Dr. Shay-Whey Margaret Koh is a basic scientist in the field of trophic factors. Her focus has been on the beneficial effects of trophic factors on the prevention of cell death and inflammation in injured-corneal endothelium.
She received her Ph. D. in biochemistry in 1978 from the Ohio State University. This was followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Iowa and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as a staff fellowship and a senior staff fellowship at the NIH.
She has been the principal investigator of numerous NIH-funded projects. As associate professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Koh teaches cell biology of ocular tissues and the principles of photocoagulation applied to these tissues. She also participates in the teaching of the medical students through her secondary appointment in the Department of Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Her current focus has been on the beneficial effects of VIP and CNTF on the prevention of corneal endothelial (CE) cell death in corneas stored for transplantation and on diminishing the inflammatory potential of CE cells after transplantation. While VIP is a well-known suppressor of immune cell-mediated inflammation, contributing to the immune-privileged environment of the anterior chamber, in which the CE cell is a bystander (resident), she has found that VIP can also reduce the inflammatory potential of the bystander cell by switching the death mode of injured CE cells from necrosis, which causes inflammation, to apoptosis. She has also found that CNTF increases the level of cell-cell adhesion molecule connexin-43, a molecule important for the maintenance of corneal endothelium integrity, in CE cells with an intact receptor for CNTF, whose loss in aged CE cells can be restored by a recombinant CNTF receptor. At the time when CNTF for human retinal degeneration in a phase I clinical trial has been concluded by other investigators, her study implied that inclusion of CNTF receptor may further the effectiveness of CNTF therapy.