Connecting biomineralization and disease progression  

Minerals with no recognized function frequently form in the course of disease, and the link between their crystal properties and the disease progression is often unclear. This motivation guides our study of the connection between the crystal properties of minerals associated with cancer and their interactions with the surrounding cells and extracellular matrix. Our research characterizes clinical samples and biomaterials developed to improve our understanding of mineral-related disease progression.

Studying the link between breast microcalcifications and cancer progression

Calcium phosphate crystals forming in the breast are associated with cancer, and breast cancer has a worse prognosis with calcification than without. To gain a mechanistic understanding of the connection between mineral properties and breast cancer progression, our lab studies 3D cell culture tumor models in addition to clinical samples.
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Developing a diagnostic method for thyroid cancer using microcalcifications as biomarkers

Thyroid microcalcifications are a significant risk factor for thyroid nodule malignancy and are associated with tumor aggressiveness. We use materials science methodology to characterize clinical samples of microcalcifications obtained from suspicious thyroid nodules. As a result, we aim to develop a non-invasive method to detect thyroid nodule malignancy based on the chemical properties of microcalcifications.
Collaboration with Soroka Medical Center (Dr. Merav Fraenkel and Dr. Uri Yoel)

How biomaterials respond to chemical changes in the environment

Acidity-induced structural changes in collagen hydrogels as it relates to disease progression

The extracellular matrix consists of a complex mixture of structural and functional macromolecules, primarily collagen. In some diseases, the extracellular matrix pH can change. We study acidity-induced changes to the structure and function of collagen ranging from molecular to nano and micro scales.
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The effect of the tumor microenvironment’s chemistry on breast cancer progression

 

We utilize engineered 3D tumor models to associate the chemical conditions in the tumor microenvironment with the progression of cancer.

Determining the right conditions for crystal growth inhibition

We study the fundamentals of mineral crystallization in experimental systems related to pathology and sustainable technologies. In addition, we explore the chemical conditions that direct crystal growth and manipulate the solution chemistry to inhibit unwanted crystallization or control the final crystal properties.