Breakthroughs in stem cell research and the scientific and ethical challenges posed by cloning were among the fascinating topics addressed by Bar-Ilan University (BIU) Prof. Yaron Shav-Tal at an American Friends of Bar-Ilan University's (AFBIU) Young Israel of Scarsdale Scholarship Meeting. This outreach event was hosted by Steve & Adina Fredman on February 20th. It was chaired by long-time AFBIU leader and supporter, Steve Gelles.
Prof. Shav-Tal, a member of the Nano Medicine Center at the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), and a Senior Lecturer in the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, is now working to better understand how genes switch "on" and "off" in normal cells and in cancer cells. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, having taken a one-year sabbatical from Bar-Ilan University.
Finding the Genetic On and Off Switch in Cancer Cells:
He explained how stem cell research is now focusing on the use of adult stem cells, which can be easily obtained from sources such as bone-marrow and placenta. Prof. Shav-Tal said these cells have been shown to have therapeutic effects in a variety of neurological diseases in experimental animal models. Therefore, he added that adult stem cells have great potential to be used for cell replacement therapy in various neurodegenerative disorders.
Prof. Shav-Tal told the group that cloning has mostly gone on the scientific back-burner due to its many problems and costliness. He explained that cloning has an extremely low success rate, and animals that have been cloned have led lives in poor health and died at an early age.
Praising how Bar-Ilan has come a long way in the sciences in the past few years, Prof. Shav-Tal said that the University is gaining greater recognition for its leadership in recruiting the best and brightest returning scientists and reversing the country's "brain drain." Prof. Shav-Tal added that Bar-Ilan has transformed its science and high-tech programs dramatically, which helping to attract Israel's best science researchers and students, and enabled the University to garner more grants and have its work published in prestigious scientific journals.
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