Prof. A. Sue Menko Thomas Jefferson University, USA

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Sue Menko received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and her postdoctoral training at both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota. She has held faculty positions at the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University, where she is now Professor and Vice Chair of the Department... read moreof Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology. Dr. Menko has chaired the Jefferson Committee on Research and co-founded the Wills Vision Research Center at Jefferson.

Over the course of her career, much of Dr. Menko’s research has focused on the signaling pathways that guide cell differentiation and development. Her findings have included the first evidence that integrin-dependent signals are required for undifferentiated cells to express their differentiated phenotype, which, in studies with the lens, were extended to show that a coordinated integrin/growth factor receptor pathway regulates the initiating signals of lens cell differentiation.

In more recent studies, Dr. Menko’s lab has investigated the response to lens wounding, examining the factors that determine whether the wound outcome is regenerative or fibrotic. These studies revealed that, despite being an avascular tissue, the lens harbors a population of resident immune cells that play an important role in its response to wounding. She found that both innate and adaptive immune responses were activated in response to lens cell degeneration, challenging the idea that the avascular property of the lens prevented it from being infiltrated by immune cells. This unexpected finding began a new area of research in Dr. Menko’s lab, which has led to the discovery that immune cells are specifically recruited to the surface of the lens following injury to the cornea and in response to the autoimmune disease uveitis. Many of these recruited lens-associated immune cells have immunomodulatory properties, evidence that they are immunoregulators involved in maintaining homeostasis in regions of the eye that lack an embedded vasculature.