Department: Neurobiology
Faculty: Life Sciences
Tel Aviv University

Prof. Rechavi Oded

Prof. Oded Rechavi’s mission is to challenge fundamental long-held scientific dogmas. He found an exception to the original “Cell Theory”, provided the first direct evidence that an acquired trait can be inherited, elucidated an alternative transgenerational inheritance mechanism (that depends on inherited small RNA molecules, not DNA molecules), discovered a mechanism that allows nematodes’ brains to control the behavior of their progeny, discovered a neuronal circuit-level mechanism that explains economic irrationality, and demonstrated that parasites can be genetically engineered to deliver drugs to the nervous system. Recently, Prof. Rechavi utilized genome sequencing to “piece together” fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Prof. Rechavi is an ERC Fellow, and was awarded many prestigious prizes, such as the Schmidt Science Polymath award, the Kadar award, Blavatnik award, the Krill Wolf award, the Alon, and F.I.R.S.T (Bikura) Prizes, and the Gross Lipper Fellowship. Prof. Rechavi was selected as one of the “10 Most Creative People in Israel Under 40”, and one of the “40 Most Promising People in Israel Under 40”.

Research Interests
In our lab we challenge basic dogmas regarding inheritance and evolution, using simple powerful genetic model organisms. In particular, using nematodes, we have shown that exposure to different challenges triggers the synthesis of heritable small RNAs which regulate genes in the progeny, resulting in phenotypic changes several generations down the road. In addition to studying epigenetic inheritance, we are developing useful parasites, investigating the neuronal basis of rational decision-making, and try to do as many crazy experiments as possible.

We focus our studies mostly, but not exclusively, on C.elegans nematodes, wonderful creatures that we find irresistible. C.elegans has a super-short generation time of just 3 days, and its nervous system is composed of just 302 neurons (and the entire “connectome” is mapped). These properties, combined with awesome genetic tools and unparalleled ease of cultivation, make the worm the ideal model organism for studying memory, and in particular heritable memory. Nevertheless, we are aware that other organisms have feelings too, and therefore try to make our studies as relevant as possible, so no one is offended. We currently study also toxoplasma parasites, and planaria flatworms, but there are often other weird animals running around the lab.

Recently, as part of a totally different crazy project, we pieced the Dead Sea Scrolls “puzzle” by sequencing ancient DNA extracted from the animal skins on which the scrolls were written.

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