Research 2018-07-23T08:13:18+00:00

Mammal’s domestication

The evolutionary process of animal and plant domestication was the driving force for the human transition from the ancient hunting and gathering lifestyle to the settled agricultural and cultural one. On an evolutionary timescale, domestication is very recent and rapid. However, its impact on all aspects of human society – civilization, culture and industry, extends way beyond its biological aspects. Although domestication occurred several times in different locations, domestic animals – from the first domesticated dog to recently domesticated laboratory mice – unanimously displays what has been defined as Neoteny (juvenilization), the retention of (behavioral and morphological) traits that are typically seen only in juveniles by adults. Domesticated animals are also more fertile but more prone to cancer than their wild counterparts, an aspect with important implications. The remarkable observation that Neoteny, a multifaceted phenomenon, is common to evolutionarily remote domesticated mammalian orders, suggests the existence of a shared key genomic regulatory mechanism. The overall goal of our research is to search for the key genetic events responsible for the vast changes that occur upon the shift from a wild to a domesticated animal. Our research focuses on comparing regulatory sequences (i.e., promoters) of wild animals and their domesticated counterparts.

Mammary Involution

The promoter is the regulation region of the gene and it is involved at the time of transcription of the gene, the tissue in which it is expressed, the amount of protein to be transcribed and other factors associated with the gene expression. The promoter itself contains unique elements and sequences that regulate the process of transcription. This include binding sites for RNA polymerase and transcription factors binding sites (TFBS), CpG islands and more. Among with looking at the classic structure of the promoter, there are studies examining external influences on gene expression by the regulation network. Such influences contains methylation sites and retrotransposons elements (RTE) which in turn can alter and manipulate epigenetic changes. In recent years, the understanding of the gene regulation mechanisms including RTE, has led to the understanding of complex physiological mechanisms and procedures involved in gene expression together with an understanding of the functionality and complexity of genomic evolution. This study is a follow-up study of previous findings that examined regulation sequences in the bovidae family and their comparison, where an insertion of RTE Bov-A2 was found in the promoter of the TP53 gene. Bov-A2 is a SINE retroposon that was first discovered in bovid species. Events of SINE excision from its location in the genome are extremely rare, thus making it a suitable genetic marker for taxonomy. TP53 itself, is a physiological regulator with a main role of conserving stability by preventing genome mutation and DNA damage. Thus, regulates mammary involution by rapidly initiate apoptosis in the secretory epithelium. The aims of this study is to examine the relationship between the absence of Bov-A2 in the Bovini TP53 promoter (compare to rest of the bovidae family) and the function of the gene at the molecular level. Along with finding additional promoters of genes involved in the process of mammary involution in the bovidae family, in order to examine whether there are repetitive patterns and whether there are unique mobile elements in other regulatory regions associated with the same activity.

Agrigenomics innovations

Our lab is working with the industry and local farmers to develop novel products based on genetic markers aimed for specific cultivars or livestock important for the agriculture industry. These products will supply genetic fingerprinting, enabling farmers to track their products (“from farm to fork”) and promise the customers transparency from the field to the plate. This project is aimed to bring the local farming industry to a new era of growing cultivars. Currently running projects:

Development of an automated genetic panel for parentage testing and key breeding traits for the domestic sheep (Ovis Aries): More than 700,000 sheep are grown in Israel. Meat and milk consumption from sheep rose in 20% in the past 5 years and pasture areas grew in the same extant. Along with an increase in sheep products, 250% increase in sheep thefts in comparison to 2014, are reported, a data with severe economic consequence to farmers. Albeit the growing interest in sheep, genetic tests which are used worldwide for sheep breeding, identification and wellbeing, are still undeveloped in Israel. Farmers find themselves helpless when unable to bring genetic evidence to court in order to link stolen animals to their siblings in the herd. While a genetic test for the fatal zoonotic disease, Scrapie, is routinely tested worldwide, in Israel, tests are not routinely performed and organized breeding is absent. The genetic chip includes approximately 80 polymorphic SNPs for personal/parentage testing and will be used for breeding and forensic purposes.

Introducing Eragrostis Tef  as a new crop in the Golan Heights: selection for lodging tolerance and higher yield with molecular tools: Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter [tef], is the most important cereal crop in Ethiopia. The cultivation of Tef, as a cereal, is performed primarily in Ethiopia (24% of the total acreage of cereals planted in the country) grown on 2.5 million hectare annually, and serving as a staple food grain for more than 50 million people. In an era with high obesity rates, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related diseases, tef which is defined as ‘super food’ gluten-free grain is gaining more and more attention in western communities.  tef has exceptionally high nutritive value, low in carbohydrates (57.27%), high in proteins (20.9%) and contains essential amino acids. The tef belongs to the subfamily Chloridoideae, a lineage of grasses (Poaceae) and has an allotetraploid (2n = 4x = 40) genome with 10 chromosomes and a genome size of 730 Mbp. As an ‘urfan crop’, tef has many cultivation drawbacks and the major concern with the highest impact on the yield is the phenomenon of plant lodging. Various attempts have been made by the research community to develop lodging-resistant tef cultivars but presently, no cultivar with reasonable lodging resistance has been obtained. Aims: The aims of this study span from the scientific to the applicative. 1. Select plants with various lodging patterns from our breeding stock. 2. Perform deep sequencing on four candidate genes (10,000bp) in order to trace phenotypic/genotypic correlation 3. Select specimens according to their genotype in order to produce a stable cultivar for future growing.

Oral delivery of human growth hormone (GH)

This project, although not in the genetic scope is part of our specialties in protein drug delivery. In this project we aim to develop bio-compatible and bio-available oral formulations of GH based on GH fibrils alone or coated with Hyaluronan and solve one of the most problematic issue in protein medication – obligatory sub cutaneous applications. These formulations are intended to address an unmet therapeutic need and are based on a novel concept of using aggregated reversible protein formulations instead of native proteins with an outer shield and/or with mucosal penetration enhancers.  These formulation are unique since the drug itself acts as the depot, protector and sustained release matter with no other additives or micro/nano particles. Apart from Hyaluronan which is a natural molecule that might be used here as a binding molecule to the mucosal epithelium (and is today given orally for other indications), no other materials are involved, apart from GH, a fact that may facilitate future drug registration.