Professor of Ophthalmology and Biochemistry,
Tufts University School of Medicine
PhD, Biochemistry, University of Oxford
Glycobiology, Harvard Medical School (Dr. Robert Spiro’s Lab)
Dr. Noorjahan Panjwani is a Glycobiologist. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry of the Eye from the University of Oxford, U.K. and her postdoctoral training in Glycobiology from the Harvard Medical School (Dr. Robert Spiro’s laboratory). She is currently Professor of Ophthalmology and Developmental, Molecular, and Chemical Biology and the Director of Research, Department of Ophthalmology and the New England Eye Center at Tufts University School of Medicine. Her research interests are focused on characterization of the role of a class of carbohydrate-binding proteins, galectins, in the pathogenesis of the diseases of the cornea including persistent epithelial defects, corneal infections, neovascularization and graft rejection. All projects in her lab have a solid basic science component to understand cell biological and biochemical mechanisms of infections, wound healing and angiogenesis, and are disease-oriented with a focus on translational research to find better, novel ways to treat blinding diseases of the eye. She has extensively published in high tier peer reviewed journals
including Nature Communications (PMC4832077), Journal of Experimental Medicine (PMC2931172), Journal of Cell science (PMC2758802) Journal of immunology (PMC3689592; PMC4282964), and Journal of Biological Chemistry (PMID: 12194966; 19556244; PMC2755710; PMC3191032).
Inventions in Dr. Panjwani’s have resulted in a number of patents including: (i) Lymphangiogenesis inhibitors for cancer and for graft survival (Patent number: 10226509); (ii) Methods, compositions and kits for treating, modulating, or preventing ocular angiogenesis or fibrosis in a subject using a galectin protein inhibitor (Publication number: 20150320782); (iii) Microbe-inhibiting compositions (Patent number: 6037333); (iv) Use of Galectin-3 to promote the re-epithelialization of wounds (Patent number: 6967021), and (v) Compositions and uses of a galectin for treatment of dry eye syndrome (Patent number: 7189697).
Summary of Research Interests: Over the years, Dr. Panjwani’s work has focused on two distinct projects:
1. The Role of galectins in pathobiology of corneal wound healing: The focus of this project has been on investigating the function of cell surface receptors in the context of their glycosylation pattern and interactions with endogenous galectins. These studies have demonstrated that : (i) galectin-3 promotes corneal epithelial cell migration and re-epithelialization of corneal wounds by binding to complex N-glycans on α3β1 integrin and subsequently activating the α3β1 integrin-Rac1 signaling to promote lamellipodia formation (PMC2758802), (ii) galectin-3 promotes VEGF-A mediated angiogenesis by activating αvβ3 integrin and VEGFR2 (PMC2931172, PMC3191032), (iii) specific inhibitors of galectin-3 inhibit corneal neovascularization as well as corneal and retinal fibrosis (PMC5225999); and (iv) galectin-8 is a potent lymphangiogenic factor and that pathological lymphangiogenesis is modulated by galectin-8-dependent crosstalk between podoplanin and integrin-associated VEGFR-3 (PMC4832077). Currently, in a DOD-funded project, her group is performing
preclinical animal studies to identify and develop to an IND level a galectin-3 inhibitor to provide a reduction in scarring and fibrosis in the healing process of ocular injuries, thus providing a novel strategy for controlling scarring and the pathological healing response in traumatized ocular tissues. In addition, in this project, the group is investigating the efficacy of galectin-3 inhibition in providing protection from glaucoma after chemical injury to the cornea. These studies are being conducted in collaboration with Galecto Biotech. In another study the lab is investigating molecular mechanism by which galectin-3 promotes fibrosis.
2. The Role of galectins in the regulation of immunopathology of corneal infections: The focus of this project has been on investigating the immunomodulatory roles of galectins. These studies have demonstrated that: (i) local recombinant Gal-1 (rGal-1) treatment by subconjunctival injections significantly diminishes P. aeruginosa-mediated corneal inflammation through multiple mechanisms including reduced proinflammatory Th17 cell response in the cornea as well as local draining lymph nodes (PMC3689592), (ii) Galectin-8 ameliorates murine autoimmune ocular pathology and promotes a regulatory T Cell response by modulating IL-2 and TGFβ signaling PMC4747822; PMC4488339.), and (iii) galectin-8 knockout mice are resistant to P. aeruginosa keratitis. Currently in an NIH-funded study the Panjwani Lab is investigating the mechanism by which galectins modulate immunopathology of P. aeruginosa keratitis.