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Multiple sclerosis study reveals possible trigger

Multiple sclerosis study reveals possible trigger

Multiple sclerosis, one of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases, affects some 2.5 million people worldwide and has no known cure.

Researchers have long speculated that MS is triggered by the body’s own immune system unleashing an uncontrolled attack on myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells (neurons).

A study published by Israeli scientists in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) pinpoints a structural instability in the myelin membranes, the “insulating tape” surrounding neurons.

This vulnerability seems to be what gives the immune system access to otherwise protected regions.

“We found that small modifications in the myelin sheaths create structural instabilities that may help the immune system to enter and attack neurons,” said principal investigator Prof. Roy Beck of Tel Aviv University’s School of Physics and Astronomy and Sagol School of Neurosciences.

“Current therapeutic approaches have focused on the autoimmune response without identifying a clear mechanism. Our research suggests a new avenue for multiple sclerosis therapies and diagnostics,” Beck said.

Breaking down the insulation

Axons, which carry electrical impulses in neurons, are surrounded by protective myelin sheaths. In MS, an autoimmune “error” mistakenly identifies these sheaths as hostile foreign entities and breaks them down.

The research, conducted by Rona Shaharabani, a doctoral student in Prof. Beck’s lab, pinpoints the precise alterations to the myelin sheaths that result in structural instabilities, creating “easy access” for autoimmune attacks.

“After years of research, we were amazed to discover that a possible trigger for the outbreak of the disease could be found in the membrane’s physical structure,” said Beck.

Read more: Israel 21c

Hall of Famers’ visit giving Israeli football huge boost

Football Hall of Famers touch down in Israel

RAMAT HASHARON, Israel — Some of the greatest NFL players of all time descended on a converted soccer field outside Tel Aviv to watch local children scrimmage in a big boost for the burgeoning sport of American football in Israel.

Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Roger Staubach and Mike Singletary were among the 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who arrived for a weeklong visit to the Holy Land to meet some of the 2,000 active players in Israel’s various leagues and to learn about the growth of gridiron in the country.

Scores of young players, fans and officials erupted upon the arrival of the delegation, a group donning the signature gold Hall of Fame jackets that included Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, Dave Casper, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, “Mean” Joe Greene, Willie Lanier, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith and John Stallworth.

The mission was organized by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has been sponsoring the sport in Israel since it was launched in 1999.

“I love football. I love Israel. I love America. I think kids in America would die to have this group of players come and view them,” Kraft told The Associated Press. “The game of football teaches you lessons in life that nothing else does.”

While lagging far behind soccer and basketball in popularity, football has made great strides at the grassroots level thanks to live NFL broadcasts and the expansion of the Israel Football League, now 10 years old. Unlike baseball, which still mostly appeals to American-Israelis, football has resonated with native-born Israelis, who have taken a liking to the army-like strategy, camaraderie and collisions.

The game has really taken off in the high school league, where nine teams play across the country, and it is now no longer unusual to see kids tossing the pigskin in city parks.

On Thursday, the NFL greats watched scrimmages between various high school teams, including the six-time defending league champions Kfar Saba Hawks, who have become an unlikely breeding ground of future commandos in the Israeli military.

Together with the eight flag football leagues for men, women and children, there are about 80 teams playing football in Israel.

“This is only going to get bigger and better over here because of him,” Montana said of Kraft.

Read More: ESPN

In Pro-Israel Victory, Methodists to Withdraw from BDS Coalition

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Church votes to reject efforts to isolate Israel ‘while overlooking anti-Israel aggression’

Just days after rejecting four resolutions calling for divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank, the United Methodist Church voted to withdraw from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

By a vote of 478-318 at its general conference in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, the church approved a petition requesting its withdrawal from the group, Religion News Service reported.

A national coalition that “works to end U.S. support for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem,” according to its website, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has been accused of being more anti-Israel than pro-peace.

The Methodist petition called the group a “one-sided political coalition” that seeks to isolate Israel “while overlooking anti-Israel aggression.” The US Campaign promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and seeks to end U.S. aid to that nation.

“Blaming only one side while ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran will not advance the cause of peace,” the petition added.

Not everyone was pleased with the decision.

The Rev. Armando Arellano, a delegate from Ohio, told RNS the US Campaign is “neither pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, but pro-equal rights for all.”

“By withdrawing from the coalition,” he said, “we are withdrawing our commitment to be an agent of peace and justice.”

Over the weekend, a church committee rejected four resolutions calling for the church to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank.

The resolutions called for divesting from three companies that pro-Palestinian activists have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel’s West Bank settlement enterprise. They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

Similar boycott, divestment and sanctions petitions failed at general conferences in 2008 and 2012.

Last week Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination who was raised and remains a practicing Methodist, criticized the BDS movement in a statement that was believed to be directed at the church, though it did not specifically mention the church.

In January, the Methodists’ pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its portfolio, saying the investments were counter to its policies against investing in “high risk countries” and to remain committed to human rights. Read more at the Times of Israel.

Israel Successfully Tests “Iron Dome of the Sea”

The test of the Tamir Adir shipborne Iron Dome system. (Photo: YouTube screen shot)

The test of the Tamir Adir shipborne Iron Dome system. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

IDF unveils new weapon that can block short-range ballistic missiles while aboard a moving ship, expected to protect offshore rigs and other assets

Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system that can shoot down short-range missiles, dubbing it the “Iron Dome of the Sea,” the navy announced on Wednesday.

The Tamir-Adir system, which the IDF said can shoot down short-range rockets similar to those fired from Gaza, successfully destroyed “several” missiles, Col. Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the navy, said.

Shir said that during tests carried out two weeks ago, a battery mounted to a ship shot down every one of a salvo of short-range ballistic rockets fired from the shore.

He said the test “proved the Israeli navy’s ability to protect Israel’s strategic assets at sea against short-range strategic rockets.”

A video provided by the army showed a rocket launcher installed on a ship firing at targets in the sky and later intercepting a missile.

During the 2014 Gaza war, Israel deployed its Iron Dome system on land to shoot down rockets fired by Hamas and other terror groups across the border, calling the system a game-changer.

The Tamir Adir system uses technology developed for Iron Dome but adjusted for the operational needs of a moving vessel.

The system was in development for several years, but was only unveiled to the public Wednesday.

The battery is designed to be placed on a moving ship traveling up to cruise speed and will be used to protect strategic assets, such as natural gas rigs, in Israel’s territorial waters.

Included in Israel’s sea assets is a major offshore gas rig around 16 nautical miles from Gaza which the Hamas terror group has previously targeted unsuccessfully. Read more at the Times of Israel.