Kalina Hristova, a professor of materials science and engineering, focuses on the structure and assembly of biological membranes. Her lab studies the thermodynamic and structural principles that underlie membrane protein folding and signal transduction across these membranes.
Hristova approaches basic problems of biological relevance with the tools and mindset of an engineer. The primary focus of her work is the family of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). These receptors are often dysregulated in cancer, but basic knowledge about their function is lacking, in part because there have been no adequate quantitative methods to study the interactions that regulate their function. Hristova has dedicated her career to solving this difficult problem and filling the gaps in our knowledge. She has pioneered novel quantitative methodologies and has used these methods to gain a better understanding of RTK activation in several human RTK families. Her powerful quantitative approach to the study of RTKs has placed her in a position to broadly define the fundamental principles of RTK function by developing a new physical framework for understanding their function. She has also contributed to the understanding of the mechanism of action of membrane-active peptides, which can be used in drug delivery applications.
Her current research projects focus on the mechanism of ligand functional selectivity of membrane receptors, on the role of the membrane protein interactome in regulating biological function, on the molecular mechanism of RTK-associated pathogenesis, on pH-sensitive peptides for endosomal release applications, and on peptides which can permeate cellular barriers.
Hristova is a member of the Biophysical Society and the American Chemical Society. A recipient of the Biophysical Society’s Dayhoff award, she is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Hristova also is an editorial board member for BBA Biomembranes and The Biophysical Journal.
Hristova received her BS and MS degrees in physics from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria in 1987 and 1988, respectively. She earned a PhD in mechanical engineering and materials science from Duke University in1994. Hristova worked as a post-doctoral associate and research scientist at the University of California, Irvine, prior to joining the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2001.