Iranian Scientists Win American Academy of Ophthalmology Award

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Iranian researchers, scientists win American Academy of Ophthalmology award

Three Iranian Ophthalmologists have won AAO’s “Achievement Award”.

Alireza Lashi’ie, Deputy of Research Ophthalmology Department, Alireza Baradaran Rafi’ie, professor of Science Technology University of Shahid Beheshti, and Mohammad Mahdi Parvaresh won the “Achievement Award” of American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Lashi’ie told the reporters that the American Academy of Ophthalmology selects some candidates from all the countries every year, according to the specific criteria.

He said: “Some of the set criteria include scientific and research experiences, written articles, the posted posters, and cooperating with AAO.”

Alireza Baradaran Rafi’ie and Mohammad Mahdi Parvaresh won the award this year and Masoud Soheilian was the chosen candidate last year.

Lashi’ie emphasized that such awards are not given to just one person, and it belongs to all the members participating in the scientific project of an organization.

He considered the award as the outcome of the a team-work done by his colleagues in Farabi Hospital and Ophthalmology Research Institute.

*Iranian wins world’s best young scientist award

An Iranian researcher at Sharif University of Technology Hadi Parastar received the world’s best young scientist award at the 15th Conference on Chemometrics in Analytical Chemistry.

The 15th Conference on Chemometrics in Analytical Chemistry was held in Changsha City, China from June 22 to 26.

This is the world’s most valuable conference in chemometrics which was held in an Asian state after 28 years.

The previous editions of the CAC meeting was held in the US, Hungary, Belgium, France, and Portugal among others.

In its 15th edition, the CAC meeting focused on new developments and applications of chemometrics in analytical chemistry and other branches of chemistry.

The best young scientist award was given to the Iranian scientist due to his innovation in developing new chemometrics methods to analyze complex data obtained from the new generation of chromatography.

*Iranian universities among top Asian institutions

Three Iranian universities are among the top 100 universities in Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2015, which are based on the same criteria as the World University Rankings ― powered by Thomson Reuters. They judge world-class universities across all of their core missions on basis of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook, Mehr News Agency reported.

Sharif University of Technology ranked 43 with overall score of 37.7; Isfahan University of Technology ranked 61 with overall score of 32.7; and Iran University of Science and Technology ranked 69 with overall score of 30.6.

The top three universities of Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2015 include The University of Tokyo, National University of Singapore (NUS), and The University of Hong Kong respectively.

In this year’s rankings, Japan has lost its crown to its main regional rival, China. China has made significant progress and overtaken Japan as Asia’s number one nation for world-class universities with 21 institutions in the top 100.

*Iranians make first memory cell mimicking brain

Three Iranian scientists and their colleagues at RMIT University in Australia have developed a longtime memory, mimicking information process as conducted by brain. They have developed an electronic long-term memory cell that can mimic the way the human brain processes information, ISNA wrote.

The world’s first-ever electronic multi-state memory cell mirrors the brain’s ability to simultaneously process and store multiple strands of information. The development brings the researchers closer to imitating the electronic aspects of the human brain. This is a vital step toward creating a bionic brain that researchers could experiment on to potentially lead to a treatment of common neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Hossein Nili, lead author of the study, said: “This new discovery is significant as it allows the multi-state cell to store and process information in the very same way that the brain does. If you could replicate a brain outside the body, it would minimize ethical issues involved in treating and experimenting on the brain, which can lead to better understanding of neurological conditions.”

The question therein lies, if a robot is programmed to feel or at the very least mimic the human experience of pain, should we experiment on such a being? It could mean that we are able to perform a myriad of experiments that wouldn’t have any ethical repercussions as we wouldn’t be causing pain or distress in an actual, organic, and living creature. The experiments could, as Nili has aforementioned, be extremely helpful in finding cures to neurological conditions.

This question rather leads to a very interesting philosophical conundrum: Could a robot actually feel pain the same way that a human does? The answer is quite simple: No. Primarily, the physiological reaction would not be the same as in an organic creature. For instance, if the bionic-brained robot was programmed to react to consuming a whole bottle of Tylenol in the same way as humans are, it would not have the exact same reaction to it, physically, as we would. In other words, they could suffer the same amount of pain neurologically, but they wouldn’t have the same permanently damaging bodily reactions as humans. Obviously, because it is inorganic, it wouldn’t have seizures or spasms as a result of consuming the Tylenol that are going to permanently damage its body.

*Iran ranks highest in ME for top universities

The CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015 has listed 13 Iranian universities among 750 top ranking universities in the world.

According to deputy of Islamic World Science Citation Center Ali Gazani, Iran holds the highest ranking among regional countries in CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015.

The 13 universities selected are:  Isfahan University of Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology, Sharif University of Technology, University of Tabriz, Iran University of Science & Technology, University of Tehran, Shahid Beheshti University, Tarbiat Modares University, Shiraz University, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Islamic Azad University of Science & Research Tehran, Islamic Azad University of Science & Research Tehran, Tehran University of Medical Science, and Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Science.

The CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015 offers key insights into the scientific performance of 750 major universities worldwide. A sophisticated set of bibliometric indicators provides statistics on the scientific impact of universities and on universities’ involvement in scientific collaboration. The CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015 is based on Web of Science indexed publications from the period 2010–2013.

*Iranian scientist receives 2015 Eric Kandel Prize

Iranian scientist Yasser Roudi has been awarded the 2015 Eric Kandel Young Neuroscientists Prize.

ICTP (International Center for Theoretical Physics) Research Staff Associate Yasser Roudi has been awarded the 2015 Eric Kandel Young Neuroscientists Prize for important contributions to the applications of statistical physics to network reconstruction and the understanding of information processing.

The award which is named after the 2000 Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, “recognizes the work of outstanding young scientists in the field of neuroscience and helps advance their careers as researchers” and “is the most prestigious award for the next generation of top neuroscientists in Europe,” according to FENS website.

Established in 2010 by the Hertie Foundation in collaboration with FENS, the Kandel prize is given to outstanding young scientists in the field of neuroscience to help advance their careers as researchers.

A major theme of Prof. Roudi’s research is understanding the computational mechanisms and algorithms involved in statistical inference and learning, and the possible implementation of such mechanisms in neural networks.

Yasser who is now 33 studied Physics at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran and obtained his PhD from SISSA, Trieste in 2005.

His previous awards include the Bogue Research Fellowship (UCL), the Burgen Scholarship from Academea Europea, the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences, Letters young investigators award, and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters’ Nansen prize for young scientists.

The awarding ceremony was on 28 May 2015 at Paulskirche, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

*Magnetic nanoparticles to treat cancer

Researchers at University of Tehran have made a breakthrough in the synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles which can be used as a good alternative in cancer treatment

One way to treat cancer and kill cancer cells is through injecting magnetic nanoparticles into the cancerous tissue. Once the magnetic nanoparticles are exposed to the cancer cells and naturally some healthy cells as well, an alternating magnetic field outside the patient's body will raise the temperature of these nanoparticles and generate heat. The heat then targets and kills the cancer cells in a process that is called Hyperthermia therapy.

Researchers at University of Tehran have worked on a project in which ceramic nanoparticles of lanthanum magnetite doped with strontium (La0.8Sr0.2MnO3) was produced through mechanical grinding and heating.

Dr. Abolghasem Ataei, the project manager, said the most important issue in such treatment is to properly set the temperature known as Curie temperature where the nanoparticles lose their magnetism and their temperature will not increase.

“Thus, by applying a magnetic field, no more heat is generated and since cancer cells are killed in a lower temperature than healthy cells, the temperature for nanoparticles must be higher than the temperature for killing cancer cells and lower than the point that would be damaging to healthy ones. We have succeeded in obtaining such temperature in this project,” he said.

The results of the research conducted by Dr. Abolghasem Ataei, Seyed Mohammad Salili, Dr. Mohammadreza Barati, and Zoya Seddighi have been issued in Materials Characterization (volume 106, issue no. 1, 2015, pp. 78-85).

*Iranian scientists unveil domestically made surgery robot

Iranian scientists have unveiled the first domestically made high precision remote surgery robot.

Avicenna, specifically designed to carry out laparoscopic operations, was unveiled during Iran's Second International Innovation and Technology Exhibition (INOTEX 2015).

“This robot is an advanced remote surgery system that operates with a monitor and two robotic arms,” said Farzam Farahmand, the director of the Avicenna project.

He added that the Iranian robot can also be used “for abdominal and prostate surgery” with a surgeon controlling the arms and viewing the operation via the monitor.

“Operations carried out with this device minimize the damaging effects on the healthy tissues, reduce bleeding during the operation, and accelerate the recovery process,” he noted.

The machine has passed the animal testing stage and now requires proper licenses to start tests on human subjects, he added.

The robot, which is named after Iranian scientist Avicenna, was designed and developed in a joint project by the Sharif University of Technology and Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

*Iranian scientist receives major NASA grant

Iranian Scientist Bahram Mobasher at the University of California, Riverside, has received nearly $4.5 million as part of NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).

The grant will provide funding for a five-year research project called ‘Fellowships and Internships in Extremely Large Data Sets’, which aims to develop research and education opportunities in big data and visualization, according to information from the university, ISNA wrote.

FIELDS is a collaborative project between UCR, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the California State University system and the state’s two-year community colleges. The program will train underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

NASA currently has nearly 100 active missions and collects about two gigabytes of data per minute. It expects that volume of data to increase by a factor of 1,000 in the near future, and is looking for better ways to visualize the data for analysis. The FIELDS project will support this goal through several research and education programs.

The FIELDS research and education initiatives include:

•Undergraduate training and research for students in physical, biological, computer science and engineering disciplines at UCR and partner institutions;

•A new master’s course in big data and visualization, with students attending courses at UCR and doing research at JPL;
•Support for doctoral and postdoctoral research;

•Support for high school STEM teacher training at UCR to help encourage more high school students to develop an interest in STEM fields.

“A major goal of the project is advancement by students to research universities, gaining research experience, acquiring advanced STEM degrees, and taking up careers in STEM, including NASA employment,” said  Mobasher, professor of physics and astronomy at UCR and the grant’s principal investigator, in a prepared statement.

“We expect that collaborative research by JPL and UCR scientists and their students will generate preliminary results for further grant proposals to outside agencies.”

*Iran's science and technology progress admirable: UNESCO Official

Assistant Director-General of UNESCO said that she has always admired the advances Iran has made in science and technology.

Flavia Schlegel made the remarks in a meeting with Iran's Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mohammad Farhadi.

She said that Iran is the first country she is visiting since she took office, adding that diversity of Iran's scientific activities are so noticeable.

Schlegel acknowledged institutionalization of innovation in Iranian cultural domain and said that cooperation between Iran and UNESCO has always been useful and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is willing to consider challenges and adopt practical techniques to consolidate and strengthen cooperation with Iran.

She added that UNESCO always acknowledged the achievements Iran has made in medical science, medicine, technologies and innovation. She said that 'Iran is a living pattern for combination of tradition and innovation.'

*Iranian-developed technique can explain Universe’s birth

Astrophysicists have developed a new method for calculating the effect of Rayleigh scattering on photons, potentially allowing researchers to better understand the formation of the Universe.

UBC theoretical cosmology graduate student Elham Alipour, UBC physicist Kris Sigurdson and Ohio State University astrophysicist Christopher Hirata probed the effect of Rayleigh scattering ― the process that makes the sky appear blue when the Sun’s photons are scattered by molecules in the atmosphere ― on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), Science Daily wrote.

The CMB is the oldest light in the universe, which originated when electrons combined with protons to form the first atoms. These primordial atoms were also the first to Rayleigh scatter light.

“Detecting the Rayleigh signal is challenging because the frequency range, where Rayleigh scattering has the biggest effect, is contaminated by noise and foregrounds, such as galactic dust,” lead author Alipour said.

By using different high-frequency channels to observe the CMB and combining this information, researchers may be able to better isolate the Rayleigh signal. This calculation of the effects of Rayleigh scattering on cosmology might help us better understand the formation of Universe 13.6 billion years ago.

“The CMB sky is a snapshot of the early Universe, it is a single frame in the movie of the Universe, and we have shown that Rayleigh signal gives us another fainter snapshot of the same scene at a slightly different time,” co-author Sigurdson explained.

*Iranian professor receives Arrhenius award

A professor of Khajeh Nasir Toosi University of Technology was awarded the Arrhenius Research Award 2015 in environmental science.

From among 500 competitors, Ahmad Mirbaqeri received the Arrhenius Research Award for his mathematic model of simulating the quality of underground water resources, Mehr News Agency said.

The research has analyzed and evaluated Damghan Basin hydrochemically and investigates the qualitative and quantitative changes in groundwater resources of the basin.

The study has been published on Water Resources Research and the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science.

The mathematical model presented in this research has the ability to calculate the period over which the resources will remain healthy and drinkable as well as the time they will turn saline.

Predicting the condition of underground water is an issue of high importance for countries worldwide and will play a vital role in agriculture, urban and industrial policymaking.

*Iranian scientists develop durable hybrid heart valve

Two Iranian scientists have combined patient’s cells with a metal alloy, building a durable hybrid heart valve.

The researchers have created a new heart valve that combines a patient’s own cells with metal alloy for a more durable replacement with potentially fewer complications.

The results of the study were published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

Two Iranian scientists Hamed Alavi, PhD, and Arash Kheradvar, MD, PhD, from the University of California in Irvine, developed the potentially revolutionary hybrid tissue-engineered heart valve.

Current valve replacement options are limited to those made solely from manufactured products (mechanical valves) or animal tissue (bioprosthetic valves). Mechanical heart valves tend to last longer than bioprosthetic valves, but they carry a greater long-term risk for blood clots that may lead to stroke and arterial thrombosis (clotting in the arteries), as well as bleeding from anticoagulant medications designed to prevent thrombosis.

“Bioprosthetic valve replacements, on the other hand, are prone to limited durability, which means patients may need a reoperation usually 10 to 15 years after implantation,” said Dr. Alavi.

Traditionally, tissue-engineered valves are built on a scaffold that will degrade once the tissue is more mature. Once the scaffold has degraded, however, the valve leaflets often shrink, which can cause leaks and result in valve failure.

“For our research, we decided to use a non-degradable scaffold that stays within the valve to provide the support it needs without interfering with its normal function,” said Prof. Kheradvar. “The valve we created uses an ultra-flexible scaffold made of an alloy of nickel and titanium (Nitinol) that is enclosed within the patient’s own cultured tissue. The entire process takes about 3 to 8 weeks.”

The researchers said that they expect the hybrid valve to self-regenerate inside the body, eventually incorporating itself into the patient’s heart structure. By using the patient’s own cells, the valve will become a “living” replacement for the diseased valve.

“We believe this new hybrid technology will significantly improve a patient’s quality of life by eliminating the need for lifelong medications and without compromising the durability of the valve,” said Dr. Alavi. “This is particularly beneficial for younger patients who are in need of a heart valve replacement.”

The researchers have completed initial lab testing and now plan to initiate the next phase of trials. If all goes well, they anticipate the hybrid heart valve will be available for use in patients in 5 to 10 years.

Founded in 1964, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is a not-for-profit organization representing more than 7,000 cardiothoracic surgeons, researchers, and allied health care professionals worldwide who are dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for surgeries of the heart, lung, and esophagus, as well as other surgical procedures within the chest. The Society’s mission is to enhance the ability of cardiothoracic surgeons to provide the highest quality patient care through education, research, and advocacy.

*Iranian scientist designs new microchip captures circulating tumor cells

An Iranian scientist Mahnaz Zeinali along with her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital has developed a microfluid chip which can capture rare clusters of circulating tumor cells in body.

The vast majority of cancer deaths occur because of metastasis, where cancer cells spread and set up secondary tumors in other parts of the body. Now, a new device that captures very rare clusters of migrating cancer cells promises to open up new ways to study metastasis, ISNA wrote.

One way cancer spreads from the primary tumor to other parts of the body is when tumor cells break off and travel through the bloodstream. These circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are very rare, and travel either singly or in clusters.

There has been progress in developing devices that capture single CTCs, and this has renewed interest in capturing clusters.

A stumbling block in developing the technology has been how to snare the clusters. One way that has been tried is to target proteins or antigens that the cells bear on their surfaces. But this has not proved satisfactory because CTCs do not all don the same uniform ― there can be a lot of difference in the types of antigens they wear.

The new device ― called the cluster-chip, uses microfluid technology to snare CTCs from whole, unprocessed blood.

Cluster-chip is the brainchild of a group led by Mehmet Toner, professor of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), who said their new chip would help spur new research on CTC cluster biology:

"It's like poking a sleeping bear. It could really awaken the field to go after clusters and develop even better technologies to understand their biology in cancer metastasis."

The team used the new chip to capture and analyze CTC clusters from 60 patients with metastatic breast, prostate and melanoma cancers.

They found CTC clusters in 30-40 percent of the patients. The clusters ranged from two to 19 cells in size.

Professor Toner said finding CTC clusters in this many patients is a remarkable result, showing that clusters are more common than we thought.

The chip uses microfluid technology, where flows of the tiny currents of fluid through the structure of the chip are manipulated and balanced precisely so as to hold the target particles in place and allow non-targeted particles to pass through.

*Iranian facilitates invisible data transfer

An Iranian researcher Ehsan Farkhondeh and his colleagues at Apple have filed a patent to make future iPhone displays transmit “invisible data”. This could be in the form of machine readable information, such as barcodes, security details or QR codes that is meaningless to the user, ISNA said.

The idea is that iPhones will someday have two displays; one that a user can see and another display embedded beneath to transmit hidden data.

The concept, titled “Invisible Light Transmission via a Display Assembly”, was discovered in a patent application by Apple Insider. The multi-display concept could work using a single display that has pixels that quickly switch between visible and invisible information, according to the patent documents.

Apple claims this would allow an app to present visible information that is relevant to the user, while hidden code could be given to machines such as a checkout scanner.

The patent highlights another potential use of the technology could be to shine “invisible light” that will illuminate a user’s surroundings.
This would be useful to, for instance, allowing a phone to run facial recognition apps without having to increase the brightness of the handset’s display.

The idea is that iPhones will someday have two displays; one that a user can see and another display embedded beneath to transmit hidden data. The multi-display concept could work using a single display that has pixels that quickly switch between visible and invisible information, according to the patent documents.

The patent is credited to inventors Ehsan Farkhondeh, Brian Shadle and Shin John Choi. As the files revealed, after the prints are stored online, the user could press the TouchID scanner on any Apple device to sign into accounts and make payments.

*Iranian universities among 100 under 50 rankers

Sharif University of Technology and Isfahan University of Technology are among the Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 Rankings 2015.

The ranking includes the top 100 universities under 50 years old.

Sharif University of Technology was ranked 40 and Isfahan University of Technology was placed at 63rd place. 

Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ranked first on the list of Times Higher Education world university rankings and South Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech) and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) are placed second and third, respectively.

Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

The topmost ranking for a US university in this category was granted to the University of California, Irvine, which was placed at seventh place.

The ranking provides a glimpse into the future, showcasing not those institutions with centuries of history, but the rising stars that show great potential.

The table employs the same 13 separate indicators as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, but the 100 Under 50 Rankings 2015 methodology has been carefully recalibrated to reflect the special characteristics of younger universities, giving less weight to subjective indicators of academic reputation.

*Iranian scientist finds how brain recognizes face

An Iranian researcher Arash Afraz along with his colleagues at MIT has managed to solve the mystery of face recognition by human, using light to control neurons in a groundbreaking technique.They say the find solves the mystery of how primates including humans - can recognize faces. The team worked with macaque monkeys trained to correctly identify images of male or female faces.

Scientists have long attributed this ability to so-called 'face-detector' (FD) neurons, thought to be responsible for distinguishing faces, among other objects. But no direct evidence has supported this claim - until now.

'If these face-detector neurons are participating in face-discriminating behavior — in telling gender of faces apart — then, if we knock them down, the behavior should take a hit,' said Arash Afraz of MIT. Working with macaque monkeys trained to correctly identify images of male or female faces, the researchers used a light-sensitive protein to suppress parts of the brain.

In suppressing the neurons, the researchers observed a small yet significant impairment in the animals' ability to properly identify genders.

This experiment, Afraz said, marks a step forward in understanding the links between specific neurons and primate behavior.

'You actually have to perturb the activation of that neuron and see if you can affect behavior,' he said.

'If that happens, it means these neurons are part of the causal chain for that particular behavior.'

The study could also aid in developing visual prostheses that may require direct wiring with the IT cortex.

More broadly, understanding the light level needed for optogenetic neural silencing could also aid in developing implantable treatments for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy.

'We could have devices implanted in the cortex that automatically turn on when the epilepsy attack starts, and silence the cortex with light,' Afraz said.

For the PNAS paper, the MIT researchers trained two monkeys to identify images of gendered faces with about 90 percent accuracy.

The team worked with macaque monkeys trained to correctly identify images of male or female faces.

To do so, they displayed images of male and female faces with varying features slightly to the left or right of a middle fixation point of a screen.

Then, they displayed two dots on the top and bottom of the screen; the monkeys looked at the top dot if the face was female, and at the bottom dot if it was male.

The researchers then measured neural activity in the IT cortex of the monkeys, locating a number of subregions where FD neurons were most and least concentrated.

Next, they injected high- and low-FD subregions with a virally delivered protein engineered by Boyden's group, called ArchT, which subdues neural activity in the presence of light.

After a month, the monkeys viewed 1,600 grayscale images of male and female faces, during 40 separate sessions, while the researchers delivered random pulses of green light to the treated areas.

*Iran produces herbal diet tea

Isfahan University of Technology researchers have developed a herbal diet tea from momordica charantia also known as karela (bitter gourd) and olive leaf extracts.

Dr. Maryam Haqiqi and Dr. Amir Hossein Goli, members of the university’s Agriculture Faculty, and student of the university, Atefeh Shirvani, conducted the project.

Haqiqi, the project manager, said consumption of superfood drinks has increased in Iran.

“Karela contains active pharmaceutical ingredients such as glycosides, alkaloids and glycoproteins,” she said, adding that it also helps blood glucose control, carbohydrate metabolism and blood purification.

The expert noted that aqueous extract of olive leaves reduces blood sugar, hypertension, cholesterol and uric acid, stressing that it has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. The product purifies the body from waste and toxins.

Momordica charantia is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, which is extremely bitter. Its varieties differ substantially in terms of the fruit’s bitterness.

The fruit has a distinct warty exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large, flat seeds and pith.

Source: ISNA, Iran Daily, Mehr News, IRNA