Prof. Ilan Micha
The research in my laboratory is centered around two main areas:
1) on the taxonomic level – the phylum Porifera (sponges); and
2) on Symbiosis between marine organisms (usually with a sponge as one of the interacting organisms). Over the years we have thus studied many sponge species and their associates: from microorganisms (cyanobacteria, heterotrophic bacteria, and fungi) through algae and invertebrates (e.g., scyphozoans, barnacles, and polychaetes) to vertebrates (fish and hawksbill turtles).
Sponges – the oldest multicellular organisms, being filter-feeding sessile organisms, frequently non-cryptic, have developed a wide array of natural products (metabolites) that assist them in dealing with their world. In our laboratory we study marine-derived natural products through two different disciplines. One, in Marine Biotechnology , studies how the sponge produces such metabolites. The second, in Chemical Ecology , examines how the sponge utilizes these compounds. We subsequently evaluate the potential of exploiting these metabolites for human benefit, mostly as lead compounds for the development of pharmaceutical drugs.
Another group of studies is in the field of Biomineralization , in which we investigate how organisms deposit various minerals; what is the ecological/physiological function of these minerals, and how can we exploit this in the production of biomimetic materials?
The studies carried out in my laboratory are therefore multidisciplinary and utilize knowledge from fields such as ecology, organic chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and geochemistry, and relate to different levels of organization, from the population level through the physiological and cellular, to the molecular and chemical levels.