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Diane R. Bielenberg, Ph.D.

December 1, 2016

Assistant Professor
Surgery, Harvard Medical School
Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children's Hospital
Boston, MA


Dr. Bielenberg earned her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Texas Health Science Center. She performed her postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School. Her laboratory focuses on the role of neuropilins in vascular and cancer biology.

Primary Research:
The Bielenberg Laboratory investigates multiple projects involving both physiological and pathological aspects of vascular biology. In particular, the laboratory focuses on novel functions of the cell-surface transmembrane receptor family called neuropilins. Neuropilins are interesting receptors in that they can bind to multiple ligands with disparate signaling pathways and elicite a broad spectrum of responses. In addition to their expression in neurons, Neuropilin 1 (NRP1) is expressed in epithelial cells and endothelial cells, while Neuropilin 2 (NRP2) is expressed in endothelial cells (both vascular and lymphatic) and visceral smooth muscle cells. The laboratory is especially interested in the role of neuropilins in cancer cells and examining the use of soluble neuropilin isoforms or inhibitory class 3 semaphorin ligands as inhibitors of tumor-associated angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis.

Lab Web Site:


Members of the laboratory:

David Li, B.A.
Mr. Li received his BA in Biology from Carleton College in Minnesota. He is currently a masters student at Boston University and performs his thesis research in the Bielenberg Laboratory. David’s project focuses on the structure and function of neuropilin 2 isoforms in endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells.




AstridZAstrid Zessler, B.A.
Ms. Zessler received her BA in Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. She is currently a masters student at Boston University and performs her thesis research in the Bielenberg Laboratory. Astrid’s project examines the efficacy of the neuropilin 2 ligand, semaphorin 3F, as an anti-angiogenic and anti-metastatic agent in pancreatic carcinoma.



EllahNzikobaEllah Nzikoba
Ms. Nzikoba is an undergraduate student at Tufts University majoring in Biochemistry. She performed research in the Bielenberg Laboratory in the summer of 2016 in the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center (DFHCC) Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program and was funded by the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP). Ellah’s research suggests that drugs targeting Nrp1 damage the kidney whereas drugs targeting Nrp2 do not.



CarolinaVillalbaCarolina Villalba, B.S.
Ms. Villalba received her BS in Biology from Tufts University. She performed research in the Bielenberg Laboratory in the DFHCC CURE program. Carolina’s project centered around the role of neuropilins in breast cancer progression. She established a pro-tumorigenic role for NRP2 in human breast cancer cells and a pro-angiogenic role for NRP2 in breast tumor endothelial cells.



XiaoranLiXiaoran Li, M.S.
Ms. Li earned her Masters in Medical Sciences degree from Boston University. She performed her thesis project in the Bielenberg Laboratory. Xiaoran determined that Semaphorin 3F can repel pancreatic cancer cells and prevent metastasis in the liver in mouse models of orthotopic pancreatic carcinoma.




PatrickMuckaPatrick Mucka, M.S.
Mr. Mucka earned his Masters in Medical Sciences degree from Boston University. He performed his thesis project in the Bielenberg Laboratory and is first author in a recent paper in the American Journal of Pathology. Patrick determined that mice lacking neuropilin 2 experience prolonged swelling and increased edema following inflammation. Patrick is currently pursuing his PhD at Boston University.




Recent Publications:

• Mucka P*, Levonyak N*, Geretti E, Zwaans BM, Li X, Adini I, Klagsbrun M, Adam RM, Bielenberg DR. (2016) Neuropilin 2 deficiency prolongs cutaneous inflammation and edema. American Journal of Pathology 186(11): 2803-2812. PMID 27751443. *contributed equally

• Wong LL*, Lee NG*, Amarnani D, Choi CJ, Bielenberg DR, Freitag SK, D’Amore PA, Kim LA. (2016) Orbital angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis in thyroid eye disease: an analysis of vascular growth factors with clinical correlation. Ophthalmology 123(9): 2028-2036. PMID 27423310. *contributed equally

• Wang S*, Blois A*, El Rayes T*, Liu JF, Hirsch MS, Gravdal K, Bielenberg DR, Akslen LA, Drapkin R, Mittal V, Watnick RS. (2016) Development of a therapeutic cyclic peptide that targets ovarian cancer via the tumor microenvironment. Science Translational Medicine 8(329): 329ra34. PMID 26962158. *contributed equally

• Shahrabi-Farahani S, Gallottini M, Martins F, Li E, Mudge DK, Nakayama H, Hida K, Panigrahy D, D'Amore PA, Bielenberg DR. (2016) The Neuropilin 1 Receptor is Upregulated in Dysplastic Epithelium and Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. American Journal Pathology 186(4):1055-64. PMCID: PMC4822338.

• Song K, Wu H, Rahman A, Dong Y, Wen A, Brophy M, Wong S, Bielenberg DR, Chen H. (2016) Endothelial Epsins as Regulators and Potential Therapeutic Targets of Tumor Angiogenesis. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences online Aug 29, 2016. PMID 27572288.

• Wedel J, Nakayama H, Kochupurakkal NM, Koch J, Klagsbrun M, Bielenberg DR, Briscoe DM. (2016) The Intragraft Microenvironment as a Central Determinant of Chronic Rejection or Local Immunoregulation/Tolerance. Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation online November 24, 2016. PMID 27898465.

Collaborative Relationships:
The Bielenberg laboratory formally collaborates with several laboratories including: Rosalyn Adam, Ph.D. (Department of Urology Research, Boston Children’s Hospital), Hong Chen, Ph.D. (Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children’s Hospital), Mark Puder, M.D. (Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children’s Hospital), Randy Watnick, Ph.D. (Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children’s Hospital), Dipak Panigrahy, M.D. (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center), Patricia D’Amore, Ph.D. (Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear), and Shokoufeh Shahrabi-Farahani, DDS (University of Tennessee).

Recent Presentations:
• 18th Annual Boston Angiogenesis Meeting (BAM 2016), The Starr Center, Boston, MA.

• Seminars in Vascular Biology, 2016 Annual Tucker Collins Memorial Lecture, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA.

• American Society for Investigative Pathology Annual Meeting, Experimental Biology 2016, San Diego, CA.

• Basic Science Seminar Series, Department of Pathology & Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE.


Laboratory Motto: