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An Israeli Collaboration Against Cystic Fibrosis

For the past several years, researchers with the Johns Hopkins Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Center have enjoyed a unique overseas collaboration with CF experts at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The arrangement began almost a decade ago when Peter Mogayzel, director of the Johns Hopkins CF Center, invited Eitan Kerem, head of pediatrics at Hadassah, to come to Baltimore to discuss his research and clinical programs and address patient families. “Israel has a large population affected by cystic fibrosis,” a hereditary disorder causing the production of thick mucus that can block airways and impact other organs of the body, Mogayzel says. It occurs more frequently among Jewish families of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) descent. “Hadassah has several leading physicians there that both care for patients and also have developed extensive research programs.”

The discussions went so well that, ever since, Mogayzel and other Johns Hopkins CF experts have taken turns traveling to Hadassah to lecture, discuss cases, help educate families and speak at the annual Israeli CF Society Conference.

Hadassah experts also have contributed genetic data about their patients to the CFTR2 website, a worldwide collection of information on over 80,000 patients with CF maintained by Johns Hopkins molecular geneticist Garry Cutting. Certain mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene are more prevalent in Israel than in the United States.

“It really has been an opportunity for both programs to learn from each other and for us to contribute to the overall education of families and to other CF caregivers through the Israeli conference,” notes Mogayzel. “Patients with CF have chronic pulmonary infections, and over time they develop infections with very resistant bacteria, which are a challenge for treatment. We have adapted some practices used at the Hadassah Medical Center to try to combat those infections,” such as altering the use of inhaled antibiotics.

The two centers are now exploring ways to conduct research projects that can leverage the patient populations and research expertise in both locations, Mogayzel says.

“The synergy generated by the collaboration of Johns Hopkins and Hadassah on research projects, joint meetings, exchange programs and shared clinical databases,” Kerem says, “will contribute to enhanced quality of life for families coping with CF.”

The collaboration has been sponsored by the Herbert Bearman Foundation, a longtime supporter of the CF Center. Other philanthropy from the foundation has provided for creating and maintaining the center website, sending trainees to national CF conferences, hosting family education programs and purchasing equipment that can measure lung function in very young children—allowing participation in several clinical trials investigating early lung disease and CF. 

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