Good News Weekend – Israel.

We turned the clocks back last Saturday night so Shabbat now comes in just after 4.30 pm! It’s very weird to be on winter time with early nights while the days are still (mostly) sunny and warm.

In any case it’s time (just about!) for my latest Good News Friday post.

The family crisis I had talked about these last few months was about a close relation being in and out of hospital. This gave me plenty of time to observe the cleanliness and hygiene routines of two different hospitals (I can report that I was impressed). But there is a new Israeli invention that should make sterility even easier: hospital bedding that are germ-resistant and even fire resistant:

Hospital bedsheets and patient gowns are a major conduit for transferring dangerous bacteria estimated to infect 1.7 million hospitalized Americans and 3.5 million hospitalized Europeans every year. In the United States, hospital-acquired infections kill about 98,000 people yearly.

While the materials used to make these items generally contain an antibacterial coating, it washes out after as few as 15 cleaning cycles.

Hospital bedsheets and patient gowns are a major conduit for transferring dangerous bacteria estimated to infect 1.7 million hospitalized Americans and 3.5 million hospitalized Europeans every year. In the United States, hospital-acquired infections kill about 98,000 people yearly.

While the materials used to make these items generally contain an antibacterial coating, it washes out after as few as 15 cleaning cycles.

Chemistry professors Aharon Gedanken and Ilana Perelshtei from Bar-Ilan University have developed a new way to bacteria-proof the fabrics used in a hospital.

Their method uses ultrasound waves to induce a physical phenomenon known as “cavitation,” in which rapid changes of pressure in a liquid lead to the formation of tiny vapor-filled cavities. Antibacterial chemicals can then be propelled onto the molecular structure of the fabric at tremendous speed.

The technique can be used at the final stage of manufacturing and works with all types of fabric.

Sonovia’s vice president of business development Roy Hirsch described to ISRAEL21c how the company’s technology works.

“Microbubbles form inside a specially-designed chemical solution using ultrasound waves,” Hirsch says. “Outside the bubbles, the temperature might be 40 degrees Celsius, but inside it’s around 5,000 degrees. The bubbles collapse and shoot a jet stream onto the nearest surface. It’s like shooting a bullet out of a gun. Inside the solution, there will be thousands of these microbubbles, collapsing and shooting only the chemicals we want onto the surface of the fabric.”

This shooting process attaches the antibacterial chemicals onto the fabric without the need for chemical binders. “This results in a reduction of 50 percent of the chemicals in the finishing process,” Hirsch says.

Like many good startup stories, a surprising twist happened shortly after Sonovia was established: Assa and his team realized that the technology Gedanken and Perelshtein had developed was relevant to more than just antibacterial sheets.

It could be used for all manner of textile additions – for example, it could make fabrics fire resistant, water repellant and even body odor-proof.

“We can make a shirt that prevents body odor and lasts longer than similar shirts on the market,” Hirsch says.

Moreover, Sonovia’s process, which reduces the amount of chemicals required, is exactly what textile manufacturers – who are becoming increasingly concerned with the environmental impact of their products – have started to demand.

What a brilliant invention, which has so many potential benefits – safety, hygiene and environmental impact. Kol hakavod to the professors Aharon Gedanken and Ilana Perelshtei from Bar-Ilan University, inventors of Sonovia, may they go on to even greater success.

Speaking of hospitals, Kurdish refugee children fleeing the civil war in Syria and the region, are receiving urgent medical treatment in Israel:

A Kurdish child undergoing treatment at Safra Children’s Hospital. Photo by Steve Walz/Sheba Medical Center

A Kurdish refugee toddler — we’ll call him Ajwan, for security reasons – is the latest of 44 Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish children who’ve had emergency medical treatment at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center in 2019 alone.

Ajwan, three and a half, had lifesaving open-heart surgery that wasn’t available in Iraqi Kurdistan, where his family has been living for a few years due to the dangers the community faces in northern Syria.

“The [Kurdish] parents we see are really beautiful people. It’s hard to express how nice and warm they are,” says Dr. David Mishali, head of International Congenital Heart Surgery at Sheba’s Safra Children’s Hospital.

Entry visas for Ajwan and his mother, as well as the others, were expedited by the Israeli Interior Ministry in coordination with Shevet Achim, a Christian Zionist organization based in Jerusalem.

Shevet Achim helps children from Gaza, Iraq and Syria come to Israel for cardiac surgery.

“Since 2003, several hundred Kurdish children have been brought over,” says Director Jonathan Miles. “I go into these places and get to know the people, something Israeli citizens cannot do.”

The children are flown in through Jordan and treated at Sheba in Ramat Gan, or at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

“Israeli hospitals give significant discounts, even below cost, to help save the lives of these children,” Miles tells ISRAEL21c.

Remaining costs are covered through Shevet Achim’s partnerships with other NGOs around the world, and the families of the patients contribute whatever they can.

‘They’re coming all the time’

Mishali tells ISRAEL21c he has treated close to 100 Kurdish patients so far. The youngest was a couple of weeks old and the oldest 16 or 17 years old.

“They are coming all the time. They are taken care of like regular patients; we make no distinction between them and our Israeli and the Palestinian patients,” says Mishali. “When I go to the [operating] theater I rarely think about the origin of the child or where they come from.”

What a wonderful initiative to save the lives of these poor little children, caught up in a conflict not of their own making. Kol hakavod to the Shevet Achim foundation and to the Sheba hospital on this humanitarian intiative.

And now, since (contrary to all the family crisis reports of previous months) we are in the middle of a great family celebration, how better to celebrate than with an Israeli super-wine!

It seems the day when we can raise a glass of Shiraz or Merlot instead of taking vitamin supplements is not so far off. Just look to the north of Israel, to the lab of Dr. Meir Shlisel, an expert in wine chemistry from Tel-Hai College, who spends his days analyzing grape molecules.

Shlisel is working to produce wine with higher levels of resveratrol, a plant compound found in red wine that has recently hit the headlines for its strong health benefits. Resveratrol is the most popular of stilbenes, phytochemicals found in berries, grapes, peanuts, and wine.

Natural health food store shelves are lined with resveratrol powder supplements, thanks to research studies linking this compound — said to have the most effective antioxidant properties– with protecting brain function, slowing the development of cancerous growths, preventing infection, and lowering blood pressure, among other health benefits.

Today, one glass of wine does not comprise enough resveratrol of the daily recommended dose,” Shlisel tells NoCamels. “One of the goals of my research is to elevate the amount of stilbenes and specifically resveratrol, in grapes, with post-harvest treatment.”

Shlisel’s lab is now developing “Superwine,” what may be the world’s first officially healthy wine.

And the timing for this innovation couldn’t be better. Israel’s wine scene is garnering admirers around the globe – and not only those interested in kosher wines.

“We’re finally being taken seriously as a wine-growing region. For 30-40 years, the Israeli boutique wine renaissance has been happening and people around the world have gotten familiar with Israeli wine,” Jacob Ner David, a winemaker and entrepreneur, tells NoCamels. “Israeli wines are now being found on wine menus, and nothing to do with the fact that they’re kosher.”

The focus on the grapes – and the technology– is where scientists Shlisel and his research student Ron Schweitzer are standouts. The pair are on a course to make wine – scientifically — healthier.

“Wine is considered to be very healthy,” Shlisel tells NoCamels in a telephone interview. “Many research studies show the alcohol and antioxidant contents [are the reasons this is so].”

Just as pomegranate, seaweed and garlic all hold superstar superfood status because of their nutrient-rich antioxidants and vitamin properties, now, Shlisel’s research will enable scientists to develop healthy wine as a superfood.

And it makes sense that in a country known for its cross-disciplinary expertise, superwine – wine as a superfood – would spark from Israel.

Shlisel and Schweitzer’s Superwine took part in XLR8, a technology business accelerator venture between the Ministry of Economy and Industry and the Kiryat Shmona municipality. The program helps entrepreneurs who have an early stage venture in developing the project, giving guidance and exposure with investors.

Thanks to the introduction to the world of innovation, the two Israeli scientists are now hoping to prove that their research can produce a healthy red wine. They’re using strains of grapes used to produce merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.

“The first year of research focused on analyzing the grapes. This year, we decided to make wine from the grapes to see if this ozone treatment affects the wine,” Shlisel says.

They found that the post-harvest treatment increased the production of stilbenes by up to five-fold and also boosted health properties of another group of molecules.

And that’s not all.

Shlisel’s research shows that ozone treatment “is not just for grapes.”

He tells NoCamels that “other fruits may be treated with this process so we can elevate the antioxidant levels in them, too.”

The near-future goal, however, is wine. “I hope that people will soon be able to enjoy one glass of Superwine and get all the health benefits,” he says.

“It’s more fun to drink wine than take vitamin pills.”

 I’ll drink Le’chaim to that! 

Kol hakavod to Dr. Meir Shlisel and Ron Schweitzer on their ingenuity and inventiveness. Here’s hoping that very soon we will be told to drink wine rather than pop pills for good health. 🙂

And back to the family celebration. This week we celebrated the marriage of my niece Renana to Amir.

It was a fantastic wedding, great food, music, dancing and joy. And now, this Shabbat there will be a Shabbat Chatan, or Shabbat Sheva Brachot (depending on your custom) here in our hometown. I am so looking forward to joining family, including two of my aunts, who flew in from Canada and England, and friends at the celebratory meals. It should be a great weekend!

Mazal tov to Reeva and Eli and to Renana and Amir and the ganze mishpocho!

Shabbat Shalom have a good weekend everyone!

First posted at Anne’s Opinions as “Good News Friday”

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