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Ajitha Thanabalasuriar, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
McGill University

Montreal, Quebec, CANADA


Ajitha Thanabalasuriar started as an Assistant Professor at McGill University in August 2020. Her research focuses on understanding neutrophil biology and function in the context of infection and injury. During her postdoctoral training with Dr. Paul Kubes at the University of Calgary, Prof. Thanabalasuriar developed a method of imaging the cornea of live mice using intravital microscopy. Using this technique, Prof. Thanabalasuriar was able to understand the role of neutrophils in the development of bacterial corneal infection. The focus of her lab now is to understand the biology and function of neutrophil on the cornea after injury and infection.



Title: Visualizing Neutrophil Dynamics on the Eye

Microbial keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped tissue on the eye, that covers the iris, caused by an infection.  Bacterial keratitis is a common complication in contact lens users, individuals who have suffered eye trauma, and immunocompromised individuals. Both daily and extended wear contact lens users account for up to 66% all bacterial keratitis cases in North America and in Europe. One of the major causative agents of keratitis is the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic pathogen that is ubiquitously found in the environment. Neutrophils are granulocytic innate immune cells that play a role in both infection control and tissue repair. P. aeruginosa infections are difficult to treat as the bacteria readily form biofilm structures. Bacterial biofilms can tolerate antibiotics and host defenses resulting eye opacity and complete vision loss.  In our work we visualize P. aeruginosa biofilm development and neutrophil recruitment to the infection on the cornea. Neutrophils play a major role in blocking bacterial penetration into the eye and dissemination into the brain but promote biofilm formation in the process of blocking bacterial dissemination. In our work we use a combination of imaging, flow cytometry, and transcriptomics to understand the unique populations of neutrophils in the eye and how they control infection.