Tikvat Israel Congregation

A Conservative Synagogue in Rockville, MD

Hasbara: Focus on Israeli Innovation (part 2)

UPRIGHT Pro Posture Trainer

by Harvey T. Kaplan

In the May-June issue of the Tikvat Israel Bulletin, I introduced this series of columns on Hasbara with some background, explaining that we will be focusing on various aspects of Israeli innovations as we prepare to celebrate the State of Israel’s 70th anniversary next spring. In that issue, I shared some interesting health-related information on an Israeli salt-substitute product that contains significantly less sodium than regular table salt.

Hasbara, as I explained, represents public affairs communications in the media about the bipartisan U.S. relationship with Israel and information we as a congregation need to share with the wider American community.

 I have found a wealth of other innovations to share in this and future columns. In this issue, due to space limitations, I will cover two that I consider the most fascinating and relevant.

The first deals with research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) involving a new biomedical polymer that has proven effective with heart disease. In fact, it is able to cause measurable reductions in plaque buildup in the arteries of test animals as well as a decrease in inflamed areas within the cardiovascular system.

It’s no secret that atherosclerosis cardiovascular disease is deadly. The Global Burden of Disease Report (Lancet, 2015) indicates more than 50 million deaths occur annually as a result of this disease. Damage (due to high cholesterol, smoking and/ or high blood pressure) to the endothelium, which is a thin layer of cells in the arteries, results in the formation of plaque. This is worsened by the body’s sending of white blood cells to the affected areas, causing plaque accumulation.

Professor Ayelet David of the university’s Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology said the new polymer “reduces plaque and prevents further plaque progression and inflammation, preventing arterial thrombosis, ischemia, myocardial infarction and stroke.” According to an article in May by Shoshanna Solomon in The Times of Israel , the polymer “reverses arterial damage and improves the heart muscle.” No other known therapy can do that.

Further, the polymer does not appear to cause any damage to healthy tissues and there is no known side effect. BGN Technologies (Ben-Gurion University’s company focusing on commercialization of technology) is, according to Dr. Ora Horovitz, “seeking a pharmaceutical company to bring our polymer therapy through the next stages of drug development and ultimately to market.” Right now, there is reason to believe that this new technology may prove better than statins in the treatment of large numbers of today’s patients.

I want to share a second example of new technology. Proper posture is important to everyone because the slumping manner in which many of us walk and sit can cause serious physical problems over time, certainly including major back pain. An Israeli product, Upright, is awaiting FDA approval. Clinical trials are in progress both in the United States and in Israel. As reported in the May 2017 issue of World Jewish Digest, it is “a unique posture trainer which invisibly attaches to your lower back under your shirt and corrects you when you are not standing or sitting upright. Every time you slouch, it gently vibrates, reminding you to correct your posture.”

The cost of the product is approximately $130, and that price includes a mobile app that tracks a patient’s progress and even has the capability to add customizable posture-training programs. The way the device notifies the user of improper posture is with a gentle electrical pulse involving a mild vibration, the intensity of which can be adjusted by the user. Further, there is a chat feature that allows the patient to confer with a physical therapist in real time.

Watch for more information about Upright in the media once FDA trials have been completed. Meanwhile, you can check out the product and the manufacturing company here. (It appears these items already are available via Amazon and elsewhere.)

Coming next in this series: More innovations from Israel — with an emphasis on joint projects with American companies and organizations.

(Previously printed in TI’s July-August 2017 Bulletin)