Suzanne MJ. Fleiszig

Research Expertise and Interest

immunology, eye, microbiology, infectious disease, corneal physiology, tear film physiology, bacterial pathogenesis, contact lenses, pseudomonas aeruginosa, epithelial cell biology, innate immunity

Research Description

Suzanne Fleiszig is a Professor of Optometry and Vision Science.  The Fleiszig Lab's research is focused on understanding pathogenesis of bacterial infection, using the cornea and the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa as model systems. Studies are aimed at understanding the molecular factors that prevent bacterial penetration of epithelia during health, how the functionality of that defense system is modulated, and the bacterial factors that enable penetration when the system is compromised. By studying the eye's defensive mechanisms and determining what microbial factors involved in initiating disease, we hope to develop therapeutics for preventing/treating infection on multiple surfaces of the body.

Our epithelial surfaces are normally resistant to infection. Therefore, researchers who study infectious disease in vivo commonly resort to use of models that deliberately compromise the target tissue (or otherwise bypass barriers) so that disease can be enabled and studied. These infection models have led to a plethora of important information about factors involved in pathology and/or its resolution when disease is initiated. However, other models are needed to study barriers to infection, or early events that occur prior to disease initiation when it occurs in the absence of overt injury.

The Fleiszig laboratory has developed novel in vivo and in vitro methods for studying defenses during health using the eye and the opportunistic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa as models. They have also advanced imaging technologies that enable us to see into the living epithelium to observe what bacteria do and how the tissue responds in either resistant or susceptible states. Using these methods, and employing array/knockout/knockdown technologies, they have identified specific factors that modulate the ability of bacteria to penetrate the ocular surface epithelium. The data show that pathogen recognition systems are involved in resistance, and suggest that bacterial adaptation in vivo contributes to pathogenesis. Studies aimed at understanding early interactions between microbes and the ocular surface prior to disease initiation have potential for development of novel methods to prevent (rather than simply treat) infection of the eye or other sites.

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