Biomineralization in Disease
We study the chemical conditions and cellular processes that lead to pathological mineralization, the interactions between biominerals and their surrounding tissue and the relationship between biominerals and disease progression.
Mineralization mechanisms of breast cancer microcalcifications
Calcium phosphate crystals that form in the breast are associated with cancer, and breast cancers with calcifications have a worse prognosis than lesions without calcifications. Although routinely measured during breast cancer screening (mammography), it is not known whether microcalcifications precipitate as a result of cancer progression, or whether their presence promotes malignancy.
To gain a mechanistic understanding of the mineralization process, and its connection to breast cancer progression, our lab studies 3D cell culture tumor models that deposit mineral particles similar to microcalcifications, as well as clinical samples.
Interactions between biominerals and surrounding tissues
The composition, structure, and crystal properties of physiological minerals like bones and teeth are associated with their function. However, minerals with no known function frequently form in disease, and the link between their structure and crystal properties and diagnosis and prognosis is often unclear. This motivates our study of the connection between the crystal properties of minerals associated with disease and their interactions with the surrounding cells and extracellular matrix in cancer and skeletal diseases.