Researchers

No one is immune to the effects of the world’s most pressing medical challenges. And none of these challenges are immune to the brilliance and dedication of IMRIC’s researchers. Get to know them a little better by checking out their bios.

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Dr. Alex Binshtok

My interest in pain mechanisms started during my B.Sc. studies and was reinforced during my subsequently clinical work as a physical therapist. I worked as a physical therapist for 10 years concentrating primarily on treatment of pain. While treating hundreds of patients, I came face to face with all forms of pain. With time I realized that, although most patients recover well after acute trauma, those that develop chronic inflammatory or neuropathic pain usually do not respond well to the current available treatments.

I realized that in order to develop novel and more effective treatment approaches, I needed a much more detailed understanding of the mechanisms of pain. Therefore, I decided to change direction and find a way to combine my clinical goal of helping people recover from pain with research in basic science.

Currently I am studying the complex mechanisms that underlie the experience of pain with the hope that a better understanding can lead to more successful methods of control and treatment.

My research into the diversity of pain phenomena adopts a multidisciplinary approach; it incorporates novel imaging techniques and electrophysiological, histological and behavioral experiments to study pain-related mechanisms at the molecular and cellular level, as well as the level of neuronal networks and behavior. It is anticipated that this integrative approach will yield a fundamental understanding of the multidimensional mechanisms involved in the unremitting suffering of pain experienced by so many people. New targets for the treatment of pain will be able to be identified and lead to the development of new pain-specific anesthetic drugs that could eliminate the sensation of pain much more effectively than the current available painkillers.

Dr. Ittai Ben-Porath

The research I am doing at IMRIC to discover the simple rules that govern something so complex really grabbed my attention.

I was born and raised in Jerusalem and went to school there. I enjoyed math and biology in high school, but it wasn't until I began learning about genetics that I began to have a clearer vision of what I wanted to do. What really excited me was how DNA contains all the information about us. Now we could actually "read" the letters that dictate our biological outcome.

Our IMRIC team has been researching breast cancer and we have discovered that tumors are linked in various ways to normal stem cells in the body. We have identified genes that when active, cause tumor cells to adopt certain traits of stem cells, in a sense activating a “stem cell program” in them. This program renders them more aggressive and metastatic. The big question now is learning how to control the programming of cancer cells and stop the metastatic seeding process, so that we can more effectively treat women and reduce mortality from the disease.

Dr. Sigal Ben-Yehuda

Microbiology has been an interest of mine for some time. As a researcher for IMRIC, my goal is to understand the chain of events required for the establishment of asymmetric cell division. In other words, what makes cells change as they divide? How is the DNA architecture changed during development? How is it linked to polar division?

My overall research at IMRIC is on how a bacterium decides to switch from one cell type to another. My discoveries, which include the demonstration of a previously unknown “nanotube” form of communication between cells, are fundamental for understanding the mechanisms of bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Prof. Hagai Bergman

Before I became an IMRIC researcher, I had already spent a number of years studying the brain and the mechanisms of Parkinson's. Here, in the Department of Physiology at IMRIC, I am able to combine the different areas of my post-doctoral fellowships.

Through my IMRIC collaboration with Toronto Western Hospital, University of Toronto, we are studying Parkinson's, depression and schizophrenia, exploring techniques used today to treat Parkinson's, with the hope of finding ways to prevent the disease from occurring.