Tag: Science

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.

 

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.”

Victoria

Tok Corporate Centre, Level 1,
459 Toorak Road, Toorak VIC 3142
Phone: +61 3 9296 2065
Email: office@aftau.asn.au

New South Wales

P.O. Box 4044, Maroubra South,
NSW 2035
Phone: +61 418 465 556
Email: davidsolomon@aftau.org.au

Western Australia

P O Box 36, Claremont,
WA  6010
Phone: :+61 411 223 550
Email: clivedonner@thelinqgroup.com