Entries in Israel (4)


Israelis Create Rodent With Robot Brain

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- In the technological journey toward artificial intelligence, Israeli researchers have made the next giant leap: the RoboRat.

Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel and his fellow scientists have built a rodent-sized artificial cerebellum that when implanted onto the skull of a rat with brain damage, allows him to function normally again.

The cyborg cerebellum consists of a computer chip that is electrically wired into the rat’s brain with electrodes.  Since the cerebellum is normally responsible for coordinating movement, this chip was programmed to take in sensory information from the body, interpret it, and communicate messages back out to the brain stem and in turn, the rest of the body.

To test the computer chip brain, scientists conditioned a rat to blink whenever it heard a tone. When the researchers disabled the rat’s cerebellum, however, the rat could no longer coordinate this behavior.  Once the artificial cerebellum was hooked up, the rat went back to blinking at the sound of the beep.

“It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” Mintz, who presented the work this month at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK, told NewScientist.

Though scientists have successfully wired artificial limbs to the brain to restore function, the days of a full-on human cyborg brain implant are far off, researchers say.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israeli Court Allows Family to Harvest Dead Daughter's Eggs

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli family has received permission to extract and freeze the eggs of its 17-year-old daughter who died earlier this month in a car accident, according to the Israeli English-language website Haaretz.

Chen Aida Ayash died on Aug. 3, 10 days after she'd been struck by a car, at Kfar Sava's Meir Hospital.  Her parents donated her organs and obtained a court order to remove and freeze Chen's eggs.  They'd initially requested that the eggs be fertilized with donated sperm, but judges declined the petition until the family could prove that Chen had wanted to have children.

"Ethically, the important issue is not whether the woman would have wanted children," said Rosamond Rhodes, director of bioethics education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "Regardless of the reproductive possibilities, she will not be around to have the child [or] children."

Instead, Rhodes said the critical issue is whether Chen would have wanted her biological children to come to life after she was dead.

"This question is rarely considered by anyone," said Rhodes. "People can have strong negative feelings about this possibility -- it can sound really yucky.  And many people would not want others, including their own parents, to raise their biological child."

The court decision is the first of its kind in Israel, and possibly the world, to allow a family to extract a woman's ova after her death, but there are several known cases of families harvesting the sperm of dead male family members.

Despite the growing number of cases, medical ethicists remain unsettled with the idea of extracting eggs and semen after death.

"While organs of the dead can be used to save the life of another, using the gametes of a dead child to create another child creates a troubling precedent," said Laurie Zoloth, director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society at Northwestern University.  "In a world in which thousands of children are lost and starving, the use of medical technology for this end raises other questions about the just use of shared resources."

"The fact that sperm has been used this way, for the same tragic reasons, is not an ethical justification," she said.

When doctors and families do decide to follow through with such decisions, several other weighty problems arise.

"Here, since the patient cannot give consent, doctors would need to be assured that a suitable substitute decision-maker is in place and can provide consent," said Judith F. Daar, professor of law at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California.  "Families must try to set aside their understandable desire to keep a part of their child and focus on what their child would have actually wanted.

"It strikes me as unlikely a minor child would have had the capacity and maturity to meaningfully assert an interest in motherhood, let alone motherhood after her death," said Daar.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scientists Developing Date Rape Drug Detector

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- A quick stir of your drink could soon reveal whether it's been spiked with date rape drugs, researchers say.

Israeli scientists say they've developed a sensor that looks like a straw or a stirrer that can detect two of the most commonly used date rape drugs with 100 percent accuracy.

"It samples a very small volume of the drink and mixes it with a testing solution," said Fernando Patolsky, chemistry professor at Tel Aviv University and co-creator of the device. "That causes a chemical reaction that makes the solution cloudy or colored, depending on the drug."

The reaction then turns on a tiny red light, alerting users in even the dingiest bars to ditch the drink.

Patolsky said the device should cost less than a drink and could be used multiple times until it reacts with a drug. It currently detects GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and ketamine. But the team hopes to add Rohypnal -- "roofies" -- to the list within the year.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that one in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, with 73 percent of victims knowing their assailants.

But the use of GHB, ketamine and Rohypnol -- powerful sedatives that are odorless, colorless and tasteless -- is actually very low, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Advance In DNA Testing Could Make Law and Order Easier to Keep

Comstock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- When it comes to cracking crime, DNA analysis can often help investigators confirm or eliminate suspects. But it has one central limitation: when one DNA sample mixes with another, there's no method to identify one DNA strand beyond a reasonable doubt -- making evidence inadmissible in court. But a new technique developed in Israel may change that.

The method -- developed at Hebrew University and written up in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics -- uses existing technology to look for a person's very rare DNA sequence changes.

"If in the DNA mixture you find the presence of all the, say, 100 rare variants, that's proof that the DNA of that specific person is present in the mixtures," said developer Ariel Darvasi.

He says the algorithm he developed to test his method proves it's accurate enough to be used in court.

Darvasi is in talks to develop the product.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio