Iranian Scientist Receives OPCW Prize for Ceaseless Contributions

Monday, November 30, 2015

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Iranian scientist receives OPCW prize for ceaseless contributions

Dr. Mahdi Balali-Mood of Iran has been announced as the joint recipient of the second annual OPCW-The Hague Award for his outstanding contribution to achieving a world free of chemical weapons.

From the Brussels Declaration in August 27, 1874 to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) signed in January 13, 1993, global efforts have been made to curb the use of mass destruction weapons and to ban them. But the most recent and prominent of all endeavors was realized in the formation of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in 1997, which has now 192 member states and was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2013, the Netherlands-based OPCW decided to award an annual prize to the best efforts for the eradication of lethal chemical weapons and treating their victims. In December 2014, its first prize went to Dr. Robert Matthews of Australia and the Finnish Institute for the Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (VERIFIN) for their significant contributions to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The second prize, however, was awarded to Dr. Mahdi Balali-Mood, a prominent Iranian researcher, physician and clinical toxicologist, who “has dedicated his career to the treatment of victims of chemical warfare agents”.

“The 2015 Award winners will be honored at a presentation ceremony to be held at the Headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 30 November 2015,” the OPCW said in a statement published on its official website.

According to the statement, Dr. Balali-Mood has been a tireless educator on the medical aspects of chemical weapons, working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the OPCW to advocate for victims and to develop international guidelines to respond to the use of chemical warfare agents.

Dr. Balali-Mood shares the prize with Dr. Alastair Hay, a British scientist, who is considered to be a leading expert in the toxic properties of chemical warfare agents, the statement said, adding that each recipient will receive “a medal, a certificate of recognition and a cash prize of €45,000 ($47,800).”

*Iranian scientist awarded German prize

An Iranian professor has received prestigious award Future Prize (Deutscher Zukunftspreis) jointly with a colleague in Bayer Pharma AG.

“This evening, the Federal President Joachim Gauck awarded the 2015, the Federal President’s award for innovation in science and technology, to the team and project “A relief for heart and lung – from nitroglycerin to innovative therapies,” wrote the official website of the award.

They discovered and developed treatment for two forms of pulmonary hypertension. Research on the innovative mechanism of action, Riociguat, is based on the findings of 130 years of treating angina pectoris with nitroglycerin. The innovative drug can considerably improve the critically-ill patient’s quality of life – for some, this drug from Germany is the first drug therapy ever available, the website report said.

The Federal President honors outstanding achievements in technology, engineering and natural science that have resulted in marketable, ready-for-use products. The prize was awarded this year for the 19th time and is endowed with € 250,000.

Further nominees for the Deutscher Zukunftspreis and accepted by the jury into the “circle of the best” were Ralf Bornefeld, Dr. Walter Hartner and Dr. Rudolf Lachner, Infineon Technologies AG, Munich and Regensburg, with the project “ Car radar technology – a lifesaver goes into series production” 
as well as 
Peter Sander, Prof. Claus Emmelmann, Frank Herzog, Airbus Operations GmbH, Hamburg, LZN Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH, Hamburg, Concept Laser GmbH, Lichtenfels, with their joint development on “3D printing in commercial aircraft engineering – A manufacturing revolution is taking off.” 

*Parrot robot comes to help autistic children

A University of Tehran researcher has developed the country’s first ever parrot robot which would help autistic children in treatment process.

Hadi Moradi, the project manager of ‘Parrot Robot Design Project for Autistic Children’ told Mehr News that the parrot robot had the ability to distinguish colors, specific geometric shapes, voices, and persons, and was remotely controlled; “diagnosis of autism in affected children is possible through interviewing the parents by an specialist; given the different behavior displayed by autistic children and normal children in reaction to parrot robot, the autism is easily diagnosed,” he added.

Moradi said that the robot had undergone tests for its ability to diagnose accurately the autism; “now, the parrot robot is undergoing test in its ability to training autistic children in getting the turn in a queue; the robot is considered second in the raw, and the autistic child should realize when it is the parrot robot’s turn; we expect to see the test results by upcoming two months,” he detailed about the process.

He also predicted teaching objects to autistic children and distinguishing individuals’ feelings as possible future plans; “the designing of the robot is unique even across the world; the robot was developed by close collaboration of Cognitive Science and Technology Council of Presidential Deputy for Science and Technology for the first time,” Moradi added.

“Currently, other types of robots such as ‘Nao,’ which are priced at thousands of dollars; our parrot robot however is only $ 1,700, and awaits industrial-level mass production; the robot would be used in other applications such as entertainment and language learning,” he told reporters.

*Iranian humanoid ‘Surena III’ unveiled

Iranian humanoid robot ‘Surena III’ developed by researchers at University of Tehran was unveiled today during a ceremony attended by Vice President for Science and Technology.

The third generation of Iranian humanoid robot dubbed ‘Surena’ with a height of 190cm and a weight of 98kg enjoys remarkable improvements over its previous model. Surena III has 31 degrees of freedom, 9 degrees more than Surena II, including 12 at its legs, 16 at its hands, 2 at its head and 1 at its waist. Each leg of the robot has 6 degrees of freedom including 3 at its thighs, 1 at its knees and 2 at its wrists.

Surena III walks 3km/h faster than the previous model. It also has the ability to walk on uneven or sloping surfaces, as well as climb up and down stairs. Surena III can also drift and turn around within a desired radius.

The Iranian humanoid robot is also capable of interacting with its surroundings through visual and auditory senses. It can also speak based on predefined text, and enjoys the ability to recognize objects and has remote control.

Surena III can also detect human faces in motion and recognize body positions. It can hear and speak 200 words/sentences in Persian.

The national project of humanoid robot Surena III has been conducted by Center for Advanced Systems and Technology (CAST) at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of University of Tehran. In addition to professors and students of University of Tehran, a number of elites from other universities and companies active in the field of robotics have also participated in the project.

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Iran's manufacture of Surena makes it one of five countries in the world with the technology to make humanoid robots. Iran unveiled Surena I and Surena II in 2008 and 2010, respectively. 

*Iranian robot increases speed, accuracy in endoscopic surgeries

Iranian researchers at Amirkabir University of Technology in cooperation with scientists at the US University of Maryland have designed and built a robot with higher speed and accuracy in endoscopic surgeries. 

The project of endoscopic robot which was executed by researchers from University of Maryland and Sheikh Zayed Research Center in the US was first defined as a research project by Mojtaba Karimi, an MA student at Amirkabir University of Technology, currently in the stage of being internationally patented.

The robot participated in the fifth International competition of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (AUTcup 2015) and was awarded the first prize in medical robots league.

Mojtaba Karimi said the robot with 2 degrees of freedom is capable of wireless stereo imaging for laparoscopic surgeries.

“Conventional laparoscopic surgeries require 3 very small incisions through which the surgeon introduces a camera and some instruments into the abdomen; the endoscopic robot however requires only two incisions,” explained Karimi.

According to Karimi, the robot fixes endoscopy images and increases the speed and accuracy of surgical operations to prevent the surgeon's distraction.

“Due to its having 2 degrees of freedom, the robot can move both horizontally and vertically, thus enabling the surgeon to easily adjust his/her viewing angle for performing surgeries on any desired part,” he added. 

“The robot uses an internal battery which lasts for 36 minutes. In longer surgeries, we can wirelessly recharge the battery with an instrument 5 centimeters away from the robot,” he said. 

According to Karimi, the laboratorial sample of the endoscopic robot has successfully passed all experimental stages and necessary measures are currently being taken to prepare the robot for use in operating rooms.

*Iranian-made artificial skin unveiled

Researchers at the Iranian Sharif University of Technology have developed an artificial skin which is proved to be effective in treatment of severe and deep wounds, skins scorched with burns, and diabetic wounds.

The lab-produced artificial skin was unveiled along with nine other technological breakthroughs at the university on Tuesday, the IRNA news agency reported.

Maryam Ashkbous, a member of the research team, explained that the artificial skin has been produced of special polymers.

Previous artificial skin samples were vulnerable against infections and rejection of the graft by the patient’s immune system, she noted.

“As in the production of the new samples of the skin grafts engineering and medical sciences are combined together the new models have provided more successful treatment of the damaged tissues,” she highlighted.

The lab-produced skin has been tested on animals and results were positive, Ashkbous said, adding that “after obtaining necessary permits we will conduct testing on human beings.”

A severe burn leaves the body dangerously vulnerable to infection and dehydration. Artificial skin is a synthetic (laboratory produced) substitute for human skin that can dramatically save the lives of severely burned patients. 

*Young Iranian scientists win top German Green talent award

Two Iranians were among 27 leading young scientists from around the world to win Germany's 2015 Green Talents Award, according to IRNA.

Iranian PhD graduate Dr. Amirhosein Mosavi and PhD candidate Mohammad Moghimi Ardekani were both selected by a high-ranking German jury of experts as up-and-coming international scientists.

Mosavi's expertise dwells on sustainable technology, information technology and clean production and management, while his Iranian compatriot Ardekani is focusing on renewable energy and sustainable development.

A total of 27 winners were selected by the jury, out of more than 550 applications from over 90 countries.

The Green Talents Award, held under the patronage of the German Higher Eductaion and Research Minister Prof. Johanna Wanka, is providing a platform for the seventh time to young talents to share their views on green ideas and concepts.

Their prize is one of the much-coveted tickets to the “Green Talents - International Forum for High Potentials in Sustainable Development”.

This year's “Green Talents” event included a two-week interaction with leading experts and some of Germany's most renowned and prestigious research institutions and companies, among them Fraunhofer Fokus, KWB - Berlin Centre of Competence for Water, Ecologic Institute, Henkel and ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe.

Getting connected to the science community and exchanging ideas with its key innovators allows the winners to lay the foundation for future cooperation.

Such efforts are supported by the invitation to return to Germany for a fully funded research stay at an institution of their choice in 2016.

*Iranians use stem cells to treat Parkinson’s

Researchers from Shahid Beheshti University have obtained positive results from applying stem cells in treating Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement by destroying the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine. Dopamine, which is responsible for movement, is greatly reduced in patients with Parkinson’s disease, Mehr News Agency said.

Hassan Niknejad, head of the New Technologies Faculty at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, said cell therapy is more effective than pharmacotherapy in treating diseases that affect the nervous system.

“In its early stages, Parkinson’s disease can be treated by pharmacotherapy as the drugs help stimulate cells to produce more dopamine. However, once the nerve cells are reduced to half or even one-third of the cells in a healthy body, the effectiveness of drugs will drop considerably,” he said.

He added that the damaged cells must be replaced with healthy ones so that the patient can continue his or her daily activities.

“At present, the treatment of Parkinson’s disease has yielded good results in other countries since they use the brain of aborted babies to extract cells and replace them with the damaged cells in a patient with the disease,” said Niknejad, noting that this method can only be used in countries where abortion is legal.

“Abortion is illegal in Iran, so we use the patient’s blood or bone marrow as alternatives to extract stem cells,” he said.

Noting that a great volume of cells is needed to replace the damaged cells in a person with Parkinson’s disease, Niknejad added that the cells would be transformed into dopamine nerve cells through biotechnology.

“This process takes 28 days to be completed until we have obtained cells similar to nerve cells with the same functions,” he added.

According to Niknejad, at the moment using cell therapy for treating Parkinson’s disease has achieved positive results on a rat and a monkey, showing full recovery in the brains of these two animals with Parkinson’s disease.

*Iranian Prof. among world top four early career scientists

An Iranian national who is a senior lecturer in Imperial College in London has been selected as one of four prominent early career scientists around the world.

Kaveh Madani, senior lecturer in Environmental Management and the Director of Alumni at the Center for Environmental Policy, will be honored with the 2016 European Geosciences Union (EGU) award as an outstanding young scientist, IRNA reported.

The EGU Awards & Medals programme recognizes every year eminent scientists for their outstanding research contribution in the Earth, planetary and space sciences, and identifies the awardees as role models for the next generation of early career scientists to foster geosciences research.

EGU will present Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists to Madani who has been chosen among four noteworthy young scientists in 2015.

This is the first time that an Iranian will receive this award.

Madani will be presented the award due to his research on human behavior, game theory and different decision-making methods that has led to creating new approach to models of water management.

EGU, the European Geosciences Union, is Europe’s premier geosciences union, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the geosciences and the planetary and space sciences for the benefit of humanity worldwide. It was established in September 2002 as a merger of the European Geophysical Society (EGS) and the European Union of Geosciences (EUG), and has headquarters in Munich, Germany.

*Iranian researchers develop radiomedicine for cancer pains

Researchers from Amirkabir University of Technology have produced and labeled scandium-47 radioisotope to relieve pain and treat bone wounds in advanced cancers.

Fatemeh Fathi, the project manager for 'Developing a Radiomedicine for Relieving Advanced Cancer Pain', said pains caused by the spread of cancer to the bones are most common in the advanced stages of the disease, especially in breast, prostate and lung cancers.

"Such pain severely affects more than 85 percent of patients at this stage of cancer."

Noting that other treatments using painkillers, hormone therapy or even surgery are not so effective on reducing cancer pain, Fathi added, "Based on studies conducted in this field, radiotherapy could not only fail to have the desired effects but it could also have serious side effects on bone marrow or the gastrointestinal tract, " Mehr News Agency quoted her as saying.

The project manager advocated the superiority of injectable and oral radiomedicines to reduce the side effects of the treatment, eliminating the need for sophisticated equipment for injecting radiomedicines, as they are more cost-effective and more helpful in reducing pain considerably.

"In the project, an adequate amount of scandium radioisotope was irradiated at Tehran Research Reactor and then labeled in the laboratory for use as a radiomedicine," she said.

"Our experiments revealed that the absorption of the radiomedicine in rats was significantly more evident in the bones rather than in other vital organs, such as the spleen or the bone marrow. This shows that radiomedicines are more effective in relieving bone pains," she explained.

According to Fathi, the performance of this radiomedicine on human body has been predicted through mathematical models which showed that they could have similar effects on humans.

"The results of the research are very promising. We are hopeful that the radiomedicines can have significant effects on reducing chronic pains resulting from the spread of multifocal cancers," she concluded.

*Iran’s Yasser Roudi among world’s top 10 up-and-coming scientists

'Science News' magazine has featured the Iranian scientist's name Yasser Roudi in the top 10 list of up-and-coming stars of science in its October issue.

In its Oct. 3 issue, Science News magazine surveyed 30 Nobel Prize winners and identified 10 early-career scientists on their way to more widespread acclaim, among which is Iranian Professor of Computational Neuroscience Yasser Roudi.

According to Science News, all featured scientists have “demonstrated high-caliber research leading to noteworthy achievements.”

Winner of 2015 Eric Kandel Young Neuroscientists Prize, Roudi’s main topic of research is figuring out how to sort through the vast number of inputs that bombard the brain and other complex systems.

Roudi studied physics at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran and was introduced to the brain and its networks of neurons by a teacher there. He then moved to London and Stockholm where he worked on applying math and physics to studies of the brain and other systems.

At the moment, the 34-year-old scientist is conducting research at Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

*8 Iranian universities in best world list

Iran’s 8 top universities are listed among the top 750 universities around the world, an official said.

Head of ranking department of the Islamic World Science Citation Center (ISC) Amaneh Sabet pointed to the results of the second list of best global universities published in US News and World Report on Tuesday and said eight Iranian universities are in the Best Global Universities list.

The Iranian universities, including University of Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, Isfahan University of Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tarbiat Modares University, Iran University of Science & Technology and Karaj Islamic Azad University are among the top 750 universities around the world, she said.

Pointing to the published list, Sabet said Tehran University is the best university in the country which has ranked 379 in the world and 57 in Asia.

Following Tehran University, Sharif University ranked the second Best University of Iran with a ranking of 435 in the world.

According to the list, after Turkey, Iran has the top universities in the region of Middle East.

*Iranian Scientist Wins 2015 SPIE Gold Medal

Iranian scientist Professor Nader Engheta has won the Gold Medal Award of International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE).

The highest honor of the Society was awarded to professor Nader Engheta from University of Pennsylvania for his transformative and groundbreaking contributions to optical engineering of metamaterials and nanoscale plasmonics, metamaterial-based optical nano circuits, and biologically-inspired optical imaging, SPIE’s website reported.

The Gold Medal of the Society is the highest honor the Society bestows. Beginning in 1977, it has been awarded annually in recognition of outstanding engineering or scientific accomplishments in optics, electro-optics, or photographic technologies or applications. The recipient(s) shall have made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of relevant technology.

The professor of electrical and systems engineering at University of Pennsylvania (USA), Engheta is being recognized as one of the founders of modern electromagnetic metamaterials and a pioneer in the fields of optical metatronics and nanoscale plasmonics.

He has been interested in electrical engineering since he was a boy. Growing up in Tehran, Engheta was fascinated by a battery-operated transistor radio and wondered how it was possible to hear music when the radio was not connected to anything. How could the signal travel from the radio station to the radio without an obvious connection?

He has been interested in electrical engineering since he was a boy. Growing up in Tehran, Engheta was fascinated by a battery-operated transistor radio and wondered how it was possible to hear music when the radio was not connected to anything. How could the signal travel from the radio station to the radio without an obvious connection?

*Iranian researchers repair tendon injuries by separating rabbit’s fat cells

Iranian researchers at Pasteur Institute have managed to separate rabbit fat cells, opening new hope for repairing tendon injuries.

Mohammad Hamrang, Director of the project said the study aimed to separate extracted stem cells of rabbit’s fat for repairing tendon cells.

He said that tendon cells are not well repaired naturally and their repair needs much time, adding Iranian researchers are after solutions to pave the way for treating injured tendons.

The researchers used a bio-reactor to simulate body's mechanical energy on stem cells.

The studies are now in vitro. “We managed to separate extracted stem cells from rabbit’s fat using scaffolding,” he said.

*Iranian researchers crafting driverless cars 'gradually morphing into robots

Two Iranian scientists are revolutionizing research and development in the field of driverless automobiles.

Ahmad Rad, a professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU)’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, is conducting research on driverless cars and advanced driver-assistance systems at SFU’s Surrey campus, according to ISNA.

“So maybe automobile is a misnomer,” Rad said during an interview at the Autonomous and Intelligent Systems Laboratory on the campus in Burnaby, in Canada's British Columbia.

“What we’re seeing now is a paradigm shift, in a sense that the car that we know is gradually morphing into an autonomous robot. The task of a driver will change from driving to supervising the car.”
Rad and PhD student Mehran Shirazi displayed the driving simulator consisting of a car seat with a steering wheel, a dashboard, and—in place of a windshield—three flat-screens showing a city street. Two infrared cameras sit on the dash, facing the driver.

The professor explained that the cameras constitute an eye tracker, which discerns where the driver is looking. This system can detect whether a driver is sending a text message, intoxicated, or falling asleep.

Rad’s research team uses Fatal Vision goggles to simulate the impairment associated with particular blood-alcohol concentrations. In the future, he predicted, an automated car will temporarily take over from a distracted driver, and pull over and park or head home if someone is unfit to drive.

“The human is driving the car,” Rad said. “But once it sees that the human is talking (on a cellphone) or sending texts, it will take over. Or, in worse cases, if the car recognizes that this person is drunk, it will take control of the car.”

According to Rad and Shirazi, cars of the future will pair the eye tracker with a front-facing camera. This camera will be used to detect jaywalkers and road signs.

Nevertheless, Rad predicted that fully driverless cars will not become widespread for another 20 years as developing the artificial intelligence required for self-driving cars is a very demanding job.

*Iranian develops method to identify mutation in fetus

An Iranian researcher from the Genetic Department of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium,  succeeded in developing an accurate method to study the genetic content of a single cell concurrent with determining the multiform genomes, which can not only be used in screenings prior to pregnancy, but also applied for basic researches of human genome.

By presenting the innovation, Masoud Zamani Esteki, PhD student at CU. Leuven, won the top researcher’s prize of the 16th Royan International Research Award.

One main service provided by infertility treatment centers in recent years is the test of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). In this method, a single cell is separated from a multi-cell embryo in laboratory condition and its genetic content is put under study. The fetus, which is identified as genetically healthy and without any mutations, will be transferred to the mother’s uterus.

The technique provides the possibility of having healthy babies for couples, at least one of whom carry a mutation, making it more likely to have a baby with genetic disorder.

The proper use of PGD can prevent birth of babies with congenital disorders, such as hemophilia and Down syndrome.

The important issue in PGD is a method used for genome study. The more accurate the test is, the lower will be the errors in the result.

Thus, the findings of the test will be more helpful in identifying genetic disorders.

According to Zamani Estaki’s technique, not only are the mutations determined, but the disorders caused from number and structure of chromosomes are also identified.

The most important feature of his method is to show unique details of genetic information

*Source: Press TV, Real Iran, ISNA, Iran Daily, Mehr News, IRNA