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New Scientific Successes of Iranians

Monday, October 10, 2011

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Three Iranian-Americans among recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers

 President Obama named 94 researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Three Iranian-Americans are among the recipients:

Dr. Yasamin C. Mostofi, University of New Mexico

Yasamin Mostofi is an Assistant Professor in Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of New Mexico since 2006. Academic Background: Postdoctoral scholar, Caltech, 2004-2006; Ph.D., Stanford University, January 2004; M.S., Stanford University, 1999.

Mostofi received the award for groundbreaking research on compressive-sampling-enabled mobile sensor networks, and for dedicated educational activities involving both high school and community college students in robotics, with a particular emphasis on motivating Native American students to pursue engineering careers.

Dr. Ali Khademhosseini, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital

Ali Khademhosseini is an Associate Professor at Harvard-MIT's Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) as well as an Associate Faculty at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired engineering. He is also a Junior Principal Investigator at Japan's World Premier International - Advanced Institute for Materials Research (WPI-AIMR) at Tohoku University where he directs a satellite laboratory. Currently he is a Harrington fellow at the Biomedical Engineering Department of the University of Texas- Austin.

Dr. Amir S. Avestimehr, Cornell University

Amir S. Avestimehr is an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University, where he has co-founded the Foundations of Information Engineering (FoIE). He received his Ph.D. in 2008 and M.S. degree in 2005 in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, both from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to that, he obtained his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology in 2003.

*Iranian Surgeon Conducts Successful Hand Transplant

In an unprecedented transplant surgery by an Iranian specialist in Tehran, which lasted for seven hours, the left hand of a laborer was restored successfully.

The laborer’s hand had been completely severed while working at a cement bunker, ISNA reported.

Seyyed Fazlollah Sajjadi, the general surgeon who conducted the transplant, said, “While cleaning a cement bunker, this laborer collided with the belt system and his left hand was completely severed.”

Sajjadi noted that the laborer was immediately taken to the employer who removed the amputated hand from the bunker and put it inside a plastic bag filled with ice, with the assistance of other laborers.

“Afterwards, the employer, along with the laborer, visited different hospitals of Tehran and they were told that it was not possible to transplant the hand. When this patient came to the hospital where I work, some six or seven hours had elapsed since the accident and the patient was in a state of shock…and had suffered serious bleeding,” he said.

He said normally the transplant of an amputated part of body is possible even after four to six hours and after this period, the chances of a successful transplant declines.

“After the patient was taken into the operation room, we found that the amputated hand was covered with cement, sand and mud. It was washed with 60 liters of a disinfectant solution. Finally, the transplant surgery started at five o’clock in the afternoon and ended successfully at midnight,” he said.

Sajjadi noted that he panicked when he first saw the patient, but then he remembered his successful experiences in related surgeries during the Iraq-imposed war (1980-88) and plucked up courage to undertake the transplant.

*Anti-Cancer Drug From Venoms

Iranian scientists have produced a new anti-cancer drug using the venoms of reptiles like snakes and scorpions.

“After several years of research and studies on a combination of snake and scorpion venoms, the anti-cancer drug was produced in Iran,” Abbas Zare’, the director of the Venomous Animals Department of Iran’s Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, told reporters, Fars News Agency reported.

“This anti-cancer drug has been produced from snake and scorpion venoms after 10 years of research and has been extracted from the fat (peptide) of such animals,” he added.

Zare’ said the anti-cancer drug has passed laboratory tests and is waiting for the Iranian Health Ministry’s permission for conducting trials on human beings.

“Iran has taken wide strides in science and technology, particularly in medical and medicinal fields, in recent years,” he said.

Earlier, Iranian Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi had announced that Iran plans to boost its capabilities in making rapid advancement in drug production by synthesizing 15 types of anti-cancer medicines.

“Fifteen types of monoclonal anti-body drugs are being synthesized with the help of the Scientific Department of the Presidential Office, using hi-tech technology,” Dastjerdi said in September.

Also, Iranian scientists in April succeeded in producing new types of medication for treating different kinds of cancer, viral diseases and arthritis with 100 percent positive results.

“The medicine has been synthesized through a new and unique formula, and is capable of destroying all malignant cancerous cells,” Qasem Tak-Dehqan, the head of the research team, told reporters at the time.

*Gene Variation Can Double Rate of Brain Decline

A minute variation in a single gene can double the rate at which healthy men's brains decline with age, Dr Ahmad Salehi of Stanford University in America and his team have found.

Aeroplane pilots whose DNA was analysed by researchers were found to lose their flying ability twice as quickly if they had the unusual gene version.

Brain scans also showed that as those carrying the genetic quirk got older, they experienced significant shrinkage of their hippocampus – the brain region responsible for memory and spatial reasoning.

The gene variation, which occurs in about one in four Europeans, changes the body's blueprint for brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a protein which is crucial to the health of the central nervous system.

The modification has already been linked to psychiatric disorders, but the study published in the Translational Psychiatry journal is the first to show it can hamper a healthy brain's ability to carry out skilled tasks.

Researchers used flight simulators to test the reactions and flying ability of 144 male pilots aged 40 and above, of whom 38 per cent had at least one copy of a BDNF gene with the specific variation.

Tests were carried out three times over two years, during which the group with the variant's overall scores dropped twice as quickly as those with the normal gene make-up.

No drugs currently exist to mimic the effect of the protein and protect the brain but staying active could help people stay healthy, researchers said.

Dr Ahmad Salehi of Stanford University in America, who led the study, said: "The one clearly established way to ensure increased BDNF levels in your brain is physical activity."

*Sharif University Placed Among Top 350 World’s Best Universities

Iran’s Sharif University of Technology has been placed in the top 350 of the world’s best universities, according to the rankings recently published by the magazine Times Higher Education (THE).

It is the first time that an Iranian university has been named in the table of the top 350 universities.

According to BBC, the world rankings are produced each year by THE with Thomson Reuters.

THE rankings of the top universities across the globe employ 13 separate performance indicators designed to capture the full range of university activities, including teaching, research, citations, industry income, and international outlook.

The California Institute for Technology was named the best university in the world. Harvard is at number two, the first time it has failed to take the top spot in the list’s eight-year history, according to the Guardian.

THE rankings place 75 U.S. universities in the top 200.

The highest-ranking Asian university is the University of Tokyo, in 30th place.

High rankings help countries attract fee-paying overseas students and lucrative research contracts.

The top twenty universities in the rankings are listed below:

- California Institute of Technology; Harvard; Stanford; Oxford Princeton; Cambridge; MIT; Imperial College; Chicago; California; Berkeley; Yale; Columbia; California; Los Angeles; Johns Hopkins; ETH Zurich; Pennsylvania; UCL; Michigan; Toronto; Cornell

*Iranian Article In Prestigious US Journal

The Journal of Biomedical Science and Engineering (JBiSE) has published an article by Iranian researchers.

The article titled “HLA allele frequencies in Iranian opticospinal multiple sclerosis patients” was written by Hussein Kalanie, Malihe Kamgouyan, Yadollah Kholghie, Ali Amini Harandi, Zahra Husseinzadeh, IRNA reported.

The American journal is an international reference journal dedicated to the latest advancement of biomedical sciences and engineering. The goal of this journal is to keep a record of the state-of-the-art research and promote research work in these fast advancing fields.

Scientists explain in the article that in Iranian patients with opticospinal multiple sclerosis (OSMS), a paucity of brain lesions and short spinal cord lesions extending less than three spinal segments are characteristic findings seen in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

 It also shows a relatively benign course with negative CSF oligo-coonal bands.

“We aimed to clarify the possible relationship between clinical phenotype and MRI features of OSMS and human leucocyte antigen (HLA) system in Iran.”

Genotyping of HLA class II allele frequencies in 20 patients with OSMS were done, using polymerase chain reaction sequence-specific primer amplification method. Blood samples were extracted and typed for HLA-DRB, DQA, and DQB loci and compared with 100 controls.

Significant positive association was observed in DRB1*03, DQA1*0201, DQA1*03, DQB1*0201, and DQB1*0611, while DQB1*0602 was absent in our patients. Conclusion: These finding suggest that HLA-DRB association pattern in OSMS is different from conventional MS in Iran which is mostly associated with DRB1*1501 and from similar Japanese OSMS who are negative for brain lesions fulfilling the Barkhof criteria and negative for the presence of longitudinally extensive spinal cord lesions that carry the DRB*0405 allele. OSMS is immunogenetically heterogeneous.

Also, absence of DQB1*0602 allele may negatively be associated with the absence of Barkhof brain lesion.

*Iran Unveils Nano-Medicine for Cancer

The Islamic Republic of Iran has unveiled a number of new nanotechnology products, including a nano-medicine that can effectively treat cancer, Press TV reports.

Four hi-tech nanotechnology laboratory tools and a nano-medicine were unveiled in Tehran, just two days before the country's fourth international nanotechnology festival (Iran Nano 2011), with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in attendance.

President Ahmadinejad hailed the efforts made by societies and researchers who have managed to break the Western monopoly on hi-tech nano products.

Despite political pressures and economic sanctions imposed on Tehran, Iranian scientists have made great advancement and taken impressive steps in nano technology.

The products are a nano-capillary electrophoresis that makes the study and identification of single molecules possible, a nano-spectrometer that can help identify the properties of different chemical compounds, a deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE) that can deposit thin films of material to produce nanostructures, a high resolution nano-imaging system that can provide images to show how the bodies of animals react to new drug in vivo testing, and a nano-drug that can effectively cure cancer.

Seyyed Mehdi Rezayat, the project manager of the cancer drug, told Press TV that the nano-medicine is produced in just a single country with a price tag of almost $2000, adding, “Now, patients in Iran can get it for half to one third of that price.”

Mohammad-Reza Ja'fari, a professor at Mashhad University, said that doxorubicin, a compound that destroys cancer tumors, has terrible side effects, but the nano-liposome structure of the new drug only targets the tumors and not the body's healthy cells.

About 150 governmental and private firms will participate in the exhibition, scheduled to open from October five to nine, and will showcase their achievements in the field of nanotechnology.

Iran began investing in nanotechnology back in 2001 by launching a major program in the field.

In a short while the country climbed to the first rank in production of nano-science and nano-materials in the region as well as the Muslim world. About 65 Iranian universities and scientific institutions have entered the field, along with 130 Iranian companies.

According to the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC), the country is among a very few nations across the globe with a National Nanotechnology Plan.

Priorities of the ten-year plan are based around contributing to the areas of energy, health, environment, water, materials, and construction. 

*Iran Produces Carbon Nanotubes

Iranian scientists have produced carbon nanotube, a material which can greatly improve the quality of almost any product while reducing its weight, Press TV reported.

After ten years of research, scientists at Iran's Research Institute of Petroleum Industry synthesized the material, whose production has been a challenge in the world of nano-technology since it was discovered in 1991.

The black powder consists of tube-shaped molecules made of carbon, and like other forms of pure carbon, it gets its strength form strong bonds between carbon atoms.

Carbon nanotube molecules are one-sixth the weight of steel but 100 times stronger, making it one of the strongest materials ever discovered with such huge applications.

“Adding only a few grams of this powder can greatly improve the quality of almost any product while reducing its weight,” said Alimorad Rashidi of Iran's Research Institute of Petroleum Industry.

“So we can have stronger buildings, cars and even super-strong bullet-proof fabrics,” he added.

The research basically focused on the applications of carbon nanotubes in the petroleum industry and the oil and gas sector, with 14 different applications being successfully tested so far.

The continuous production of up to 20 kilograms of carbon nanotube is now possible in the institute using the Iranian designed reactor, which has slashed the time required to synthesize this amazing product to 15 times less than similar procedures worldwide.

The ten-member team working on this project prepared to share the technical know-how they have acquired in order to heat hydrocarbon gases to 800 to 1000 degrees Celsius with the right catalyst to start the formation of the tubes.

Iran's private sector is already negotiating to establish units capable of producing up to 100 kilograms of carbon nanotubes a day.

Iran began investing efforts in the field of nanotechnology back in 2001 by launching a relevant program.

The country quickly ranked first in the production of nano-science and nano-materials in the region and the Muslim world. Some 65 Iranian universities and scientific centers have entered the field as well as 130 Iranian companies.

According to the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC), the country is among the very few states with a National Nanotechnology Plan.

The ten-year plan's priorities lie in contribution to the areas of energy, health, environment, water, materials, and construction.

*50 Cognitive Disorder Genes Identified

Iranian researchers recently published results of the largest study showing additional mutations in 23 genes implicated in intellectual disability or related neurological disorders, as well as single, probably disease-causing, variants in 50 novel candidate genes.

The Journal of Nature has published the article by Iranian researchers of the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences.

The article titled “Deep Sequencing Reveals 50 Novel Genes for Recessive Cognitive Disorders” was written by more than 20 Iranian researchers and a number of German scientists, ISNA reported.

Common diseases are often complex because they are genetically heterogeneous, with many different genetic defects giving rise to clinically indistinguishable phenotypes.

This has been amply documented for early-onset cognitive impairment, or intellectual disability, one of the most complex disorders known and a very important healthcare problem worldwide.

More than 90 different gene defects have been identified for X-chromosome-linked intellectual disability alone, but research into the more frequent autosomal forms of intellectual disability is still in its infancy.

Hussein Najmabadi, who led the study, said, “To expedite the molecular elucidation of autosomal-recessive intellectual disability, we have now performed homozygosity mapping, exon enrichment and next-generation sequencing in 136 consanguineous families with autosomal-recessive intellectual disability from Iran and elsewhere.”

Proteins encoded by several of these genes interact directly with products of known intellectual disability genes, and many are involved in fundamental cellular processes such as transcription and translation, cell-cycle control, energy metabolism and fatty-acid synthesis, which seem to be pivotal for normal brain development and function.

*Farshid Moussavi Architecture wins French Residential Complex

Farshid Moussavi Architecture has just shared their winning residential proposal for the La Défense financial district to the west of Paris with us.

The new 11,000 + square meter building is part of the larger urban renewal project, La Parvis Jardin de l’Arché, which links La Défense and les Terrasses de Nanterre.

The design’s slender volume – which contains 7,500 sqm of residential units, 2,930 sqm of student accommodation and 1,000 sqm of retail space – is comprised of slightly rotated floor plates that produce oblique balconies and loggias.

The shifting form builds upon the site’s visual connection to La Grande Axe, providing uninterrupted views down the historic boulevard. The winning project marks Moussavi’s first built work in France, as well as FMA’s first major project since the dissolution of her previous firm Foreign Office Architects with co-founder Alejandro Zaera-Polo.

*Iranian Creates Robotic Flytrap

It’s alarming enough when robots ingest plant detritus like twigs and grass clippings. It’s another thing entirely when they can start chowing down on members of the animal kingdom.

A pair of prototype robots has been designed to catch bugs, a major step on the path toward robots that can hunt, catch and digest their own meals, Popsci reported.

The tiny robots are modeled after the lobes of Venus flytraps, which snap shut as soon as sensitive hairs inside detect an alighting insect.

One prototype, developed at Seoul National University, is made of shape-memory materials that switch between two states when subjected to a current. The other, made at the University of Maine, uses artificial muscles made of a gold nanomaterial.

The Seoul robot has a pair of carbon fiber leaves connected by a shape-memory metal spring, as explained by New Scientist. The spring works like your average mousetrap--the weight of an insect (or something else) causes the spring to contract, which pulls the leaves together. The robot’s quarry is trapped inside.

The Maine robot, which is reported in the online version of the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, uses an ionic polymeric metal composite, which bends in an electric field. Engineer Mohsen Shahinpoor said the manner in which a Venus flytrap’s lobes contract looks remarkably similar to the way his IPMC contracts in the presence of a voltage.

He built a prototype using a polymer membrane coated with gold electrodes, a design he had previously developed in other experiments.

This material is used to make two leaves, with the IPMC electrodes serving as the flytrap’s sensor hairs. The two leaves are connected by a copper electrode, as seen in the image at the top of the page. When an insect alights on the polymer membrane, the IPMC ‘bristles’ send a signal that triggers the lobes to snap toward each other.

Of course, it’s still a pretty big leap to robots that can make use of whatever they’ve trapped inside their lobes. An insectivorious robot would probably have to transport the dead prey to some type of mechanical-chemical gut for digestion and caloric production, which would be quite a feat.

We’ve seen it before with the EATR bot, so it’s certainly possible. Let’s hope no one endeavors to make an Audrey II-sized flytrap robot.

*Iranians Produce Nude Mouse

Researchers at the research center of Pasteur Institute of Iran have produced a nude mouse.

Mohsen Asouri, chief of the research center, said a nude mouse is a laboratory mouse from a strain with a genetic mutation that causes a deteriorated or absent thymus, resulting in an inhibited immune system due to a greatly reduced number of T cells, Mehr News Agency reported.

Asouri said the phenotype, or main outward appearance of the mouse is a lack of body hair, which gives it the ‘nude’ nickname, adding that the nude mouse is valuable to research because it can receive many different types of tissue and tumor grafts, as it mounts no rejection response.

These xenografts are commonly used in research to test new methods of imaging and treating tumors. The genetic basis of the nude mouse mutation is a disruption of the FOXN1 gene.

The nomenclature for the nude mouse has changed several times since their discovery. Originally, they were described as nu and this was updated to Hfh11nu when the mutated gene was identified as a mutation in the HNF-3/forkhead homolog 11 gene.

Then in 2000, the gene responsible for the mutation was identified as a member of the Fox gene family and the nomenclature was updated to Foxn1nu.

Nude mice have a spontaneous deletion in the FOXN1 gene. Humans with mutations in FOXN1 also are athymic and immune deficient.

Mice with a targeted deletion in the FOXN1 (‘knockout’ mice) also show the ‘nude’ phenotype.

The lifespan of nude mice is normally 6 months to a year. In controlled, germ-free environments and antibiotic treatments in many laboratories that routinely use nude mice, they can live almost as long as a normal mouse (18 months to two years). 

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