Professor Jonathan M. Gershoni: “I had the distinct honor to be a student of George Palade”
Emisiune oferită de Colegiul Medicilor Iași.
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Jonathan M. Gershoni is professor of Immunology at theTel Aviv University . He has a Bachelor Science Degree in Biology and a Ph.D in Biochemistry, both obtained at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He has over 15 patented inventions like: Enzyme Hydrazides , Gradient Electric Fields , Nylon Blotting Matrix and also he authored over 107 publications.
Professor Gershoni was a special guest at ”Gr.T. Popa” Universtity Iasi, where he lectured the conference “HIV Envelope: Structure and Application”.
Jonathan M. Gershoni is one of the leading reaserchers regarding HIV AIDS and also is a member of the Global Viral Network.
Hello UMF. Hello Iasi. I am Radu Averescu and today on Doctor U I have a special guest. I have with me professor Jonathan M. Gershoni, from the University of Tel Aviv.
Radio U: Mister professor, statistics show that people don’t die from AIDS as often as they did 30 years ago. Progress has been made in the pharmaceutical department regarding highly activ retroviral terapy that permits the body to fight infection and desease. How was this breaktrough possible?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: Well, I think that first of all you are absolutely corect, in that the amount of people who are dieing for HIV/AIDS as opose to those being treated, has droped considerably. The fact is that through sistematic study of the biology of the virus and better understanding of how it replicates, people have been able to design and automatically produce more efective drugs, so this is one aspect.The other aspect is that by managing the desease in pacients and following the dinamics of the change of the virus in the pacient, what we call genotyping, one can identify what drugs are going to be more effective for a given pacient, so this is custom taylored to the genetic composition of it’s virus. And then not less important, but also I think very significant in our society is that there has been a market increase in our understanding of the desease and the awarness in the general public, so people are taking steps prevent contracting the desease,so all of this together has made the epidemical a little more manageble.
Radio U: A british researcher has told the press that, from a medical point a view,he would prefer to have a HIV infection than to have diabetes.The prognosis for a persons suffering from diabetes is much worse than a person suffering from HIV.What is your opinion on this remark?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: The person obiovsly doesn’t have diabetes, n’or does he have AIDS, so he can remain ipotetical. I would not wish on anybody either of the deseases, however one has to realize that treatments with the drugs that are available for HIV/AIDS, isn’t always effective and beyond that, unfortunately, it’s far less available in those areas that are hit hard by HIV, in Africa, South America and unfortunately I understand also here in Romania, where as the drugs are available worldwide there are as easy accesible and available as they should be and even taking the drugs is no picnic.The treatment is difficult and not always effective and so would I suggest that in which better recomandation is not to catch AIDS and that could be done by greater awarness and safe behaviour.
Radio U: With all this breaktrough in recent studies in medicine regarding AIDS, it’s a desease that it kind of stigmatises you.How do you explain this attitude of society regarding people who have contracted AIDS, to reject them, to marginalize them.
Jonathan M. Gershoni: Well, I guess that this is a part of human nature to reject individuals who first and foremost are basicaly just ill and it’s true that initialy the AIDS epidemic had been asociated with some high risk beahaviour and high risk groups, over I think that this is years ago and today and recongniseing the 30 to 40 milion people who are HIV positive and recongniseing that every year there some 2-3 milion people dieing from HIV/AIDS many of the are children,there is no reason what so ever to stigmatise those that are basicaly ill and nothing more than that.
Radio U: Yes, it has been established by some studies that people who have HIV are more depressed, about 10 more times drepressed than other people.What can you say about this?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: First of all, let me state up front, I’m not a physician, I am just a PhD, a reasearcher and certanly not a psichologist. I can fully understand and apreciate a person who is ill with a very serious desease and in sometimes terminal in the sense that if drug treatments are not available this is not a happy situation it’s obiovsly depressing I think that the future that one has to deal with is to try not only to increase the awarness but to try directly work on the development of HIV vaccine and maybe this is a subject that would be worth exploring a bit because I understand that in the general public, in the world, as is in Romania, and certanly in Israel, often there is a conflict and a controverse as to what is necessary for just general and succesfull vaccinacion and I think this is a very important issue that has to be adressed by the public.
Radio U: Statistics show that 35.3 million people in the world live with HIV/AIDS and about 7 thousand persons are infected daily. In Romania, the number exceds 12 thousands.What is the situation in Israel, from your studies?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: Well first of all, you have to realize that in Israel the general population is between 7 and 8 million total and I would guess that 0.1% of our population is probably infected, much less are actually full blow desease so I would expect that a reasonable number of HIV infected individuals lay somewhere between 6 and 10 thousand, I think our Ministery of Health would probably preffer a number around 5-6 thousand, however it’s not a number that is easily comeby because in order to determine the number definetively there has to be more aggresive and active testing and monitoring and unfortunately as you mentioned previously with the stigma, this not always possible.
Radio U: Last year, “Science” magazine has published a study of a group of 30 researchers from all over the world, that have reconstructed the genetic history of the HIV virus, responsible for about 36 million deaths worldwide. From this study, AIDS has began in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1920s. Previous to this study it was known that the beginning of the HIV infection was in 1932 in Africa. In US and Europe it spreads in the 1980s.What opinion do you have regarding this study about the widespreading of the desease?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: I think that this is to some degree an academic question. I don’t know what the origin of the transmision from monkeys, gorillas or cimpanzee to humans when that zoonating event ocurred.What is clear is that we’re beginning to see the apearence of HIV in the West in the late ’70s or early ’80, when initially was recognise and we have to ask ourselfs why was there the emergence of the desease. And I think the reason we see the epidemic in the ’80 and then subsequently in the ’90s and so on has a lot to do with our society. I think that there where a number of key events in the ’60s and ‘70s, there were enormous progress in Transatlantic transporation and of course we know that the contraceptive pill was aproved by the FDA in the late ‘60s. We know that there were other events such as the game movement and then the black power movements in the US and a greater social awarness, hippies ”make love not war” what can be more profound, and I think that these social events have a greater impact on spread of HIV/AIDS as opose to the biological event of transmission from posibly mokeys to human beings.
Radio U: You have a impressive CV both in the academic sector and the in the research.You have 15 “invetions” patented in the US. Enzyme Hydrazides, Gradient Electric Fields, Complex vaccines, Bio-Chip Diagnostic are a few of them.Which invetion do you feel the proudest?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: I am proudest not of my inventions but of my students and you know as a investigator of somebody very compassioned about science, we do our best to try to study, understand. I think it’s exceding important not only to discover but to think about utility, how can our discoveries can be aplied for the benefit of public health.We are servants of public funding so this is one aspect and then, of course, not less significant contribution I think as a teacher is that we can educate a new generation of science student that will continue the effort. I’m here in Iasi and this gives me the oportunity to say that I has to a student. I had the distinct honor to be a student of George Palade who was born in Iasi and so for me this is exceeding important, it closes a circle. I had the rare and distinct honor of studying with a romanian scientist and I have the delighted to have the oportunity to talk with you and of course to give a lecture here at the Medical School.
Radio U: In wich job do you feel most at home, as a researcher or as a teacher?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: I combine the two. I think that doing research gives me a clear perspective of the complete complexity of the problems that I am trying to teach and again teaching is a vocation, it’s a job that I do with love, in interacting with students but also the research gives me the oportunity to interact with world network and maybe this is the point where I can say that I am a profesor at Tel Aviv University, however I am also a member of Global Viral Network, this is a group of scientists,a viralogist worldwide, started intialy with the efforts of the Bob Gallowit, the Institute of Human Virology, in Baltimore (Marryland) and his colleagues and this effort is to try develop a comprehensive network of scientists working on viral deseases and human viral patologies in deseases.The comunication amongst the members of network is excedenly important.
Radio U: And in the ending, what is your message to the students and teachers at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Iasi?
Jonathan M. Gershoni: Well, first of all, do your homework, study well and try to educate yourselfs.I think this it’s another message that may be important for the romanian students…We train,we study and of course part of our study is the to go then to another country and train as well. I was born in Israel, I trained at Hebrew University however I did spend time in the US as I mentioned previously with Doctor Palade, but equaly important is to recognise the need to go back home and contribute to the education, the research and the activity of your profesion in the country of origin,so granted we should, in fact, encourage interacting with colaborators abroad,but ultimately one has to keep insite the horizont of coming back home and contributing as well.