Nano-analytical Characterization of Calcifications for Personalized Medicine: a Mineralomics Approach? – PHRT


Nano-analytical Characterization of Calcifications for Personalized Medicine: a Mineralomics Approach?

Short Summary

In this project, we exploit advanced materials characterization (including microscopy and spectroscopy) to identify and characterize the totality of minerals present in clinical soft tissue samples. This “mineralomics” approach has the prospect to yield disease- and patient-specific fingerprints complementary to traditional clinicopathological analyses.


Here, we seek to establish an analytical workflow, which extends this approach to the holistic analysis of calcifications present in clinical specimens, in a strategy that could be considered as a “mineralomics” type of approach. We will apply “mineralomics” in order to understand the mineral deposits in different types of breast tissue biopsies and evaluate the prospect of correlating specific minerals found in the tissue with the tumour malignancy. Additionally, calcific deposits in native and prosthetic heart valves will be characterized to increase the understanding with regard to potential differences between heart valve calcification in native and prosthetic valves.


The “mineralomics” approach has the potential to impact clinical practice in two ways: i) on an individual patient’s basis, to refine diagnosis and ii) by providing new (fundamental) insights into diseases aetiology hence allowing researchers to develop new preventive and curative measures.


In humans, mineralisation of soft tissues has been attributed to pathological processes. Formation of inorganic calcium phosphate-based components in soft tissues has been identified in various diseases, including cardiovascular calcification and cancer. However, the mineral composition and ultrastructure in soft tissue has hardly been investigated because it has essentially been “invisible” to the pathologists using light microscopy-based techniques, and current medical imaging methods do not have the resolution to detect sub-micron mineral deposits nor analyses the chemical composition.

Technology Translation

Prof. Dr. Inge K. Herrmann

Empa & ETH Zurich


  • Cantonal Hospital St. Gallen (KSSG)

Funded by