Researchers Launch Clinical Study to Predict Diseases Before They Break Out

April 10, 2019

3 min read

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel have launched a clinical study among Israeli Hebrew speakers only to attempt to predict diseases before they appear in patients.

The “10K Project,” led by Prof. Eran Segal and his team of the computer science and applied mathematics and molecular cell biology departments aims to use state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technologies to generate personalized predictions for disease-risk factors in Israelis. If successful, it could benefit the health of people around the world.

The  ambitious project is a longitudinal (observational, long-term) study designed to collect lifestyle and clinical data from 10,000 individuals aged 40 to 70 who will be recruited from the Israeli population. They will be followed up for 10 years.

The researchers will monitor the population of subjects over time and analyze the resulting data to find a connection or relationship between exposure to certain factors and the onset of disease. Participants will benefit but not pay anything for the service, and medical confidentiality will be strictly observed.

The 10K Project combines innovative medical tests and advanced artificial intelligence techniques to discover personal characteristics that can help predict future medical conditions long before they break out. The goal is to develop methods that will prevent these situations and improve the quality and longevity of each and every one of us.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading scientific research institutes in the natural sciences and exact sciences. There is a multidisciplinary team of scientists and researchers from the Institute, combining innovations in medicine, biology and computer science. The team is comprised of researchers who are responsible for innovative and groundbreaking discoveries, for example in the field of gastrointestinal composition and their significance for diseases and personalized nutrition. “On the basis of this characterization, we believe that in the future, it will be possible to develop methods that will improve the ability to predict at a personal level various diseases years before they are discovered,” Segal explained.

The team will collect data on the volunteers’ personal status through a series of questionnaires and medical tests. Data will be processed using sophisticated artificial intelligence tools.

Participants will receive the results of their tests. In addition to the questionnaires and blood tests that will be conducted each participants community health fund clinic, the team will also conduct a series of tests at the Weizmann Institute some of which are not available outside the research. Such a visit to Rehovot will take about two hours and include, among other things, blood sampling, cheek samples for genetic characterization, obtaining a home kit for fecal collection to characterize the composition of the intestinal population, and body measurements such as fat percentage.

The lab will also store a sample of patients’ blood in an advanced robotic freezer so that they can perform future tests without requiring participants to come again. Technicians will also connect them to the sensor that will measure their blood sugar over a period of two weeks and give them a smartphone application that will allow them to easily record your meals during this period.

The team will then send each participants the results of the tests, such as their genome, sugar levels in response to eating different foods and a breakdown of the composition of their microbiome (intestinal bacteria). In addition, the 10K project offers access to health-related information that they will provide on a regular basis.

“We believe that analysis of the results of this study will help develop methods that may affect the health of all of us in the future. At the initial stage, but there is no direct personal benefit from the tests. We’ll send them important updates as we discover new findings. It is important to remember that participation in the study is not a treatment and that the tests performed in this study are not used in any case for the purpose of clinical diagnosis.”

Segal’s research is supported by the Crown Human Genome Center, which he heads; the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust; the Else Kroener Fresenius Foundation; the Adelis Foundation; Judith Benattar; Aliza Moussaieff; the Fannie Sherr Fund; the Estate of Zvia Zeroni; and the European Research Council.

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