(Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)

Hebrew University professors and students are working day and night, confronting the mounting threat posed by the deadly coronavirus.

By United with Israel Staff

The Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine along with its medical and research students in Jerusalem are working overtime to find ways to detect, cure, treat and prevent coronavirus (COVID-19). Top Israeli scientists in the fields of virology, microbiology, immunology, cellular biology and epidemiology are trying to combat the pandemic plaguing the world, reported Canadian Friends of Hebrew University on Friday.

As Israel’s population is one of the most diverse in the world, it is an excellent testing ground for identifying virus-susceptible and virus-resistant populations. This knowledge may provide ways to halt the spread of coronavirus as well as other epidemics. Dr. Shai Carmi, Dr. Yotam Drier, Prof. Asaf Hellman, Prof. Hanah Margalit, and Dr. Yuval Tabach are constructing a biobank to track and understand genetic factors contributing to disease susceptibility

Diagnostic kits to shorten the time it takes to identify the virus are being developed by Prof. Yuval Dor, Prof. Eylon Yavin, Dr. Maayan Salton and others. Presently, those suspected of having the illness must wait two days for test results. Early and quick diagnosis minimizes the spread of the epidemic.

Because people can carry and spread the virus weeks before any symptoms develop, early detection capabilities are critical, as are tests that identify people who have coronavirus-related antibodies yet have no symptoms.

One of the reasons coronavirus is so difficult to fight and cure is that a person’s immune system produces both antibodies to fight it and immune cells that aggravate it, particularly the virus-induced pneumonia. Prof. Ofer Mandelboim, Dr. Michael Berger, Dr. Oren Parnas, and Prof. Yinon Ben-Neriah are seeking a novel approach to enhance the body’s capabilities to fight the virus while weakening cells that create chaos in the immune system.

Researchers who have previously worked on developing vaccines against SARS and MERS have already produced proteins needed do develop a vaccine against coronavirus. These experts include Dr. Alex Rouvinski, Prof. Ora Schueler-Furman, Prof. Sigal Ben-Yehuda, Prof. Ilan Rosenshine, Dr. Reuven Wiener and others.

Dr. Lior Nissim and Dr. Yossi Buganim and others are developing “humanized” mice as an animal model to test new protocols. Until now, mice could not contract coronavirus as they lacked the human ACE2 receptor through which the illness enters cells. These animals will be crucial for testing the success of vaccines and other newly developed anti-viral drugs.

A team of cellular biologists and pharmacology scientists, including Prof. Shmuel Ben-Sasson, Prof. Moshe Kotler, and Prof. Albert Taraboulos are studying clinically approved drugs and food additives to hopefully rblock the infection and reduce tissue damage caused by coronavirus.

Many Hebrew University medical and research students have put aside their own studies to work day and night to help combat the virus. They are assisting the professors in their crucial and potentially life saving work.

They are also volunteering with Magen David Adom (MDA) to collect swab samples from suspected cases in Israel, visit at-risk individuals, babysitting the children of professors, doctors and nurses working round-the-clock in hospitals and labs, and manning routine hospital laboratories to cover for absent personnel.

Hopes are high that these talented and dedicated individuals will find the solutions needed to win the battle against coronavirus.