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Israeli-developed ALS treatment reversing motor decline breakthrough

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You may recall friends and family dumping buckets of ice on their head to raise funds for treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating neuro-degenerative disease.

Current treatments are able to slow ALS’ progression but fail to maintain or restore motor movement. Now, multiple clinical trials conducted by an Israeli firm, Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics, show a first-ever reversal in expected decline for patients, likely to transform how we treat ALS.

“We showed a very strong improvement when we compare pre-treatment to post-treatment in the patients that were treated,” said Chaim Lebovits, CEO of Brainstorm, referring to the company’s advanced stem cell therapy treatment. “It means that it’s not even a slowdown of the disease, or a halt, but it’s a reversal of it. It’s unheard of in ALS, if we replicate this in a third trial.”

BrainStorm announced on Monday that its first patients had enrolled in a phase three clinical trial for its treatment of ALS at two American hospitals. The research will occur at Massachusetts General Hospital, UC Irvine Medical Center in California and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota — and it will include some 200 patients, half of whom will be given a placebo.

The company expects that if the stage three trial goes well, that the US Food and Drug Administration may give regulatory approval for mass use among doctors and patients. The trial will be measured by the ALSFR-S score responder analysis and final data is expected by 2019.

BrainStorm’s first two clinical trials of its stem cell therapy treatment, called NurOwn, were conducted at Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital and also in the United States.

During the treatment process, doctors extract cells from the bone marrow of from patients with ALS, and the cells are multiplied and matured, then prepared for injection back into the patient. During the maturation process, the cells from the bone marrow are manipulated into behaving like brain cells, in that they produce materials that are the building blocks of the brain. When these modified cells are put back in patients, the building blocks circulate in the spinal fluid and help repair the damaged brain.

Since the cells are taken directly from the patient, that avoids the need for patients to be immunosuppressed so their bodies don’t attack a foreign substance.

“This is unprecedented, I’m not aware of another treatment program where the potential to alter or improve ALS is as great. We’re very encouraged by the promising results seen so far, and the changes in biomarkers that measure the building blocks of the brain — they suggest that the delivery of these substances is having an effect… we’re confident that we’re on the right track,” said Ralph Kern, MD, Brainstorm’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Medical Officer.

Read More: J Post

At Security Council Parley on Middle East, US and Israeli UN Envoys Decry Iranian Regional Provocations

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The US and Israeli envoys to the UN slammed Iran’s rulers at a Wednesday meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, arguing that fears over the survival of 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran were leading the international community to ignore the Islamic Republic’s regional provocations.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley cautioned the Security Council that it had “adopted a dangerously short-sighted approach.”

“Judging Iran by the narrow confines of the nuclear deal misses the true nature of the threat,” Haley declared. “Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive, destabilizing, and unlawful behavior. To do otherwise would be foolish.”

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon asserted in his remarks that uncompromising hostility toward the Jewish state was a constant of the Tehran regime’s policy. “Iran seeks to destroy Israel by any means necessary,” Danon said. “It has tried to obtain nuclear capabilities for years. Today, the regime’s intentions are no different than before.”

Haley added that “nearly every threat to peace and security in the Middle East is connected to Iran’s outlaw behavior. For the international community’s engagement with Iran, this is a time of clarity and opportunity.”

“The United States has now embarked on a course that attempts to address all aspects of Iran’s destructive conduct, not just one aspect,” Haley said. “It’s critical that the international community do the same.”

Haley also urged the Security Council to renew its investigation into “the horrific use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

Danon presented what he called an “indictment” of Iran to the Security Council, citing its historical involvement in such terrorist outrages as the bombing of the US Marines barracks in Beirut in 1983, the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994 and the attack on Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgas in 2015.

“In Syria, Iran has armed Bashar al-Assad, the butcher of Damascus,” Danon stated. “Without Iranian support, the Assad regime would have failed in its evil mission to murder its own people. The Iranian ayatollahs sponsor Hezbollah’s war chest, Hamas’ budget of bloodshed and Islamic Jihad’s terror funds.”

“Iran also commits horrific human rights violations against its own people,” Danon continued.  “If you are gay, lesbian or bisexual you will be hanged from a crane. In Iran if you are a girl as young as nine years old you can be married off to a grown man. In Iran, if you’re a journalist and you criticize the regime, you will be arrested with no right to a trial.”

Read More: Algeminer 

Massive section of Western Wall and Roman theater uncovered after 1,700 years

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Archaeologists are one step closer to solving the riddle of what took place in Jerusalem following the destruction of the city by Romans in 70 CE.

Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists announced Monday that for the past two years they have been excavating and exposing a massive eight-meter deep section of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, unseen for 1,700 years.

And in the course of their work, which has been quietly proceeding directly beneath Wilson’s Arch — the area immediately adjacent to the men’s section of the Western Wall — they unexpectedly discovered a small Roman theater. The dig has not encroached under the Temple Mount.

During the two years of excavations, a new reinforced floor was constructed so as not to interrupt daily worship at Judaism’s holiest site for prayer.

The work is set to continue for another six months, and the expectation is that First Temple-era findings will be uncovered. When the work is completed, the site will be opened to the public.

At a subterranean press conference Monday in the Western Wall tunnel complex, archaeologists Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon contextualized the discovery of the theater structure directly below Wilson’s Arch as a never-before-seen window into daily public life in the newly Roman-conquered city.

“The discovery of the theater-like structure is a real drama,” said Uziel.

In the 1860s, British surveyor and archaeologist Charles William Wilson was the first to seek such a theater in the vicinity of the Western Wall. The small 200- to 300-seat theater, whose existence is noted by Josephus Flavius and other ancient sources but which has eluded Jerusalem excavations for some 150 years, is the first rediscovered example of a Roman public building in Jerusalem,archaeologists said.

Read More: Times of Israel

Wisconsin Is the Latest State to Introduce Anti-BDS Legislation

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Last week, two Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced legislation to prohibit businesses from engaging in boycotts of Israel as a condition of any state contract.

In recent years, more than 20 US states have passed legislation condemning BDS or prohibiting their governments from doing business with entities that boycott Israel. Additional states — including Wisconsin — are expected to suit follow before the end of the year.

Released by State Senator Leah Vukmir and State Representative Dale Kooyenga, the Wisconsin bill is currently being circulated among both chambers for co-sponsors. The measure “prohibits any state agency or other body in state government and any local governmental unit, including a special purpose district, from adopting a rule, ordinance, policy, or procedure that involves the state agency or local governmental unit in a boycott of Israel or a person doing business in Israel or in a territory under Israeli jurisdiction.”

It also “requires contracts for materials, supplies, equipment, and services between state purchasing agents and nongovernmental entities to include a provision that the nongovernmental entity is not currently participating, or will not for the duration of the contract participate, in a prohibited boycott.”

Vukmir said in a statement, “Boycotts of Israel must be fought because they do not just attack the Jewish state. This propaganda campaign is also the basis for newly emboldened and destructive anti-Semitic attitudes.”

“Israel stands as the only democracy in the Middle East, offering a voice not only to the Jewish citizens of Israel, but to all citizens of Israel regardless of their age, race, sex or religion,” Kooyenga added. “This bill demonstrates that Wisconsin is serious about standing with Israel, as our republic has since Israel’s founding nearly 70 years ago.”

Read More: Algemeiner