Israel’s technology leader launched a new human health collaboration to solve urgent real-world problems

If thinking about being sick can make you feel sick, is there a way to train your brain — and your body — to reverse this process and return to health?

That’s the main question, says Tamar Koren, an MD-PhD candidate at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, focusing on psychosomatic illness.

Professor Shai Shen-Or, head of the school’s Systems Immunology and Precision Medicine Laboratory, is mapping how the human immune system ages, to the point of being able to calculate the age of the human immune system based on cellular data.

At Tech, Professor Ron Kimmel, founder of the Geometric Image Processing Lab at the Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science, is training computers to recognize human tissue biopsy images only to determine whether they are tissue or not. It’s cancer, but what kind of mutation it is and how much it’s mutated.

All three projects are examples of the type of research being produced by Technion’s New Human Health Initiative (THHI) – recently announced to bring together teaching hospitals, various technical departments and commercial companies to focus on solving health-related challenges.

“This initiative addresses global challenges that require multifaceted solutions,” said Shen-Or, founder of CytoReson, a pharmaceutical artificial intelligence company. “We are moving from research-based to goal-oriented based on departments and faculties. It doesn’t matter where people sit to solve human health problems. They must work together.

THHI is focused on six areas: staff and student engagement, new undergraduate and graduate academic programs, recruiting top-notch researchers, financial support, shared office and laboratory space for the “necessary meeting of the minds,” and purchasing state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. and other research infrastructure.

The new initiative is in line with other Technion projects with external partners such as the university. A bridge to the next generation of medicine program with Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. That project combines Technion’s technological capabilities in pediatrics, world-renowned computational science and artificial intelligence with doctors and scientists focused on understanding and treating childhood diseases.

“Technion believes the time has come to take the next quantum leap: addressing human health in a comprehensive, institute-wide way,” said Technion President Uri Sivan. “THHI represents a major intellectual and cultural undertaking in this direction. No other university in the country, and only a handful around the world, is better positioned to make this leap.

The idea behind THHI is to get people out of their comfort zones and create collaboration across units and disciplines.

“Instead of telling our investigators what to do, the best way is to bring them together, and the magic is guaranteed to happen,” says Noam Ziv, who leads the THHI project.

According to Ziv, Technion’s main advantage is that it is one of the few technological universities with a medical school.

“I don’t think you have to convince anyone that human health is a big challenge,” Ziv said. “Our population is expanding, the average age is increasing and the challenges associated with human health seem to be constantly increasing. The coronavirus is a prime example of how things that affect one part of the world can quickly affect other parts.

During the pandemic, for example, Technion data scientists raced to improve the efficiency of PCR tests using algorithms. Biologists have worked Create quick test suites You don’t need sophisticated machines to get quick results. Others thought of designing. Sticker, which is placed on the maskEliminates viruses on contact.

THHI extends to examine mind/body interactions.

To test their hypothesis about psychosomatic illness, Koren and her team induced colitis in lab mice and waited until they recovered. Researchers artificially stimulated neurons in the brain that were active during colitis. Although the infection was not there, the tumor reappeared in the same place. Similarly, suppressing memory neurons reduces inflammation in mice with colitis.

“For example, if you get a text message from your friend saying he has Covid and you saw it last night, you immediately start to assume that you are sick too. And you start showing physical symptoms of a very similar disease: your throat gets itchy, you start coughing, you get weak,” Koren said. Studies have shown that stress or emotional triggers can trigger disease or sometimes worsen a previously diagnosed disease.

Koren’s research represents a collaborative effort between neurosurgeons, neurologists, and immunologists—the kind of collaboration that THHI seeks to foster and is different from traditional research methods.

“These kinds of collaborations are already starting to grow,” Koren said. “It’s something new for both basic science and clinical research.”

Eventually, Koren said, her team’s work could lead to a variety of new treatments for diseases that currently have no cure, with magnetic stimulation or other non-invasive treatments for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sclerosis and other diseases.

“What we’re suggesting is not drugs, not side effects, but brain activity control that alleviates their symptoms and improves their quality of life,” she said.

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