Asma Nusrat, MD – Women in Pathology

Asma Nusrat, MD

Dr. Asma Nusrat has been a member of The American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP) since 2003, and is currently serving on the ASIP Council as immediate Past President (July 2019-June 2020). Dr. Nusrat served as President of the Society from July 2018-June 2019. Prior to that, Dr. Nusrat provided leadership to the ASIP on the Program Committee and as Program Committee Chair, as a long-time member of the ASIP Council, and she continues to serve as a leader of the ASIP Vascular and Mucosal Pathobiology Scientific Interest Group.

Dr. Asma Nusrat earned her medical degree from the University of Punjab (Lahore, Pakistan), and then completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA). Dr. Nusrat remained at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital for a fellowship in Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary pathology, as well as a research fellowship in epithelial pathobiology. While at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Nusrat began investigating fundamental mechanisms of epithelial barrier regulation and wound repair. She became an Instructor in Pathology in 1992 and then an Assistant Professor in 1997 at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nusrat was subsequently recruited to Emory University (Atlanta, GA) where she rose to the rank of Professor in 2007. In 2015, Dr. Nusrat was recruited to the Department of Pathology at the University of Michigan Medical School (Ann Arbor, MI) as the Aldred Scott Warthin Professor and Director of Experimental Pathology. She is now the F. Peyton Rous Professor of Pathology and continues to serve as Director of Experimental Pathology.

The research in Dr. Nusrat’s laboratory focuses on the biology of epithelial cell migration and mechanisms by which epithelia regulate intercellular junctions and transcellular permeability. In the intestine, for example, surgery and inflammatory conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and infectious colitis are associated with ulceration and increased permeability across the epithelium. Rapid resealing of small mucosal wounds occurs by migration of epithelial cells, a process termed “restitution.” Restitution has also been observed in other systems such as renal, urinary and pulmonary epithelia. The long term objective of Dr. Nusrat’s laboratory is to (i) determine molecular mechanisms of epithelial cell migration, (ii) identify factors that promote restitution, and (iii) ascertain mechanisms of intercellular junction regulation and permeability across the epithelium. Their hypothesis is that the migration of intestinal epithelial cells during wound closure is driven by lamellipodial extensions at the leading edge and is dependent on dynamic cytoskeletal remodeling with modification of intercellular junctions. To model these events they have taken an in vitro reductionist approach using cultured epithelial cell lines. They have shown that Scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor markedly enhances intestinal epithelial cell migration and wound closure by modifying intercellular junctions and focal cell matrix associations of epithelial. Epithelial cells, unlike other cell types such as fibroblasts and hematopoietic cells, migrate as sheets of cells with modified intercellular junction associations. Dr. Nusrat’s group found that lamellipodia of migrating intestinal epithelial cells are enriched in actin filaments and actin modifying proteins, villin and gelsolin. Such actin binding proteins likely play an important role in mediating rapid F-actin turnover, lamellipodial extrusion and epithelial cell migration. To investigate these possibilities they have generated epithelial cell lines overexpressing gelsolin. They have also shown that the Rho family of small GTP binding proteins play an important role in regulating permeability across the intestinal epithelium by influencing the organization of tight junction associated proteins and the actin cytoskeleton. They are dissecting the mechanisms by which the Rho family of GTP binding proteins regulate organization of intercellular junctions and their associations with the cytoskeleton. Potential benefits of this work include a better understanding of epithelial cell migration and regulation of intercellular junctions/permeability across the epithelium. Such an understanding could facilitate the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at enhancing epithelial cell migration and wound closure.

Dr. Nusrat’s laboratory has been continuously funded for many years through grants from the NIDDK/NIH and private foundations, including the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and has been extremely productive. Dr. Nusrat has published >200 original articles, reviews, and book chapters, including 17 papers in The American Journal of Pathology. Dr. Nusrat is frequently invited to speak at international symposia related to her field, and has served on numerous NIH Study Sections. Dr. Nusrat is also a practicing Gastrointestinal and Liver Pathologist and has contributed to mentoring and teaching graduate and medical students, residents, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. She has directly supervised 5 graduate students, 32 postdoctoral fellows, and 27 clinical fellows. She served on dissertation committees for 25 other graduate students, and has mentored 7 junior faculty. She is an Associate Editor for Molecular Biology of the Cell, previously served as Associate Editor for Gastroenterology and The American Journal of Pathology, and served as Editorial Board Member for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the American Journal of Physiology. Dr. Nusrat is an elected member and previous President of the Pluto Society (the American Association of University Pathologists).