nd, 2022
The World's Oldest Grilled Fish Recipe

International team, including leading Israeli universities, finds oldest evidence of the controlled use of fire to cook food

  • Environment

The question of how early humans began using fire to cook food has been the subject of much scientific discussion for over a century. Cooking is defined as the ability to process food by controlling the temperature at which it is heated and includes a wide range of methods. Until now, the earliest evidence of cooking dates to approximately 170,000 years ago.

 

Recent findings shed new light on the matter: A remarkable scientific discovery has been made by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU), Tel Aviv University (TAU), and Bar-Ilan University (BIU), in collaboration with the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Oranim Academic College, the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR) institution, the Natural History Museum in London, and the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, namely: the remains of a carp-like fish found at the Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (GBY) archaeological site in Israel, which were analyzed closely and were found to have been cooked roughly 780,000 years ago.

 

 

"These new findings demonstrate not only the importance of freshwater habitats and the fish they contained for the sustenance of prehistoric man, but also illustrate prehistoric humans’ ability to control fire in order to cook food, and their understanding the benefits of cooking fish before eating it." Dr. Irit Zohar and Dr. Marion Prevost 

 

 

Plenty of Fish and a Culinary Revolution

The study was led by a team of researchers:  Dr. Irit Zohar, a researcher at TAU’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History and curator of the Beit Margolin Biological Collections at Oranim Academic College, and Hebrew University Professor Naama Goren-Inbar, director of the excavation site. The research team also included Dr. Marion Prevost at HU’s Institute of Archaeology; Prof. Nira Alperson-Afil at BIU’s Department for Israel Studies and Archaeology; Dr. Jens Najorka of the Natural History Museum in London; Dr. Guy Sisma-Ventura of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute; Prof. Thomas Tütken of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and Prof. Israel Hershkovitz at TAU’s Faculty of Medicine.

 

The findings were published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

 

In the study, the researchers focused on pharyngeal teeth (used to grind up hard food such as shells) belonging to fish from the carp family. These teeth were found in large quantities at different archaeological strata at the site. By studying the structure of the crystals that form the teeth enamel (whose size increases through exposure to heat), the researchers were able to prove that the fish caught at the ancient Hula Lake, adjacent to the site, were exposed to temperatures suitable for cooking, and were not simply burned by a spontaneous fire.

 

Until now, evidence of the use of fire for cooking had been limited to sites that came into use much later than the GBY site--by some 600,000 years, and ones most are associated with the emergence of our own species, homo sapiens.

 

An example of a skull of modern carp from the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History

 

“This study demonstrates the huge importance of fish in the life of prehistoric humans, for their diet and economic stability," explains Dr. Irit Zohar and Dr. Marion Prevost. "Furthermore, by studying the fish remains found at Gesher Benot Ya’aqob in Israel we were able to reconstruct, for the first time, the fish population of the ancient Hula Lake and to show that the lake held fish species that became extinct over time. These species included giant barbs (carp like fish) that reached up to 2 meters in length. The large quantity of fish remains found at the site proves their frequent consumption by early humans, who developed special cooking techniques. These new findings demonstrate not only the importance of freshwater habitats and the fish they contained for the sustenance of prehistoric man, but also illustrate prehistoric humans’ ability to control fire in order to cook food, and their understanding the benefits of cooking fish before eating it.”

 

“The fact that the cooking of fish is evident over such a long and unbroken period of settlement at the site indicates a continuous tradition of cooking food," adds Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar. "This is another in a series of discoveries relating to the high cognitive capabilities of the Acheulian hunter-gatherers who were active in Israel's ancient Hula Valley region. These groups were deeply familiar with their environment and the various resources it offered them."

 

"Further, it shows they had extensive knowledge of the life cycles of different plant and animal species," adds Prof. Goren-Inbar. "Gaining the skill required to cook food marks a significant evolutionary advance, as it provided an additional means for making optimal use of available food resources. It is even possible that cooking was not limited to fish, but also included various types of animals and plants.”

 

Evolutionary Leap

Prof. Hershkovitz and Dr. Zohar note that the transition from eating raw food to eating cooked food had dramatic implications for human development and behavior.

 

Eating cooked food reduces the bodily energy required to break down and digest food, allowing other physical systems to develop.  It also leads to changes in the structure of the human jaw and skull. This change freed humans from the daily, intensive work of searching for and digesting raw food, providing them free time in which to develop new social and behavioral systems. Some scientists view eating fish as a milestone in the quantum leap in human cognitive evolution, providing a central catalyst for the development of the human brain. They claim that eating fish is what made us human.

 

Even today, it is widely known that the contents of fish flesh, such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iodine and more, contribute greatly to brain development.

 

 

“These groups made use of the rich array of resources provided by the ancient Hula Valley and left behind a long settlement continuum with over 20 settlement strata.” Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar

 

 

Settled Down Where There Was Food

The research team believe that the location of freshwater areas, some of them in areas that have long since dried up and become arid deserts, determined the route of the migration of early man from Africa to the Levant and beyond. Not only did these habitats provide drinking water and attracted animals to the area but catching fish in shallow water is a relatively simple and safe task with a very high nutritional reward.

 

The team posits that exploiting fish in freshwater habitats was the first step on prehistoric humans’ route out of Africa. Early man began to eat fish around 2 million years ago but cooking fish—as found in this study—represented a real revolution in the Acheulian diet and is an important foundation for understanding the relationship between man, the environment, climate, and migration when attempting to reconstruct the history of early humans.

 

HU’s Goren-Inbar added that the archaeological site of GBY documents a continuum of repeated settlement by groups of hunter-gatherers on the shores of the ancient Hula Lake which lasting tens of thousands of years. “These groups made use of the rich array of resources provided by the ancient Hula Valley and left behind a long settlement continuum with over 20 settlement strata,” Goren-Inbar explained. The excavations at the site have uncovered the material culture of these ancient hominins, including flint, basalt, and limestone tools, as well as their food sources, which were characterized by a rich diversity of plant species from the lake and its shores (including fruit, nuts, and seeds) and by many species of land mammals, both medium-sized and large.

 

Location of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY) archeological site on Home erectus route out of Africa

 

 

 

“This study of isotopes is a real breakthrough, as it allowed us to reconstruct the hydrological conditions in this ancient lake throughout the seasons, and thus to determine that the fish were not a seasonal economic resource but were caught and eaten all year round. Thus, fish provided a constant source of nutrition that reduced the need for seasonal migration.” Dr. Guy Sisma-Ventura

 

 

Playing With Fire

It should be noted that evidence of the use of fire at the site—the oldest such evidence in Eurasia—was identified first by BIU’s Prof. Nira Alperson-Afil. “The use of fire is a behavior that characterizes the entire continuum of settlement at the site,” she explained. “This affected the spatial organization of the site and the activity conducted there, which revolved around fireplaces.” Alperson-Afil’s research of fire at the site was revolutionary for its time and showed that the use of fire began hundreds of thousands of years before previously thought.

 

“In this study, we used geochemical methods to identify changes in the size of the tooth enamel crystals, as a result of exposure to different cooking temperatures," explained Dr. Jens Najorka of the Natural History Museum in London. "When they are burnt by fire, it is easy to identify the dramatic change in the size of the enamel crystals, but it is more difficult to identify the changes caused by cooking at temperatures between 200 and 500 degrees Celsius. The experiments I conducted with Dr. Zohar allowed us to identify the changes caused by cooking at low temperatures. We do not know exactly how the fish were cooked but given the lack of evidence of exposure to high temperatures, they were not cooked directly in fire and were not thrown into a fire as waste or as material for burning.”

 

Dr. Guy Sisma-Ventura of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute and Prof. Thomas Tütken of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz were also part of the research group, providing analysis of the isotope composition of oxygen and carbon in the enamel of the fishes’ teeth: “This study of isotopes is a real breakthrough, as it allowed us to reconstruct the hydrological conditions in this ancient lake throughout the seasons, and thus to determine that the fish were not a seasonal economic resource but were caught and eaten all year round. Thus, fish provided a constant source of nutrition that reduced the need for seasonal migration.”

 

The Israeli research team (from left to right): Dr. Irit Zohar, Dr. Marion Prévost, Prof. Naama Goren, Dr. Guy Sisma-Ventura, Prof. Nira Alperson-Afil, Prof. Israel Hershkovitz

Removal of Cancerous Tumors Without Surgery

Research

Nov 22nd, 2022
Removal of Cancerous Tumors Without Surgery

New technology from Tel Aviv University, combining ultrasound and nanobubbles, destroys tumors, eliminating need for invasive treatments

  • Medicine
  • Engineering

A new technology developed at Tel Aviv University makes it possible to destroy cancerous tumors in a targeted manner, via a combination of ultrasound and the injection of nanobubbles into the bloodstream. Unlike invasive treatment methods or the injection of microbubbles into the tumor itself, this latest technology enables the destruction of the tumor in a non-invasive manner.

 

The study was conducted under the leadership of doctoral student Mike Bismuth from the lab of Dr. Tali Ilovitsh at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, in collaboration with Dr. Dov Hershkovitz of the Department of Pathology. Prof. Agata Exner from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland also participated in the study. The study was published in the journal Nanoscale.

 

 

“Our new technology makes it possible, in a relatively simple way, to inject nanobubbles into the bloodstream, which then congregate around ​​the cancerous tumor. After that, using a low-frequency ultrasound, we explode the nanobubbles, and thereby the tumor.”  Dr. Tali Ilovitsh

 

 

Bursting Bubbles – and Tumors

Dr. Tali Ilovitsh: “Our new technology makes it possible, in a relatively simple way, to inject nanobubbles into the bloodstream, which then congregate around ​​the cancerous tumor. After that, using a low-frequency ultrasound, we explode the nanobubbles, and thereby the tumor.”

 

The researchers explain that today, the prevalent method of cancer treatment is surgical removal of the tumor, in combination with complementary treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

 

The research team

 

Therapeutic ultrasound to destroy the cancerous tumor is a non-invasive alternative to surgery. This method has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it allows for localized and focused treatment; the use of high-intensity ultrasound can produce thermal or mechanical effects by delivering powerful acoustic energy to a focal point with high spatial-temporal precision. This method has been used to effectively treat solid tumors deep within in the body. Moreover, it makes it possible to treat patients who are unfit for tumor resection surgery. The disadvantage, however, is that the heat and high intensity of the ultrasound waves may damage the tissues near the tumor.

 

 

“The combination of nanobubbles and low frequency ultrasound waves provides a more specific targeting of the area of the tumor and reduces off-target toxicity." Dr. Tali Ilovitsh

 

 

Reducing Off-target Damage

In the current study, Dr. Ilovitsh and her team sought to overcome this problem. In the experiment, which used an animal model, the researchers were able to destroy the tumor by injecting nanobubbles into the bloodstream (as opposed to what has been until now, which is the local injection of microbubbles into the tumor itself), in combination with low-frequency ultrasound waves, with minimal off-target effects.

 

“The combination of nanobubbles and low frequency ultrasound waves provides a more specific targeting of the area of the tumor, and reduces off-target toxicity," explains Dr. Ilovitsh.

 

"Applying the low frequency to the nanobubbles causes their extreme swelling and explosion, even at low pressures. This makes it possible to perform the mechanical destruction of the tumors at low-pressure thresholds."

 

"Our method has the advantages of ultrasound, in that it is safe, cost-effective, and clinically available, and in addition, the use of nanobubbles facilitates the targeting of tumors because they can be observed with the help of ultrasound imaging.”

 

Dr. Ilovitsh adds that the use of low-frequency ultrasound also increases the depth of penetration, minimizes distortion and attenuation, and enlarges the focal point. “This can help in the treatment of tumors that are located deep with the body, and in addition facilitate the treatment of larger tumor volumes. The experiment was conducted in a breast cancer tumor lab model, but it is likely that the treatment will also be effective with other types of tumors, and in the future, also in humans.”

The Thinnest Possible Ladder

Research

Nov 21st, 2022
The Thinnest Possible Ladder

Tel Aviv researchers reveal two-dimensional crystals exhibiting unique control of distinct electric potential steps

  • Exact Sciences

Tel Aviv University research reveals two-dimensional crystals exhibiting a unique control of distinct electric potential steps by sliding atomically thin layers against each other. The consecutive, ultimately thin, electrical switches reported are a highly desired resource for information technology and novel electro- and optomechanical applications.

 

The research, now published in Nature journal, was conducted by Dr. Swarup Deb, M.Sc. student Noam Raab, Prof. Moshe Goldstein, and Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom, all from the Raymond & Beverly Sackler School of Physics & Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, and Dr. Wei Cao, Prof. Michael Urbakh and Prof. Oded Hod from the Chemistry School at TAU, and Prof. Leeor Kronik from the Weizmann Institute.

 

 

"We are fascinated by how the atoms in a condensed matter order, how electrons mix with the atoms, and whether external stimulus can manipulate the atomic order and the electric charge distribution." Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom

 

 

Turning to Crystals

"We are fascinated by how the atoms in a condensed matter order, how electrons mix with the atoms, and whether external stimulus can manipulate the atomic order and the electric charge distribution," says Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom, head of the Quantum Layered Matter Group.

 

"Answering these questions is challenging due to the enormous number of atoms and electrons, even in the tiniest devices of our most advanced technologies. One of the tricks is to study crystals, which contain much smaller units, each including only a few atoms and electrons."

 

"While crystals are made of many identical units, repeated periodically in space, their properties are entirely deduced from the one unit-cell symmetry and the details of the few atoms it captures. And still, it is challenging to understand and predict these details since the electrons spread over all the atoms simultaneously as determined by their joint quantum mechanical interactions."

 

One way to probe the atomic order and the electronic charge distribution is to break the symmetry of the cells to induce internal electric fields. Crystals with permanent internal electric fields are called "polar crystals". In 2020 the same lab at TAU reported a novel polar crystal by stacking together two layers of a van der Waals crystal, with each layer only one atom thick.

 

"The natural order in which these crystals grow is symmetric, with each successive layer rotated by 180 degrees compared to the previous one. Here, one type of atoms is positioned precisely above the other type. Conversely, the artificial crystals assembled in the lab are not rotated, resulting in a slight shift between the layers, thus straying away from the fully symmetric configurations. This non-symmetric crystal structure forces electrons to jump from one layer to another, forming a permanent electric field between them," recaps Dr. Ben Shalom.

 

Ladder ferroelectrics

 

 

"We are now developing such tunneling devices in a stealth phase company called Slide-Tro LTD, established with the University and an external investor. We believe that a wide slew of devices from low power electronics to robust non-volatile memories are feasible with this technology." Dr. Moshe Ben Shalom

 

 

"The Thinnest Possible"

"Crucially, the group found that applying external electric fields makes the layers slide back and forth to match the direction of the electron's jump with the external field orientation. They named the phenomena 'interfacial ferroelectricity' and pointed out the unique domain-wall motion that governs the 'Slide-Tronics' response," explains Ben Shalom.

 

"The ferroelectric response we discovered is in a two-atoms thick system, the thinnest possible. It is therefore highly appealing for information technologies which are based on electronic quantum tunneling," says Ben Shalom.  

 

"We are now developing such tunneling devices in a stealth phase company called Slide-Tro LTD, established with the University and an external investor. We believe that a wide slew of devices from low power electronics to robust non-volatile memories are feasible with this technology."

 

Climbing the Crystalline Ladder

"From a fundamental science perspective, the discovery pointed us to new questions: How does the electric charge order? And how does the electric potential grow if we stack additional layers to further break or restore the symmetry of the crystals? In other words, instead of thinning down crystals as was vastly explored to date, we could now assemble new polar crystals, layer by layer, and probe the electric potential at any step of the crystalline ladder."

 

In the experiment, the researchers compared adjacent few layers thick domains with different back / forward shifts between the various layers, resulting in different polarization orientations. For example, in four layers (with three polar interfaces), there are four allowed configurations: all pointing up ↑↑↑, one down and two up ↑↑↓, two down and one up ↑↓↓, and all down ↓↓↓.

 

"We were excited to find a ladder of distinct electric potentials which are separated by nearly even steps, such that each step can be used as an independent information unit," says Noam Rab, a student conducting the measurements.

 

"This is very different from any polar thin film known to date, where the polarization magnitude is very sensitive to many surface effects and where the polar orientation switches at once between two potentials only”.

 

"Sliding and Climbing a Ladder-Ferroelectric": The periodic crystal is made of two different atoms, repeating with constant separations in each horizontal layer. Sliding the layers to the right or left positions, to position the red atom above the blue (or vice versa), makes electrons jump up (or down) between the layers. Unlike common polar crystals, the interfacial ferroelectric system exhibits distinct, evenly spaced electric potential steps which can serve as individual information units.

 

 

"The most likely directions of future research that we envision is manipulating more electronic orders like magnetism and superconductivity by sliding different crystal symmetries to form novel Ladder-Multiferroics." Dr. Wei Cao

 

 

According to Dr. Swarup Deb, a leading author of the paper, the researchers found that, "the internal electric fields remain substantial even if we add external electrons to the system to make it both conductive and polar. Typically, the external charge screens off the internal polarization, but in the present interfacial ferroelectrics, the extra electrons could only flow along the layers without jumping between them too much, to mute down the out-of-plane electric field”.

 

Dr. Wei Cao, one of the other leading authors adds: “With the help of theoretical calculations based on quantum mechanical principles, we identified the precise distribution of the polar charge and the conducting charge. The former is highly confined to the interfaces between the layers and hence protected from external perturbations."

 

"The calculations allowed us to predict which crystals are most resilient to the extra charge and how to design even better Ladder-Ferroelectrics. The most likely directions of future research that we envision is manipulating more electronic orders like magnetism and superconductivity by sliding different crystal symmetries to form novel Ladder-Multiferroics."

Aerobic Activity can Reduce Risk of Metastatic Cancer by 72%

Research

Nov 14th, 2022
Aerobic Activity can Reduce Risk of Metastatic Cancer by 72%

Tel Aviv University researchers find that exercise defeats cancer by increasing glucose consumption

  • Medicine

A new study at Tel Aviv University found that aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer by 72%. According to the researchers, intensity aerobic exercise increases the glucose (sugar) consumption of internal organs, thereby reducing the availability of energy to the tumor.  

 

The study was led by two researchers from TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine: Prof. Carmit Levy from the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry and Dr. Yftach Gepner from the School of Public Health and the Sylvan Adams Sports Institute. The paper was published in the prestigious journal Cancer Research and chosen for the cover of the November 2022 issue

 

 

"If the general message to the public so far has been 'be active, be healthy', now we can explain how aerobic activity can maximize the prevention of the most aggressive and metastatic types of cancer." Prof. Carmit Levy and Dr. Ytach Gepner

 

 

Enhanced Rate of Glucose Consumption

Previous studies have demonstrated that physical exercise reduces the risk for some types of cancer by up to 35%. This positive effect resembles the impact of exercise on other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

 

In this study, Prof. Levy and Dr. Gepner added new insight, showing that high-intensity aerobic exercise, which derives its energy from sugar, can reduce the risk of metastatic cancer by as much as 72%. "If the general message to the public so far has been 'be active, be healthy'," they say, "now we can explain how aerobic activity can maximize the prevention of the most aggressive and metastatic types of cancer."

 

The study combined lab models trained under a strict exercise regimen, with data from healthy human volunteers examined before and after running. The human data, obtained from an epidemiological study that monitored 3,000 individuals for about 20 years, indicated 72% less metastatic cancer in participants who reported regular aerobic activity at high intensity, compared to those who did not engage in physical exercise.

 

The animal model exhibited a similar outcome, enabling the researchers to identify its underlying mechanism. They found that aerobic activity significantly reduced the development of metastatic tumors in the lab models' lymph nodes, lungs, and liver. The researchers hypothesized that in both humans and model animals, this favorable outcome is related to the enhanced rate of glucose consumption induced by exercise.

 

 

"Physical exercise, with its unique metabolic and physiological effects, exhibits a higher level of cancer prevention than any medication or medical intervention to date." Dr. Yftach Gepner

 

 

From left to right: Prof. Carmit Levy and Dr. Yftach Gepner

 

"Exercise Changes the Whole Body"

"Our study is the first to investigate the impact of exercise on the internal organs in which metastases usually develop, like the lungs, liver, and lymph nodes," explains Prof. Levy.

 

"Examining the cells of these organs, we found a rise in the number of glucose receptors during high-intensity aerobic activity - increasing glucose intake and turning the organs into effective energy-consumption machines, very much like the muscles. We assume that this happens because the organs must compete for sugar resources with the muscles, known to burn large quantities of glucose during physical exercise. Consequently, if cancer develops, the fierce competition over glucose reduces the availability of energy that is critical to metastasis."

 

"Moreover," she offers, "when a person exercises regularly, this condition becomes permanent: the tissues of internal organs change and become similar to muscle tissue. We all know that sports and physical exercise are good for our health. Our study, examining the internal organs, discovered that exercise changes the whole body, so that the cancer cannot spread, and the primary tumor also shrinks in size."  

 

Prof. Levy emphasizes that by combining scientific knowhow from different schools at TAU, the new study has led to a very important discovery which may help prevent metastatic cancer – the leading cause of death in Israel.

 

"Our results indicate that unlike fat-burning exercise, which is relatively moderate, it is a high-intensity aerobic activity that helps in cancer prevention," adds Dr. Gepner. "If the optimal intensity range for burning fat is 65-70% of the maximum pulse rate, sugar burning requires 80-85% - even if only for brief intervals."

 

"For example: a one-minute sprint followed by walking, then another sprint. In the past, such intervals were mostly typical of athletes' training regimens, but today we also see them in other exercise routines, such as heart and lung rehabilitation. Our results suggest that healthy individuals should also include high-intensity components in their fitness programs. We believe that future studies will enable personalized medicine for preventing specific cancers, with physicians reviewing family histories to recommend the right kind of physical activity. It must be emphasized that physical exercise, with its unique metabolic and physiological effects, exhibits a higher level of cancer prevention than any medication or medical intervention to date."  

New Hope for Patients with Severe Bone Loss

Research

Nov 10th, 2022
New Hope for Patients with Severe Bone Loss

Researchers induced bone regeneration with a special hydrogel that mimics the bone's natural environment

  • Medicine

An innovative technology developed at Tel Aviv University will enable bone regeneration to correct large bone defects by means of a special hydrogel. Following successful tests in a lab model, the researchers now plan to move forward to clinical trials.

 

The groundbreaking study was conducted by experts from TAU's Maurice and Gabriela Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine, led by Prof. Lihi Adler-Abramovich and Dr. Michal Halperin-Sternfeld, in collaboration with Prof. Itzhak Binderman, Dr. Rachel Sarig, Dr. Moran Aviv, and researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The paper was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

 

Prof. Adler-Abramovich: "Small bone defects, such as fractures, heal spontaneously, with the body restoring the lost bone tissue. The problem begins with large bone defects. In many cases, when substantial bone loss results from tumor resection (removal by surgery), physical trauma, tooth extraction, gum disease or inflammation around dental implants, the bone is unable to renew itself. In the current study, we developed a hydrogel that mimics the natural substances in the extracellular matrix of bones, stimulating bone growth and reactivating the immune system to accelerate the healing process."

 

The researchers explain that the extracellular matrix is the substance surrounding our cells, providing them with structural support. Every type of tissue in our body has a specific extracellular matrix consisting of suitable substances with the right mechanical properties. The new hydrogel has a fibrillary structure that mimics that of the extracellular matrix of the natural bone. Furthermore, it is rigid, thus enabling the patient’s cells to differentiate into bone-forming cells.

 

WATCH: Lab of Bioinspired Materials: A Tour with TAU Prof. Lihi Adler-Abramovich

 

"As can be expected, the extracellular matrix of our bones is quite rigid," says Prof. Adler-Abramovich. "In our study, we produced a hydrogel that mimics this specific matrix in both chemical and physical properties. At the nanometric level, the cell can attach itself to the gel, gaining structural support and receiving relevant mechanical signals from the fibers. At first, to test these properties, we grew cells in a 3D model of the gel. Then we examined the impact of the hydrogel on model animals with large bone defects that could not heal spontaneously. We monitored them for two months with various methods, including Micro C.T. To our delight, the bone defects were fully corrected through regeneration, with the bones regaining their original thickness, and generating new blood vessels."

 

According to Prof. Adler-Abramovich, the innovative gel has extensive clinical applications in both orthopedic and dental medicine: "When we lose teeth due to extensive damage or bacterial infections, the standard treatment is dental implants. Implants, however, must be anchored in a sufficient amount of bone, and when bone loss is too substantial, physicians implant additional bone from a healthy part of the body – a complex medical procedure. Another option is adding bone substitutes from either human or animal sources, but these might generate an immune response. I hope that in the future the hydrogel we have developed will enable faster, safer, and simpler bone restoration."  

Breakthrough Treatment May Improve Efficacy of Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer Patients

Research

Nov 8th, 2022
Breakthrough Treatment May Improve Efficacy of Chemotherapy in Breast Cancer

TAU-developed treatment may reduce risk for lung metastasis following chemo from 52% to only 6%

  • Medicine

A new treatment developed at Tel Aviv University may significantly enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients, reducing the risk for lung metastasis following chemo from 52% to only 6%. Conducted in a lab model, the study identified the mechanism that generates a cancer-promoting inflammatory environment in response to chemotherapy. Moreover, the researchers found that by adding an anti-inflammatory agent to the chemotherapy, metastasis can be prevented.

 

The study was led by Prof. Neta Erez of the Department of Pathology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and researchers from her group: Lea Monteran, Dr. Nour Ershaid, Yael Zait, and Ye'ela Scharff, in collaboration with Prof. Iris Barshack of the Sheba Medical Center and Dr. Amir Sonnenblick of the Tel Aviv Sourasky (Ichilov) Medical Center. The paper was published in Nature Communications. The study was funded by ERC, the Israel Cancer Association, and the Emerson Cancer Research Fund.

 

The Dark Side of Chemo

"In many cases of breast cancer, surgical removal of the primary tumor is followed by a chemotherapy regimen intended to kill any remaining malignant cells – either left behind by the surgeon or already colonizing in other organs," explains Prof. Erez. "However, while effectively killing cancer cells, chemotherapy also has some undesirable and even harmful side effects, including damage to healthy tissues. The most dangerous of these, is probably internal inflammations that might paradoxically help remaining cancer cells to form metastases in distant organs. The goal of our study was to discover how this happens and try to find an effective solution."

 

To this end, the researchers created an animal model for breast cancer metastasis. The animals received the same treatment as human patients: surgical removal of the primary tumor, then chemotherapy, followed by monitoring to detect metastatic relapse as early as possible. The disturbing results: metastatic tumors were detected in the lungs of a large percentage of the treated animals - similar to the percentage found in the control group.

 

 

"In humans, this interval between chemotherapy and detection of metastatic tumors is an inaccessible 'black box.' Working with an animal model, we could check what happens inside this 'box'." Prof. Neta Erez

 

 

 

What's Going on Inside the "Black Box"?

To decipher these adverse effects, the researchers examined the animals' lungs at an intermediate stage – when tiny micro-metastases may have already developed, but even advanced imaging technologies like CT cannot detect them.

 

"In humans, this interval between chemotherapy and detection of metastatic tumors is an inaccessible 'black box'," says Prof. Erez. "Working with an animal model we could check what happens inside this 'box'."

 

"We discovered a previously unknown mechanism: the chemotherapy generates an inflammatory response in connective tissue cells called 'fibroblasts', causing them to summon immune cells from the bone marrow. This, in turn, creates an inflammatory environment that supports the micro-metastases, helping them grow into full-fledged metastatic tumors. In this way, the chemotherapy, administered as a means for combating cancer, achieves the opposite result."

 

The researchers also identified the mechanism through which fibroblasts recruit immune cells, and 'train' them to support the cancer. "We found that in response to chemotherapy, the fibroblasts secrete 'complement proteins' – proteins that mediate cell recruitment and intensify inflammation, often by summoning white blood cells to damaged or infected areas, a process called chemotaxis," notes Prof. Erez. "When the immune cells reach the lungs, they create an inflammatory environment that supports cancer cells and helps them grow."

 

 

"We identified an inflammatory mechanism through which chemotherapy inadvertently supports the growth of metastatic tumors, and also discovered an effective solution: combining chemotherapy with an inflammation inhibitor." Prof. Neta Erez

 

 

Potential to Save Many Lives

To combat this newly discovered process, the researchers combined the chemotherapy administered to the animals with a drug that blocks the activity of complement proteins.

 

The results were very encouraging: following the combined treatment, the percentage of lab models developing no metastases rose from 32% to 67%; and the percentage of those with extensive cancer colonization in their lungs decreased from 52% with regular chemotherapy to 6% when the inflammation inhibitor was added.

 

"We discovered the mechanism behind a severe problem in the treatment of breast cancer: many patients develop metastatic tumors following removal of the primary tumor plus chemotherapy," says Prof. Erez, and concludes: "We identified an inflammatory mechanism through which chemotherapy inadvertently supports the growth of metastatic tumors, and also discovered an effective solution: combining chemotherapy with an inflammation inhibitor. We hope that our findings will enable more effective treatment for breast cancer, and perhaps other types of cancer as well – to prevent metastatic relapse and save numerous lives worldwide."  

Drones Against Illegal Waste Dumpsites (photo: Adi Mager)

Research

Nov 8th, 2022
Drones Against Illegal Waste Dumpsites

Use of drones to map illegal waste dumps could promote recycling and save Israel NIS 200 million

  • Environment

A new study conducted at Tel Aviv University has mapped illegal construction waste dumps using drones. The researchers attempted to assess the actual amounts of construction waste dumped at unauthorized sites, as well as the contents of the waste piles. Analysis of the data shows that through aerial mapping and use of environmental-economic models developed in the study, it will be possible to recycle a significant amount of the waste, saving the state approximately NIS 200 million.

 

The study was led by Dr. Vered Blass and doctoral student Adi Mager of the Porter School of Environment and Earth Sciences, Tel Aviv University. The study was published in the international journal Remote Sensing.

 

An Expensive Process

The current situation poses a severe problem for local authorities, who cannot handle the scope of criminal activity, and therefore compelled to remove and treat the environmental hazard on their own expenses.

 

The moment a local authority identifies an illegal construction waste dump, it takes action to transfer the waste to an authorized site. This involves a complex process including, initially, measuring the amount of waste, collecting, and transporting it to the authorized treatment facility, and then cleaning and rehabilitating the contaminated soil.

 

This is an expensive process involving significant budgetary spending by municipalities, which usually pass the burden on to the taxpayers.

 

 

"The idea behind the study was to try and adopt the principles of circular economy (CE) that promotes strategies for savings in resources for reuse, repair, remanufacture, and recycling of materials and products." Dr. Vered Blass

 

 

Recycling Instead of Landfilling

The alternative? "By integrating existing aerial mapping technologies, with economic-environmental models, we can promote recycling of illegal waste and save public funds," offers Dr. Blass. "Instead of paying landfill fees and polluting the soil, the waste may be recycled at a lower cost while reducing environmental damage."

 

According to Dr. Blass, the study, defined as a pilot, included mapping by drones of four illegal waste dumps located in Northern Israel. The researchers mapped and analyzed a total area of 3600 square meters. They classified and categorized all types of waste separately, manually, to determine their area, volume, and properties.

 

Dr. Vered Blass

 

Finally, the researchers created a profile for each waste site separately. The profile included an economic analysis of the value of the different types of waste found at the site, and the potential environmental savings of recycling compared to landfilling.

 

"The idea behind the study was to try and adopt the principles of circular economy (CE) that promotes strategies for savings in resources for reuse, repair, remanufacture, and recycling of materials and products," explains Dr. Blass. "By using these principles, we sought to save the authorities a lot of money – instead of paying high landfill fees for all the illegal construction waste, which can be recycled."

 

 

"Our pilot findings showed the advantages of multidisciplinary tools and methodologies in helping to identify potential resources, providing economic data for cleanup proposals, and of course, enabling the monitoring and evaluation of the area after the cleanup, thus saving time and money for the authorities, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the field" Dr. Vered Blass

 

 

Saving Time and Money

According to the researchers, the study provides missing data that may prove useful to the state, local authorities, commercial companies, and contractors, as well as companies that monitor and manage recycled waste and raw materials.

 

In addition, the researchers touch on the direct correlation between meeting international sustainable development goals (SDG), monitoring, and mapping illegal waste.

 

"This study will provide local authorities with a better understanding of the quantities and qualities of waste, as well as the costs associated with the necessary cleanups," says doctoral student Adi Mager. "Moreover, construction waste in open areas occupies valuable real estate. Mapping the area rapidly and efficiently will assist in evacuating the land and preparing it for future uses."

 

"Our pilot findings showed the advantages of multidisciplinary tools and methodologies in helping to identify potential resources, providing economic data for cleanup proposals, and of course, enabling the monitoring and evaluation of the area after the cleanup, thus saving time and money for the authorities, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the field," concludes Dr. Blass. 

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