Author: Tricia Taborda

Donated Equipment Aids in Urgent Coronavirus Research

Shmunis family gift ramps up the scientific capabilities of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology.

With COVID-19 coronavirus infections surging in Israel and worldwide, TAU biomedical specialists have dropped everything to push forward the fight against the virus. Eleven teams at the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology are working to expand the arsenal of vaccines, drugs, testing methods and public health insights aimed at saving lives. Now, a significant and timely gift from philanthropists Sana and Vlad Shmunis of the San Francisco Bay Area is providing the School with much needed core equipment for the research push. “We needed emergency scientific funding and, when we turned to the Shmunises, both TAU Governors, they responded immediately and generously,” said TAU Vice President Amos Elad. “It’s heartwarming to see the concern of our TAU friends take such concrete form and so quickly.” The funding has gone toward the purchase of a new ultracentrifuge and a new high capacity autoclave. “This vital equipment will bolster the ability of our research teams to conduct molecular virology and immunology research much faster than before and with the highest quality,” said Prof. Tal Pupko, Head of the School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. Among the School’s urgent research goals are:
  • Aiding the authorities focus quarantine efforts, understand if there are “super-spreading” infected individuals, and predict how quickly the disease spreads or wanes.
  • Screening Israeli COVID-19 survivors for antibodies as a basis for therapies and a vaccine.
  • Developing novel inhibitors for viral entry and viral activity.
  • Finding candidate compounds to kick in the body’s natural immunity to COVID-19 and ability to overcome infection.
  • Understanding lung immune responses to viral infection.
  • Introducing a robotic system for much faster detection of coronavirus presence in tests.
  • Repurposing known and FDA-approved drugs for prevention and treatment.
Among local and international collaborators in the research are the Israeli Ministry of Health, Israel Biological Institute, IDF, major TAU-affiliated hospitals, and universities in Israel and abroad including Stanford University and University of Washington, Seattle.  

Boosting national coronavirus testing

In addition to the research, the School joined forces with TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine to convert an existing lab into a coronavirus testing facility. The newly renovated lab will expand public testing and assist Israel’s overburdened hospitals. Professors, students, engineers and a construction crew worked 24/7 for three days straight to build the lab and bring it up to the highest safety and research standards. School members are also volunteering to operate it once the test samples come in. The lab project followed a move by several researchers at the School to help enlist medical students and biomed graduate students as volunteers for collecting and processing samples in hospital laboratories. The nationwide initiative recruited over 2,000 medical and graduate students as volunteers in the national public health operation.

Live Webinar: Corona Virus crisis and the future of Disaster Management

Insights into the global shifts from a medical, ethical, economic, and mental health perspective – what lies ahead?

Date: Monday, April 6 Time: 11:00 AM EST / 16:00 PM CET / 18:00 PM IL

Join Tel Aviv University’s emergency and disaster faculty and its assessment of the current corona crisis. This interdisciplinary panel of experts will offer insights into the global shifts taking place from a medical, ethical, economic, and mental health perspective and what lies ahead.

The webinar will be moderated by : Dr. Bruria Adini, Head of the Emergency & Disaster Management DepartmentSchool of Public HealthSackler Faculty of Medicine.

Panelists: Dr. Yoav Yehezkeli, Disaster management of biological hazards Prof. Michael Alkan, Infectious diseases & humanitarian aid Prof. Nava Haruvi, Economic aspects Dr. Zohar Rubinshtein – Resilience and mental health Mr. Gili Shenhar, Risk communication

Connect for free >

For more information you may refer to our FB event page.

Milner Foundation Donates $3 million to Tel Aviv University, Magen David Adom and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov)

This “critical injection of oxygen” is expected to increase coronavirus remote testing and research.

The Milner Foundation, founded by renowned tech investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner and his wife Julia, has donated $3 million to three Israeli institutions currently leading a “race against the clock” to beat the coronavirus pandemic: Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical response organization, which is launching an innovative project to reduce the number of people coming to clinics; Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and George S. Wise Life Sciences, which is accelerating research efforts aimed at developing treatments for the virus; and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Ichilov Hospital, which will directly fund the intensive care unit that is caring for COVID-19 sufferers. Mr. Milner, an Israeli citizen living in Silicon Valley, was an early investor in a range of tech giants that shaped the Internet, including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Airbnb and Spotify. He and his wife Julia hope that the Foundation’s donation will help fight the spread of infection in Israel, and will advance new research and technological tools to combat the virus. The donation was carried out in close cooperation with Israel’s Consul-General to the Pacific North West in San Francisco, Mr. Shlomi Kofman. “This is an investment in the present and the future,” Mr. Milner says. “In the short term, it’s a way to increase the intensive care unit capacity in Israel and relieve pressure on doctors and, in the longer term, it will support the search for a cure and help develop a new system of virtual medical treatment. “In the face of global threats like this, science, technology and innovation are our best hopes. Israel is a leader in those fields, and I hope this initiative can both make an impact on COVID-19, and also become a model that can be replicated by other countries.” Consul-General Kofman adds: “It is wonderful to see Israelis abroad supporting their country at this difficult time. Silicon Valley and the State of Israel share a resourcefulness and ingenuity that will be invaluable in overcoming this crisis, and this donation from the Milner Foundation will be a big help in advancing that goal.”

Donation to Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv University will utilize the donation for vaccination and drug R&D to treat coronavirus infection. Five TAU research groups will be assisted in their gene sequencing and gene editing technologies, in computer analysis and other advanced methods to find ways to block the penetration of the virus into cells or alternatively to strengthen the body’s immune response to overcome infection. TAU scientists will use samples taken from coronavirus patients in hospitals affiliated with the university and will work in close cooperation with many organizations including the Health Ministry, the Technion Institute of Technology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Biology Research Institute and other research institutions in Israel and worldwide. TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat says: “It’s very moving that in these difficult days, Milner Foundation has not forgotten the State of Israel and is generously helping Tel Aviv University. We for our part will do everything in our ability to justify the confidence given to us and through our first-rate researchers, we will contribute our part in this world war of a type that we have never known before.”

Donation to Magen David Adom (MDA)

MDA is launching an innovative project to reduce the number of people in Israel at healthcare fund clinics as well as hospital accident and emergency rooms. This is currently a critical necessity as the healthcare system contends with massive public demand. The project, which commenced due to the spread of the coronavirus, is part of MDA’s day-to-day operations and harnesses advanced telemedicine technologies in intensive care ambulances to provide effective, professional and safe medical treatment and reduce the number of people at clinics and hospitals. Due to this project, it will now be possible to treat coronavirus patients at home as well as those patients who cannot currently enter clinics for routine tests and treatment. MDA prepared the groundwork for the project in 2018, and the need for it has currently risen due to the coronavirus outbreak in Israel; the Foundation donation will enable MDA to fully launch this innovative project. MDA Director-General Eli Bin says: “Milner Foundation’s generous donation takes this initiative — something we’ve planned for years — and instantly turns it into a viable program that can keep hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of hospitals every year. Using technology to benefit our patients has long been a priority at Magen David Adom, and the telemedicine equipment that we will now purchase on a large scale will allow us to significantly increase the number of patients we can respond to at home while reducing the burden on hospitals and preventing unnecessary infections.”

Donation to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center

According to Prof. Ronni Gamzu CEO of TSMC (Ichilov), “The donation would serve the need of supporting Intensive Care Unit department, promoting diagnosis and research for the epidemiology and treatment of the new disease while serving the entire State of Israel and the world.”

Milner Foundation

Yuri Milner, who lives in Silicon Valley, California and holds Israeli citizenship, is one of the world’s most respected technology investors. His portfolio has included some of the world’s most prominent internet companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb, Spotify, Alibaba, and others. The Milner Foundation has contributed to a range of initiatives and organizations in Israel as well as to Jewish communities in Europe via The Conference of European Rabbis. In 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, the Foundation awarded NIS 25 million to 70 outstanding Ph.D. students at the Technion, Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University. In addition, it is a prominent donor to the Peres Center for Peace and FIDF. At the same time, Yuri and Julia Milner have long supported initiatives that utilize scientific and technological innovations to improve peoples’ lives, including joining Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s “Giving Pledge” initiative, as part of their commitment to donate most of their wealth for important scientific programs. In 2012, they, together with other senior tech figures including Google cofounder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Pony Ma founder of Tencent and Anne Wojcicki founder of 23andMe founded the Breakthrough Prizes – a not-for-profit organization which awards prizes for breakthrough research in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics. The Breakthrough Prizes are considered among the most prestigious in the world of scientific achievements, and every year six winners each receives $3 million. Since 2012, the organization has awarded more than $200 million to about 2,000 scientists (including some prizes split between the members of large research groups).

Students Volunteer to Increase and Improve Coronavirus Testing Across Israel

Over 1000 medical and graduate students join initiative to assist medical and laboratory teams.

Israeli hospitals and universities, including Tel Aviv University, have joined forces to build an enormous student volunteer base to expand and improve the detection of people infected with novel coronavirus all over Israel. In addition, TAU, together with the Weizmann Institute of Science and other institutes in Israel, have recruited over 600 doctoral students to volunteer their time and assist overburdened hospitals process coronavirus tests in laboratories.

The medical student initiative was launched by researchers and doctors at Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Hadassah Medical Center and Shamir Medical Center, together with the co-chairs of the Medical Students Association, which represents medical students at Israel’s five universities.

The volunteer base is geared at scaling up Israel’s capacity to conduct tests and produce critical coronavirus infection results more quickly. Accordingly, over 1,000 medical student volunteers from all over the country are helping Magen David Adom, Israel’s National Pre-Hospital Medical and Blood Emergency Services Organization (MDA), collect test samples from people in communities across the country.

“Dozens of volunteers have already joined MDA medics in collecting test samples this week, and some have even started to carry out the tests themselves,” says Prof. Carmit Levy of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, who is involved in this initiative.

This week, five doctoral students underwent coronavirus testing training, led by Prof. Ohad Gal-Mor of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine and the head of the Sheba Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory.

“It is inspiring to see students from all of the higher education institutions in the country enlisted bravely and resolutely to establish new laboratories and to assist existing laboratories in their efforts against the coronavirus,” Prof. Levy adds.

The doctoral student volunteer mission was the brainchild of TAU, the Technion, Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, Ariel University and many medical centers, including Sheba, Shamir, Hadassah, Soroka, Wolfson, and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Several HMOs are also taking part in this effort in full coordination with the Ministry of Health.

“The level of collaboration between faculty, physicians, health professionals and medical and graduate students at the universities, hospitals, HMOs, MDA, and Ministry of Health, is unprecedented in Israel,” concludes Prof. Karen AvrahamVice Dean of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. “This will set the stage for years to come for how much we can accomplish when working together so selflessly.”

Volunteers in a MEUHEDET HMO. (Photo: MEUHEDET HMO)

TAU researcher launches urgent push to beat corona

Dr. Natalia Freund is analyzing immunity of Israelis who have recovered from the virus.

TAU researcher Dr. Natalia Freund and her team have abandoned their everyday work of isolating antibodies for HIV and other infectious diseases to urgently fight and treat COVID-19, the new coronavirus. The highly contagious disease has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, with almost 200,000 cases worldwide at press time.

Freund, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, will analyze blood samples from Israelis who have recovered from COVID-19 (eleven at press time). Working with graduate student Michael Mordekovich, she will use cutting-edge technology to isolate and extract special cells that produce antibodies following infection and immunize us against the virus.  From these cells, she will isolate antibodies against the virus, produce them in her lab and test them for viral inhibition.

Hope for a vaccine

Freund is hopeful that within a few weeks her team will generate an antibody that will be ready for preclinical trials. The anticipated result is a treatment for COVID-19 patients and a candidate for the development of a vaccine, “although these would be ready in a best-case scenario months down the line,” said Dr. Freund.

Dr. Natalia Freund, testing to beat the coronavirus

In attempts to stem the outbreak as soon as possible, she is working intensively with colleagues at TAU as well as at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer Hospital), Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), Bar-Ilan University and the Institute for Biological Research.

Aside from Dr. Freund, several more scientists at TAU are working on various aspects of COVID-19 in a campus-wide effort to better understand and overcome the virus.


What’s more important? Privacy vs. public health

Experts from Tel Aviv University answer questions about the coronavirus crisis.

On Saturday, March 14, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the government intends to use various digital tools, the kind that have so far been used in the fight against terrorism, for the purpose of monitoring the coronavirus. His remarks remained vague and were not accompanied by detailed explanations, which raised many questions for citizens.

On the one hand, radical measures are being taken around the world to try to eradicate the coronavirus, including increased surveillance and tracking measures, in accordance with WHO recommendations. Apps and features that were previously controversial are being hailed as lifesaving. On the other hand, do public health considerations override an individual’s right to privacy? Is there a precedent for the state to surveil citizens who are not suspected of any crime? What will be done with this private information? Who will have access to it? We asked experts to shed some light on this.

Can your phone serve as your handcuffs?

On Saturday, Israel’s Prime Minister announced that among other measures being considered, there will be use of “digital tools, as done in Taiwan.” Prof. Itzhak Ben-Israel, head of the Security Studies Program at the School of Political Science, Government & Political Affairs and also of the Yuval Ne’eman workshop for Science, Technology & Security and Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center said, “There are many options for this kind of surveillance. The simplest of them is to use the cellphone location function to make sure that the people who are quarantined at home aren’t leaving the house. Another option is to use the same location function to follow the path of someone who might be carrying the virus to see where they’ve been. This is a more intrusive option in terms of privacy. There are of course even more intrusive options, ‘Big Brother’ style. For example, it’s possible to track the ‘suspect’ who might be infected with the disease via the contents of their e-mail or social media, to find people the ‘suspect’ has been in touch with in recent days. In Taiwan, meanwhile, they’ve used the most minimal of the options I’ve mentioned: the use of the location function (as a kind of electronic handcuff).”

The concern: an irreparable violation of individual rights

“Israel’s Prime Minister didn’t elaborate on what measures would be taken, who would be affected by conducting the surveillance, and what legal framework would be used,” says Prof. Michael Birnhack, Deputy Dean of Research at the Buchmann Faculty of Law and also a researcher at the Balavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Researcher Center. “The state now has a number of legal tools to monitor people in various contexts, but there is no context that fits well with a general health emergency, such as the one we are in right now.

“Indeed, the emergency is severe, and Israel and many other countries have no prior experience in dealing with this kind of epidemic, but the right to privacy, like all human rights, is particularly important and is tested in times of crisis and emergency. A populist approach presents the situation as a dichotomy in which we must choose between public health and privacy. This is a false and misleading dichotomy. The democratic approach seeks to balance and, where possible, achieve both goals at once.

“The concern is that curtailing of rights will be difficult to fix, and emergency arrangements will remain with us long after the coronavirus disappears. To prevent such harm, the health system needs to be precisely defined. According to its needs, different tools available to the state can be examined, in order to find the course of action that last violates privacy (‘proportionality’ in legal terms).

“I can characterize some of these needs: First, the patients. They need the best care, and we all have an interest in reducing further infection. The patients’ privacy is compromised by the hospitalization. No additional follow-up measures are needed for them.

“Second, those isolated at home – the interest here is to make sure they maintain isolation lest they infect others. But here, the social solidarity, backed by the law that determines the isolation breach as a criminal offense, the ability to report someone, and the enforcement of the Ministry of Health backed by the police – are sufficient. Geolocation of people who are isolated won’t be effective. A person who wants to violate isolation will simply leave the mobile phone at home.

“Third, reconstructing the ‘path of infection’ for those who are ill. As part of the epidemiological investigation, not all patients remember where they were every hour from the 14 days prior to identifying their disease. Cellular data can help. But here, you don’t need the law. It’s enough to ask for their consent and, in my estimation, everyone will agree to give up their location data, to minimize the harm they’ve caused unintentionally.

“And fourth, locating those who have been exposed to a verified patient. Here, you need to be informed. Now, the Ministry of Health is publicizing the patients’ ‘path of infection’, but presumably the information does not reach everyone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cellphone surveillance can locate them. This is where the idea of ​​’privacy by design’ comes into the picture. One way is that cellular companies transmit information to the state. This is a bad, disproportionate way. The goal is not to collect location information, but to inform citizens. So, the flow of information has to be reversed, so that the state asks cellular companies to contact those who were in a certain place at a certain time. The details are important, of course, and should be formulated in an integrated engineering-organizational-legal process,” concludes Prof. Birnhack.

In conclusion, responsibility seems to ultimately fall on everyone in society. It’s our responsibility to demonstrate social solidarity, to obey the instructions of official health agencies so as not to infect others, and help as much as possible those in our community who are afraid or are at higher risk. It’s also our responsibility to ask questions and not take for granted fundamental rights. It seems that balancing these two approaches will allow us to successfully overcome this crisis.

New sleep method strengthens brain’s ability to retain memories

Process that uses smell can strengthen memories stored in one side of the brain, say TAU researchers.

A new joint study by Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute of Science researchers has yielded an innovative method for bolstering memory processes in the brain during sleep.

The method relies on a memory-evoking scent administered to one nostril. It helps researchers understand how sleep aids memory, and in the future could possibly help to restore memory capabilities following brain injuries, or help treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for whom memory often serves as a trigger.

The new study was led by Ella Bar, a PhD student at TAU and the Weizmann Institute of Science. Other principal investigators include Prof. Yuval Nir of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience, as well as Profs. Yadin Dudai, Noam Sobel and Rony Paz, all of Weizmann’s Department of Neurobiology.

Turning dreams into memories

“We know that a memory consolidation process takes place in the brain during sleep,” Bar explains. “For long-term memory storage, information gradually transitions from the hippocampus — a brain region that serves as a temporary buffer for new memories — to the neocortex. But how this transition happens remains an unsolved mystery.”

“By triggering consolidation processes in only one side of the brain during sleep, we were able to compare the activity between the hemispheres and isolate the specific activity that corresponds to memory reactivation,” Prof. Nir adds. Bar says, “Beyond promoting basic scientific understanding, we hope that in the future this method may also have clinical applications. For instance, post-traumatic patients show higher activity in the right hemisphere when recalling a trauma, possibly related to its emotional content.

“The technique we developed could potentially influence this aspect of the memory during sleep and decrease the emotional stress that accompanies recall of the traumatic memory. Additionally, this method could be further developed to assist in rehabilitation therapy after one-sided brain damage due to stroke.”

The connection between scent and sleep

The researchers began from the knowledge that memories associated with locations on the left side of a person are mostly stored in the right brain hemisphere and vice versa. While exposed to the scent of a rose, research participants were asked to remember the location of words presented on either the left or right side of a computer screen. Participants were then tested on their memory of the word locations, then proceeded to nap at the lab. As the participants were napping, the scent of roses was administered again, but this time to only one nostril.

With this “one-sided” odor delivery, the researchers were able to reactivate and boost specific memories that were stored in a specific brain hemisphere. The team also recorded electrical brain activity during sleep with EEG. The results showed that the “one-sided” rose scent delivery led to different sleep waves in the two hemispheres. The hemisphere that received the scent revealed better electrical signatures of memory consolidation during sleep. Finally, in the most crucial test of all, subjects were asked after waking up to undergo a second memory test about the words they had been exposed to before falling asleep.

“The memory of the subjects was significantly better for words presented on the side affected by smell than the memory for words presented on the other side,” Bar says.

“Our findings emphasize that the memory consolidation process can be amplified by external cues such as scents,” she concludes. “By using the special organization of the olfactory pathways, memories can be manipulated in a local manner on one side of the brain. Our finding demonstrates that memory consolidation likely involves a nocturnal ‘dialogue’ between the hippocampus and specific regions in the cerebral cortex.”

Can blood pressure in your twenties cause cognitive decline in your fifties?

TAU and Northwestern University study proves treatment for high blood pressure must begin decades earlier than it does now.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects everything from your arteries to your kidneys, from eyesight to sexual function. Among older adults, high blood pressure is also associated with cognitive decline as a result of interrupted blood flow to the brain, as well as strokes, heart attacks and impaired mobility.

A new Northwestern University–Tel Aviv University study has revealed that subjects who experienced relatively high blood pressure during young adulthood also experienced significant declines in cognitive function and gait in midlife (approximately 56 years old). The study cohort included about 200 young adults with an average age of 24 at the beginning of the study.

The research was led by Prof. Farzaneh A. Sorond and Dr. Simin Mahinrad of Northwestern University’s Department of Neurology and Prof. Jeffrey Hausdorff of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and Tel Aviv Medical Center’s Center for the Study of Movement, Cognition, and Mobility at the Neurological Institute. The study was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation on November 21, 2019.

Thirty years of data

“We find that the deleterious effects of elevated blood pressure on brain structure and function begin in early adulthood. This demonstrates the need for preventive measures of high blood pressure even at this early age,” explains Prof. Hausdorff. “We know that poor gait and cognitive function among older adults are associated with and predict multiple adverse health outcomes like cognitive decline, dementia, falls and death. Our study shows that the time to treat high blood pressure and to minimize future changes in gait and cognition is much earlier — decades earlier — than previously thought.”

In addition, the study suggests that gait impairment may be an earlier hallmark of hypertensive brain injury than cognitive deficits.

For the study, the researchers assessed the blood pressure, gait and cognition of 191 participants from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, a community-based cohort of young individuals followed over 30 years. In the last year of follow-up, gait was assessed using an instrumented gait mat; cognitive function was evaluated using neuropsychological tests; and the level of white matter intensity in the brain, a symptom of cardiovascular disease, was measured using MRIs. The impact of cumulative levels of high blood pressure was found to be independent of other vascular risk factors over the same 30-year period.

High pressure leads to smaller steps

“Higher cumulative blood pressure was associated with slower walking speed, smaller step length and higher gait variability,” Prof. Hausdorff says. “Higher cumulative blood pressure was also associated with lower cognitive performance in the executive, memory and global domains.”

“Our takeaway is this: Even in young adults, blood pressure has significant implications, even at levels below the ‘hypertension’ threshold, and is important to assess and modify for future cognitive function and mobility,” Prof. Hausdorff concludes.

The power of women in 2020

Tel Aviv University celebrates International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day, originally called International Workers’ Day, is marked annually on March 8th. It’s a political statement that calls for the world to pause for a moment and focus on the economic, social and political achievements of women, while drawing attention to the discrimination that still exists against women around the world.

International Women’s Day has been celebrated around the world since the early 20th century. Although we’ve progressed since then, gender inequality still affects most women. Women make up half the world’s population, but hold less than 23% of parliamentary positions worldwide, earning about 30% less on average than men doing the same jobs.

“Discrimination against women in the workforce harms women, their families, businesses, and the economy as a whole,” says Prof. Daphna Hacker, from the Buchmann Faculty of Law and the NCJW Women and Gender Studies program at the Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities at Tel Aviv University.

“Women face discrimination when seeking employment because of the maternal role they play, they aren’t rewarded fairly for the work they do, and they’re affected by the glass ceiling, which prevents them from advancing to management positions. They are hurt because they do not enjoy the best workforce and diversity that women bring with them to the workplace; and the entire economy shuffles around when women are not allowed to exercise in all kinds of professions and occupations.”

Each for Equal

Each year, a theme is selected for International Women’s Day Campaign, and this year the focus stems from the notion of “collective individualism”: our actions, conversations, personal behaviors can affect all of society. Together, we can make change happen.

The campaign says:  “Let’s build a gender equal world. Equality is not an issue exclusively for women, it’s a business issue for everyone. Gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious – so what’s not great about that? The race is on for the gender equal boardroom, a gender equal government, gender equal media coverage, gender equal workplaces, gender equal sports coverage, more gender equality in health and wealth … so let’s make it happen. Let’s be #EachforEqual.”

Building a female professional network

In the world of work, one of the most important strategies for career management in general and job searches in particular is effective networking, which can, among other things, bring about a coveted job, higher pay or quick promotion. Such activity involves developing relationships with others who have the potential to provide work or career advice. For example, joining professional associations, searching for high-visibility assignments, participating in social activities and more. When the data shows that even in 2020, women earn less and there are fewer of them in management positions, some women think that women can use these social tools to fight for their place in a very competitive market.

“Networking is considered especially critical for women because it is a strategy they can use to break the glass ceiling,” explains Meirav Hauben, a personal career consultant at Tel Aviv University’s Career Development Center. “Being able to build relationships with others can help women expand their reach to senior positions in the organization. But various studies show that men and women do not work the same way in establishing and maintaining relationships, and this difference gives men a significant advantage.”

“We see today that women’s participation in the workforce is approaching that of men, but familial obligations are still primarily a woman’s responsibility, and a lot depends on her ability to combine work and family roles. Often, women may experience conflict between these roles. For example, if I want to have lunch with senior managers at the office, but still have the responsibility to leave early and pick up my child from kindergarten – I will not be able to take part in this important networking activity. “

“Women should be encouraged to look at and examine their location on the social networks they build, the value they bring to the network, and how they tend to use it to achieve their professional goals. When seeking work, every woman should proactively create and maintain relationships in a way that serves those professional goals. “It is important that organizations continue to encourage equal opportunities, recruit and promote women to senior positions, where women can be role models and create a network for other women.”

In recent years, we’ve been seeing the beginnings of a welcome trend where employers are encouraging both men and women to give importance to family life and the work-life balance, something that improves job satisfaction and employee productivity. In the Netherlands, for example, the work week is only 29 hours, compared to 40.6 hours in Israel. Denmark and Norway are also on the list of countries with the lowest weekly working hours in the world. Recently, high-tech companies in Israel have begun to allow workers to work from home a few days a week, but we’re still a long way away from finding a good balance between raising children and investing in a career.

Can’t do without it – mingling is important for networking and professional success

Studying and articulating gender

Virginia Wolf said: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Prof. Hannah Naveh and Prof. Hannah Herzog of Tel Aviv University thought that a woman needed her own publication as well, and established “Genders” – a series of research and philosophy books in all areas of women’s and gender studies and feminist theory, which they’ve been editing for twenty years.

The character of the mother of the soldier in new Hebrew literature, the preoccupation with dance in childhood and adolescence for girls in Israel, the 19th century female initiation novel and dozens of other subjects around gender and femininity make for a fascinating title list, where any woman can find something of interest. Over thirty books have been published in the series since the year 2000, including breakthrough books and even bestsellers, most of which have become major texts and have shaped critical thinking at Israeli universities. Researchers from Israel presented original and innovative research in “Genders”, among them: Daphna Hacker, Sharon Geva, Roni Halpern, Tova Cohen, Orit Kamir, Michael Gluzman, Nissim Gal and more. You can find all the books on the United Kibbutz Publishing site.

Living online

At Tel Aviv University, women researchers are soaring and paving the way for science and discovery. Want to know more talented female scholars and read about their work? All week, the University’s social networks will put women front and center, in the stories at the telavivuni instagram account, the tau2go Facebook account, and in English on the TAU LinkdIn account, using the #tau_wmn hashtag.

TAU researchers discover unique, non-oxygen breathing animal

The tiny relative of the jellyfish is parasitic and dwells in salmon tissue.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered a non-oxygen breathing animal. The unexpected finding changes one of science’s core assumptions about the animal world.A study on the finding was published on February 25 in PNAS by TAU researchers led by Prof. Dorothee Huchon of the School of Zoology at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.The tiny, less than 10-celled parasite Henneguya salminicola lives in salmon muscle. As it evolved, the animal, which is a myxozoan relative of jellyfish and corals, gave up breathing and consuming oxygen to produce energy.

Living without oxygen

“Aerobic respiration was thought to be ubiquitous in animals, but now we confirmed that this is not the case,” Prof. Huchon explains. “Our discovery shows that evolution can go in strange directions. Aerobic respiration is a major source of energy, and yet we found an animal that gave up this critical pathway.”Some other organisms like fungi, amoebas or ciliate lineages in anaerobic environments have lost the ability to breathe over time. The new study demonstrates that the same can happen to an animal — possibly because the parasite happens to live in an anaerobic environment.Its genome was sequenced, along with those of other myxozoan fish parasites, as part of research supported by the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation and conducted with Prof. Paulyn Cartwright of the University of Kansas, and Prof. Jerri Bartholomew and Dr. Stephen Atkinson of Oregon State University.

Reversing what we know about evolution

The parasite’s anaerobic nature was an accidental discovery. While assembling the Henneguya genome, Prof. Huchon found that it did not include a mitochondrial genome. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell where oxygen is captured to make energy, so its absence indicated that the animal was not breathing oxygen.Until the new discovery, there was debate regarding the possibility that organisms belonging to the animal kingdom could survive in anaerobic environments. The assumption that all animals are breathing oxygen was based, among other things, on the fact that animals are multicellular, highly developed organisms, which first appeared on Earth when oxygen levels rose. “It’s not yet clear to us how the parasite generates energy,” Prof. Huchon says. “It may be drawing it from the surrounding fish cells, or it may have a different type of respiration such as oxygen-free breathing, which typically characterizes anaerobic non-animal organisms.” According to Prof. Huchon, the discovery bears enormous significance for evolutionary research.“It is generally thought that during evolution, organisms become more and more complex, and that simple single-celled or few-celled organisms are the ancestors of complex organisms,” she concludes. “But here, right before us, is an animal whose evolutionary process is the opposite. Living in an oxygen-free environment, it has shed unnecessary genes responsible for aerobic respiration and become an even simpler organism.”
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