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Jianhai Du, PhD

Assistant Professor


Ophthalmology; Biochemistry; Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute

Graduate Training

PhD in Pathophysiology, Peking University, Beijing, China


Postdoctoral Fellow, Pediatrics Surgery, Medical College of Wisconsin
Senior Fellow, Biochemistry, University of Washington 

Lab website

Research Interests

Retina has extremely active energy metabolism to support its function in processing light signals into electrical signals. Differs from the brain, retina has unique laminated structure (Figure 1, below) and relies much more on aerobic glycolysis (Figure 2, below). Mutations in the metabolism genes such as PDE6, IDH3, HK, IMPDH, and NMNAT1 exclusively affect retina to cause vision loss in inherited retinal degeneration in humans. Retina has at least six different cell types and they are highly interactive and inter-dependent in nutrient utilization (Figure 2, below). The malfunction of metabolism in RPE cells and Müller glial cells could lead to photoreceptor degeneration in age-related macular degeneration and Macular telangiectasia type 2. Targeting metabolism might be a promising approach to treat retinal degenerative diseases.

Our lab integrates multidisciplinary approaches including mass spectrometry, stable isotope tracers, gene editing, animal models and stem cell technology to study the roles of metabolic regulation and dys-regulation in the heathy and diseased retinas.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Retina has a unique structure with different cell types in layers (Figure 1).  Model for metabolic pathways in the mouse retina (Figure 2).   ( J Neurosci Res. 2015; 93(7): 1079–1092 .)

Current Projects
  1. Human RPE metabolism and metabolite transport (NIH RO1, 2016-2020)
  2. NAD metabolism in normal and disease-specific human RPE cells (Brightfocus Foundation, 2016-2018)
  3. Mitochondrial pyruvate carrier in the retina
  4. NAD metabolism in inherited retinal degeneration
Research Methods
  1. Metabolomics and metabolic flux analysis --- (using GC MS, LC QQQ and LC Q exactive to quantify central carbon metabolites and metabolic reactions)
  2. Tissue culture --- (Retinal explant, RPE cell culture and stem cell diffrentiation)
  3. In vitro Enzyme assay --- (UV, Fluorescence and Luminescence microplate reader)

Lab Personnel

Allison B. Grenell, BS
Research Technologist





Additional Publications.