Overview of Research Programs
The scientific expertise of TCVR investigators is quite broad. Major scientific disciplines of expertise include biochemistry, bioengineering, biostatistics, cell biology, developmental biology, epidemiology, genetics, immunology, molecular biology, neurobiology, nutrition, pharmacology and physiology. The general categories of eye biology and disease addressed by TCVR scientists include corneal physiology and disease, cataract, developmental biology of the eye, glaucoma, retinal disease, nutrition and aging in the eye and ophthalmic genetics.
Following is a short alphabetical overview of the TCVR faculty and their research programs:
Caroline Baumal, MD FRCSC, is an ophthalmologist who specializes in disease of the retina and vitreous in adults and children. Dr. Baumal serves on the Tufts faculty as an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and is a member of the Department of Vitreoretinal Surgery for the New England Eye Center. She completed two post-graduate fellowships. She trained in New England Eye Center in Medical Retina and Lasers and also completed a second fellowship at wills Eye Hospital specializing in Vitreoretinal disorders in adults and children and tumors. Her research interests include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, ocular imaging and drug delivery to the eye. she has been an investigator in multiple clinical trials at the New England Eye Center since she joined the Department in 1997. She is a certified examiner for the NEI-sponsered “Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ET ROP) trial”. Dr. Baumal works collaboratively with TCVR investigator Dr. Judy West-Mays, studying retinal therapeutics and drug delivery to the eye.
William J. Brunken, PhD is a neuroscientist who studies the retina. He is a tenured Associate Professor in the department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology. Dr. Brunken trained in retinal neurochemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of numerous papers on investigations in this area and in retinal extracellular matrix, including a 1992 paper in Neuron, co-authored with Dr. Dale D. Hunter of the TCVR. His NEI-funded project investigates the role of the extracellular matrix in synapse formation in the retina.
Cynthia H. Cole, MD, MPH is a neonatologist and epidemiologist, who has a longstanding clinical research interest in retinopathy of prematurity. Dr. Cole joined the Tufts faculty in 1992 and currently serves as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and full-time attending neonatologist. Dr. Cole has served as PI for the 12 hospital Boston Consortium for the NEI-sponsored multicenter trials “Supplemental Therapeutic Oxygen for Prethreshold Retinopathy of Prematurity (STOP ROP) and High Oxygen Percentage ROP (HOPE ROP). Dr. Cole served as a permanent member of the STOP ROP Executive Committee. She is currently PI of the Boston Consortium for the NEI-sponsored “Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ET ROP).” She is also PI of an NEI-sponsored study to develop models which predict progression to severe ROP. She mentors Dr. Jim Hagadorn (K23 NEI grant) evaluating the role of illness severity and lability with ROP progression. Dr. Cole also has an interest in evaluating the genetic linkage analysis of retinopathy of prematurity. She is currently gathering preliminary data to develop an NEI grant proposal on this project.
Robert G. Cook, PhD is a cognitive psychologist who studies the visual system. He serves as a Professor of Psychology in the Tufts School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Cook has been a member of the Tufts Faculty since 1986. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and his B.S. in Psychology from Ohio State University. At Tufts, he teaches courses on Animal Cognition and Experimental Psychology. He was awarded the University’s Leibner Award for Distinguished Teaching and Advising in 1995. His research interests are in the area of Animal Cognition. He is funded by the National Science Foundation for his work on visual perception and discrimination learning with pigeons.
Jay S. Duker, MD is an ophthalmologist and internationally recognized vitreoretinal surgeon. He joined Tufts in 1992 as Director of the Vitreoretinal Diseases and Surgery Service for New England Eye Center. He currently serves as Interim Chairman for the Department of Ophthalmology and Acting Director of the New England Eye Center. Dr. Duker has been a long-time collaborator of TCVR investigator Dr. Paul Ashton, and helped to develop applications for the Vitrasert, a slow release device for drug delivery to the eye. He currently directs several clinical trials at the New England Eye Center. Dr. Duker serves on the TCVR steering committee.
Aurelie Edwards, PhD is a biochemical engineer whose research interests fall broadly in the domain of fluid and solute transport in living tissues. Dr. Edwards received her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She serves as a Research Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering within the School of Engineering on the Tufts Medford Campus. Dr. Edwards recognizes that biological systems like the eye and the kidney display such physico-chemical complexity that solving questions related to organ function, disease origin and drug delivery requires the application of advanced techniques of chemical engineering transport analysis. The current focus of eye research in Dr. Edward’s lab is drug delivery across the cornea and sclera.
Kristine A. Erickson, OD, PhD is an optometrist and pharmacologist who works in the area of aqueous outflow. She is appointed as a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Erickson received her training in the basic science of glaucoma with Dr. Paul Kaufman and Dr. David Epstein, two well-known figures in the glaucoma field. After her training, she stayed on at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, attaining the rank of Associate Professor. During this time she obtained her degree in optometry and began a clinical practice to complement her research. Dr. Erickson’s work is to characterize the role of the various adenylate cyclases present in human outflow tissue and to understand how they regulate the the effects of various pharacologic ligands used as drugs to control intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients. Dr. Erickson’s work in this area has won her the prestigous Alcon Research Institute Award, given yearly to investigators who have made outstanding contributions to our understanding of eye disease. Her publication record is extensive in journals such as Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. She has held grants from many different organizations during her research career. Her NEI project grant is now in its 14th consecutive year.
John M. Fitch, PhD is a developmental biologist who studies cornea. He is a Research Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cellular Biology. He was recruited to Tufts from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School as a co-investigator with Dr. Thomas Linsenmayer. Dr. Fitch is an accomplished scientist in his own right, with an extensive publication record in basic extracellular matrix biology.
Ira M. Herman, PhD is a cell biologist who works in the area of vascular biology. He is a Professor of Physiology, Anatomy and Cellular Biology and Ophthalmology and also serves on the faculty of the graduate programs in Molecular Physiology and Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology. Dr. Herman trained in the lab of Dr. Thomas Pollard at Johns Hopkins University, where he investigated the basic structure of the cytoskeleton in vascular endothelial cells. He published a seminal paper on this work in Science in 1983. Dr. Herman was recruited to Tufts as an Assistant Professor in 1981. He has an excellent publication record in upper-tier basic science journals and is known in vision circles for his fundamental studies on the retinal microvasculature. He serves on two editorial boards and is a past member of Visual Sciences C study section. His NEI-funded project tests the general hypothesis that cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions modulate retinal microvascular growth and differentiation. He is also the PI on a NIGMS project investigating isoactin dynamics in living cells.
Dale D. Hunter, PhD is a neuroscientist who focuses on cell-extracellular matrix interactions in the retina. He is an Associate Professor of Neurosciences, Anatomy and Cellular Biology and Ophthalmology, and he also serves on the faculty of the Program in Neurosciences and the Program in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology. Dr. Hunter trained in the lab of Dr. Joshua Sanes at Washington University in St. Louis, where he investigated the basic structure of extracellular matrices of the neuromuscular junction. He published a number of important papers on this work, including one in Cell and one in Nature in 1989. He was recruited to Tufts in 1990 as an Assistant Professor. His NEI-funded project investigates the function of the beta2-containing laminins during development of the retina. Dr. Hunter is Director of the Morphology Module for the TCVR.
Michele Jacob, Ph.D is a developmental neuroscientist who uses the ciliary ganglion as a model system. She is a Professor of Neuroscience and also serves on the faculty of the Program in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology. Dr. Jacob trained in the labs of Dr. Eric Kandel at Columbia University and Dr. Darwin Berg at the University of California, San Diego. Subsequently, she was a Senior Scientist at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology. In 1997, she was recruited to Tufts. Her research is defining in vivo molecular mechanisms that direct the formation of interneuronal cholinergic synapses in the ciliary ganglion. Ciliary ganglion neurons innervate muscles of the eye and function to control the pupillary light reflex, accomodation of the lens, and blood flow in the choroid coat. She has published a number of important papers on this work, including two in Neuron (1988, 1995) and two in Nature Neuroscience (1998, 2000). Dr. Jacob is the PI on a grant from the NINDS.
Daniel G. Jay, PhD is a neuroscientist who uses the retina as a model system. He is an Associate Professor of Physiology and serves on the faculty of the graduate program in Molecular Physiology. Dr. Jay trained at Harvard University and stayed on in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology as a faculty member, attaining the rank of John L. Loeb Associate Professor. He was recruited to Tufts as an Associate Professor in 1998. Dr. Jay has developed a highly innovative technique for inactivating single gene products within living cells using lasers (CALI). He has reported results of his investigations using this approach in elite journals, including papers in Nature (1990, 1995) and Science (1996). In his NEI-funded project, he studies the mechanisms whereby retinal axons are guided to form a precise topographic map in the brain that allow visual space to be perceived. Dr. Jay is also the PI on project grants from the NINDS and the NCI.
Elizabeth J. Johnson, Ph.D. is a nutritional biochemist who specializes in the study of carotenoid bioavailability in humans. Her research focuses on the role of lutein in eye disease prevention. Dr. Johnson has been a research scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Research Center on Aging at Tufts University for the past 15 years. She also holds an appointment as an assistant professor at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
Nora M. V. Laver, MD is a pathologist who specializes in ophthalmic pathology. She serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pathology and Ophthalmology. Dr. Laver was recruited from the NEI, where she was a visiting scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Gerald Robison. She is an accomplished researcher in the field of diabetic retinopathy, as evidenced by an extensive publication record. Dr. Laver is currently gathering preliminary data for an R01 application to investigate prognostic indicators and pathophysiologic mechanisms in ocular melanoma.
Janis Lem, PhD is a neuroscientist who works on the retina. She is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and serves on the faculty of the graduate program in Genetics. Dr. Lem was a senior fellow in Dr. Mel Simon’s group at Berkeley, where she established a research program in retinitis pigmentosa, funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Dr. Lem published several important studies during that period, including a paper in Neuron in 1991. Dr. Lem was recruited to Tufts in 1994 with the aid of the Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness. Her NEI-funded project investigates mechanisms whereby rhodopsin mutations cause retinal cell death. Dr. Lem is Director of the Transgenic Core Facility supported by the TCVR.
Thomas F. Linsenmayer, PhD is a developmental biologist who uses the cornea as one model system. He is a Professor of Anatomy and Cellular Biology and Ophthalmology and serves on the faculty of the graduate program in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology. Dr. Linsenmayer was recruited to Tufts from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School at the Associate Professor rank in 1982. At that time he was already a prominent figure in the field of basic extracellular matrix biology, with an extensive publication record in upper-tier basic science journals. As evidence of his standing, Dr. Linsenmayer was elected as Chairman for the Structural Macromolecules (Collagen) Gordon Conference, serving in 1986. He is a past member of Visual Sciences A study section and has served twice on the NEI panel for the five year plan. Dr. Linsenmayer is known among vision scientists for his work on the structure of collagen fibrils in the corneal stroma. The uniquely narrow diameter of these fibrils is an important determinant of corneal transparency. His accomplishments in this area won him the Alcon Research Institute Award for Research in Ophthalmology in 1994. Dr. Linsenmayer currently holds an NEI MERIT award to study the regulation of collagen fibrillogenesis in the cornea. He also heads a program project funded by NICHHD to study cell-matrix interactions in limb development.
Jeffrey K. Marchant, PhD is a developmental biologist who uses the corneal model in his research. He serves on the Tufts faculty as a Research Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Cellular Biology. Dr. Marchant did his graduate work with Dr. Linsenmayer and post-doctoral work with Dr. David Birk at Tufts. During that period, he published several excellent papers in upper-tier journals on corneal fibrillogenesis. Dr. Marchant received his current appointment to the Tufts faculty in 1997. He is the PI of an NEI-funded project to study the composition, structure and development of Bowman’s membrane in the cornea.
Martin S. Obin, PhD is a biochemist who works in cornea and retina. He serves as an Assistant Professor of Nutrition in the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the HNRC. Dr. Obin trained with lab director Dr. Allen Taylor, then accepted an appointment to the faculty in 1995. Dr. Obin publishes his excellent work in upper-tier basic science journals, including The Journal of Biological Chemistry. In his NEI-funded project, he studies the role of the ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation pathway in photoreceptor function and in their death during retinal degenerative processes.
Noorjahan Panjwani, PhD is a glycobiologist who specializes in corneal disease. She serves on the Tufts faculty as Professor of Ophthalmology and Biochemistry and is currently Acting Director of the Tufts Center for Vision Research. Dr. Panjwani trained at Oxford and Harvard Medical School then joined the Tufts faculty. Recently, she added new laboratory approaches to her repertoire with the help of a Career Sabbatical award from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB). Endorsement of Dr. Panjwani’s research by RPB was continued in 1999 with the Lew R. Wasserman award. Dr. Panjwani has served as a member of the Visual Sciences A study section. Dr. Panjwani’s work bridges ophthalmology and basic science and includes papers in upper-tier journals such as Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and The Journal of Biological Chemistry. She is known among vision scientists for her studies on the biochemistry of corneal repair and infection. Her NEI-funded project investigates mechanisms of Acanthameoba keratitis.
Michael B. Raizman, MD is an ophthalmologist who specializes in diseases of the cornea and anterior segment. Dr. Raizman serves on the Tufts faculty as an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and is Director of the Cornea and Anterior Segment Service for the New England Eye Center. He was trained at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School in the lab of Dr. K. Frank Austen, where he performed excellent work published in upper-tier basic science journals, including two in the Journal of Immunology. Dr. Raizman was recruited to Tufts in 1991 as a co-founder of the New England Eye Center and served as Director of Research during the start-up years. He does clinical research in corneal allergy, and he also works collaboratively with investigators at the Vision Research Laboratories, studying the basic science of corneal repair and angiogenesis.
Elias Reichel, MD is an internationally recognized expert regarding the diagnosis and treatment of retinal disorders. Dr. Reichel is associate professor of ophthalmology and Director of the Vitreoretinal Diseases and Surgery Service at the New England Eye Center. His research interests include molecular genetics having defined genetic defects associated with macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, and a clinical and research interest in electroretinography. Dr. Reichel is recognized as the developer of transpupillary thermotherapy (TTT),a novel subthreshold laser technique for treating choroidal neovascularization. He serves as chairman of a multicentered clinical trial that is evaluating TTT. Dr. Reichel also serves as principal investigator for four other major clinical trials.
Joel S. Schuman, MD is an ophthalmologist who specializes in glaucoma. Dr. Schuman serves as Professor of Ophthalmology and Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He also serves as Director of the Glaucoma Service for New England Eye Center. He was trained at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School and stayed on there as an Assistant Professor. He was recruited to Tufts in 1991 as a co-founder of the New England Eye Center, and he served as Residency Director for the Department until 1999. Dr. Schuman’s NEI-funded R01 focuses on Optical Coherence Tomography. He is also a co-investigator on the collaborative NEI-funded project on OCT with Drs. Fujimoto and Puliafito and was a co-author on the 1991 Science paper. In addition to this, Dr. Schuman maintains a glaucoma cell/molecular biology laboratory that has been funded by foundation grants. He is in the process of seeking NEI-funding for his work in this area. Dr. Schuman serves the TCVR as Director of the Tissue Resources component of the Monoclonal Antibodies and Human Tissue Resources Module.
Fu Shang, PhD is a biochemist who studies mechanisms of cataract formation. He serves as a Scientist within the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the HNRC and is currently seeking an appointment to the School of Nutrition as an Assistant. Dr. Shang trained with lab director Dr. Allen Taylor, then accepted an appointment to the faculty in 1995. Dr. Shang already has an excellent publication record in basic science journals, including The Journal of Biological Chemistry. In his NEI-funded project, he studies role of the ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation pathway in stress recovery of lens epithelial cells.
Allen Taylor, PhD is a biochemist and epidemiologist who studies diseases of the lens and retina. He serves the Tufts faculty as a Professor of Nutrition, Biochemistry and Ophthalmology, and he is Director of the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the HNRC. Dr. Taylor trained at the University of California, Berkeley. He was recruited to Tufts from Harvard Medical School in 1983 at the Associate Professor rank. He is an active vision scientist with an extensive publication record. Work in Dr. Taylor’s lab bridges ophthalmology and basic science and is published in upper-tier journals including Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and The Journal of Biological Chemistry. As a research director at the HNRC, he has focused his efforts on collaboration with and advising other faculty at HNRC on their joint research projects. Two NEI R01s support these collaborations.
Vo Van Toi, PhD is a biomedical engineer who specializes in the design and application of ophthalmic instrumentation. He serves as an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and he heads the Biomedical Engineering program. He has an adjunct appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine and as a Research Professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland. Dr. Toi joined Tufts University in 1984 while a visiting scientist at the MIT-Harvard Health Science and Technology Program. His research topics focus on visual psychophysics, laser imaging of retinal blood flow, drug delivery and telemedicine. Dr. Toi has invented several ophthalmic devices, in particular a programmable eye drop delivery system funded by an SBIR grant from the NEI.
Kurt R. Wollenberg, PhD is a computational geneticist with expertise and experience in bioinformatics, comparative genomics, biostatistics, statistical genetics and computer programming. Dr. Wollenberg was recruited from William R. Atchley’s lab in the Department of Genetics at North Carolina State University. He joined the Tufts faculty as an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology in October, 2000. During his training, Dr. Wollenberg published several important papers in high profile journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. He is seeking NIH funding for development of computer software to discriminate between low level signal and noise in DNA microarray data. Dr. Wollenberg is the Director of the Computational Biology Module for the TCVR.
Helen K. Wu, MD is an ophthalmologist who specializes in diseases and surgery of the cornea and anterior chamber and refractive surgery. Dr. Wu is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and the Director of the Refractive Surgery Service for the New England Eye Center. She was recruited to the department from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, after completing a corneal fellowship that included work in the lab of Dr. C. Stephen Foster. Dr. Wu does research in the NEEC clinic. She also collaborates with investigators at the Vision Research Laboratories in basic science studies examining healing mechanisms following refractive surgical procedures.
Driss Zoukhri, Ph.D. is a biochemist who works on dry eye syndromes. He is an assistant Professor in the Department of General Dentistry and the Department of Neuroscience. Dr. Zoukhri was trained at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School. His main research focus is on Sj?gren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the lacrimal and salivary glands become targets of the immune cells. These immune cells attack the glands either directly or through the production of inflammatory mediators such as proinflammatory cytokines. Dry eye and Dry mouth are the hallmarks of this disease, which affects approximately 4 million American, mostly women. Based on our previous findings, we hypothesize that increased production of proinflammatory cytokines in Sj?gren’s syndrome lacrimal and salivary glands leads to activation of stress- and mitogen-activated protein kinases, which then leads to the expression of the inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase. The nitric oxide produced, either directly or through its metabolites, causes lacrimal and salivary gland dysfunction leading to deceased tear and saliva production. We are currently testing this hypothesis.