For her work in this field, Naama Elefant, a student of Prof. Hanah Margalit of the Faculty of Medicine at the Hebrew University and an Azrieli fellow, was named one of this year’s winners of the Barenholz Prizes for Creativity and Originality in Applied Computer Science and Computational Biology.
The prizes were awarded on June 4 during the 71st meeting of the Hebrew University Board of Governors. This discovery also was declared by the magazine Nature Medicine as "one of the ten notable advances of the year 2007."
MicroRNA genes are a class of very tiny genes found in a variety of organisms. First discovered in 1993 and at the time considered relatively unimportant, they are now recognized as major players in diverse biological processes.
MicroRNAs are important regulators of protein production. Proteins, the building blocks of the cell, must be produced precisely at the right time and place. MicroRNAs specifically latch on to other genes (their targets) and inhibit the production of the protein products of these genes. Hundreds of microRNAs have already been discovered, but the identity of their target genes remains mostly unknown and presents a great challenge in the field.
Elefant developed a computer algorithm that predicts the targets of microRNAs. Her algorithm, named RepTar, searches the thousands of genes in the human genome and through sequence, structural and physical considerations detects matches to hundreds of microRNAs.
The uniqueness of this technique allowed her to research an interesting group of microRNAs originating in viruses. The presence of microRNAs in viruses raised the intriguing possibility that upon viral infection of a host cell, the virus may use microRNAs as weapons in its battle against the host, inhibiting the production of important host proteins.
Indeed, Elefant’s algorithm predicted that an immune system protein, essential for the immune system’s response against viruses, is inhibited by a viral microRNA. This prediction was confirmed in collaboration with the laboratory of Prof. Ofer Mandelboim of the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine, who demonstrated experimentally that the microRNA aids the virus in evading the immune system. This study showed for the first time that a viral microRNA inhibits the activity of a gene of the human immune system, placing microRNAs as important players in the battle between viruses and humans.
The discovery holds promising therapeutic implications. It opens a new direction for anti-viral therapy aimed at inhibiting the viral microRNA, and it introduces a possible means to suppress the immune system in autoimmune diseases and transplantations by developing synthetic microRNAs that will mimic the action of natural microRNAs.
The Barenholz Prize is named for its donor, Yehezkel Barenholz, the Dr. Daniel G. Miller Professor of Cancer Research at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.
Rebecca Zeffert | alfa
Changing the Energy Landscape: Affordable Electricity for All
20.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE
Emmy Noether junior research group investigates new magnetic structures for spintronics applications
11.10.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences