Approximately 15 labs at Ben-Gurion University focus on studying neuronal and glial cell function using modern molecular, electrophysiological and imaging techniques.
In particular, the Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience cluster focuses on understanding neuronal excitability, energy metabolism, synaptic transmission, neuron-glia communications and de-/regenerative processes in the brain.'
Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Researchers
We investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling neuronal development, which is fundamental for comprehending how the brain is assembled and functions. Moreover, we aim to translate our findings into a better understanding and treatment of brain disorders.
In particular, we explore the genetic pathways controlling the development, survival, function and degeneration of dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons. We combine this basic research approach with studying the pathophysiology of dopamine and serotonin-associated disorders such as Parkinson's disease and mood disorder, thus advancing the development of new therapies for these conditions.
We combine high-speed Na+ and Ca2+ fluorescence imaging, two-photon microscopy, patch clamp recordings and computational modeling in order to elucidate the mechanisms of action potential generation and propagation in central neurons
Studies the pathophysiology of several brain disorders and the effects of stress on the nervous system. Human and animal studies focus on dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier in epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases, developing new imaging methods and novel therapies for the prevention and treatment of injury-related epilepsy and neurodegeneration.
Studies the mechanisms that control synaptic vesicle dynamics within the presynaptic terminal, and how these affect synaptic function.
Studies the neurobiology of autism and other neuro-developmental disorders with a specific focus on understanding how genetics interact with the in-utero environment to control the development of the brain and how this is altered in certain conditions.
Studies the role of a specific zinc-sensing receptor using fluorescence imaging, molecular biology, and biochemical tools. Understanding the role of the mZnR/GPR39 and the mechanism underlying effects of zinc may provide novel therapeutic tools to regulate neuronal activity.
The main focus of the research in our lab is on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that lead to the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease) with special emphasis on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). These devastating diseases represent a major challenge to public health worldwide, especially as our population continues to age.
ALS is a progressive adult-onset neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the selective loss of upper and lower motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, followed by paralysis and ultimately death within 2-5 years. The typical age of onset is between 50 to 60 years for most forms of ALS. The disease significantly affects the patient's quality of life, being characterized by progressive muscle weakness, atrophy and spasticity. Today, the disease is incurable, and there is no effective treatment to cure or even significantly slow disease progression.
We combine biochemistry, molecular biology and use both cellular and in vivo models to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in ALS pathogenesis.
Our long term aim is to identify new candidate agents that will be able to slow or stop the progression of the disease. These agents will be tested in pre-clinical studies and will be the basis to develop new drugs for the treatment of ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders.
In the Molecular Cognition Laboratory (shiraknafo.com) we seek to identify the molecular and synaptic mechanisms underlying learning and memory, cognitive malfunction and cognitive enhancement. The final goal of our research is the development of new tools to treat memory loss. To this end we use a variety of molecular, genetic and pharmacological tools that can be later on translated to treatment of humans, especially Alzheimer's patients.
We study the link between mitochondrial Ca2+ signaling and metabolism to learning and memory process. Toward this goal we have devised cutting edge stagey that facilitate a precise on and off control of metabolic activity in district neuron population by light. We apply this approach to also interrogate the basis of major health syndromes such as stroke and Alzheimer disease with the aim to develop effective therapeutic tool for these devastating syndromes.
Investigates how epigenetic modifications and chromatin structure influence DNA repair, the roles of several uncharacterized proteins in the DNA damage signaling have on aging, and brain related diseases, as well as changes in epigenetic modifications and DNA damage in neurodegeneration.
Studies the biological basis, including genetics and endocrinology, of empathy development in the typical range and atypical range (e.g., autism); and how biological factors interact with environmental influences (social environment, parenting) to shape different trajectories of empathy development.
Our research aims to understand the mechanisms that underlie rare neurological disorders and develop personalized therapeutic approaches. We generate patient-specific stem cells, by reprogramming skin fibroblasts or blood cells that are collected from patients, back into a pluripotent stage termed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These cells are then differentiated into various cell types of the human brain, including neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and endothelial cells, and used to recreate diseases-in-a-dish. By studying monogenic diseases we study the molecular mechanisms that underlie the disease, and develop platforms for drug screening.
Traditional culture systems fail to represent the complexity of our physiology. The solution to some of these problems lies in microfluidic devices, also known as Organs-on-Chip, which provide 3D multicellular architectures and can mimic tissue-tissue interfaces, physicochemical microenvironments and vascular perfusion of the body, giving levels of tissue and organ functionality not attainable with traditional culture systems. In collaboration with our commercial partners we develop bioengineered platforms of the human blood brain barrier (BBB) and brain, which are specifically designed for predictive personalized medicine. Using these platforms, we develop approaches to predict and tailor optimal available treatments per individual.
In my lab we study the involvement of voltage-dependent potassium channels in action potential generation, propagation and transmission .Specifically, we study structure-function aspects of Kv channel gating and clustering using a multidisciplinary approach that combines several complementary experimental routes including sequence, structural, biochemical, biophysical, spectroscopic, electrophysiological, electron microscopy, cell biology and whole organism-level developmental biology analyses.
Studies the regulation of potassium leak (K2P) channel activity, including the search for specific potassium channel modifiers, the effects of native neurotoxins (isolated from various venoms) on potassium channels, and the development of a screening system for the identification of recombinant channel-blockers