Skip Navigation

Gladys Ko

Associate Professor


Phone: (979) 845-1797

Mailstop: 4458

Department: VIBS

Photo of Ko, Gladys

Research Keywords

Diabetic retinopathy, novel bioactive peptides, circadian regulation of retinal physiology, signal tranduction in ion channel regulation


  • Cell Biology
  • Toxicology
  • Neuroscience

Interdisciplinary Activities

  • Neuroscience
  • Toxicology

Scholarly Interests

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of blindness among the American working population with a projected prevalence of more than 11 million patients by 2030 in the US. Once the disease starts, it cannot be stopped simply by controlling the blood glucose (glycemic) levels strictly through diets and exercise. While DR is a disorder with two major problems, the vascular complications and the neural retina degeneration, the current treatments mainly target the vascular complications without treating the neural retina. The first-line gold standard treatments for DR is regular injections with anti-VEGF agents into the eyes. However, roughly 30% of DR patients do not respond well to these treatments. Often these non-responders are identified months after the treatments have started. Therefore, discovering new ways to treat or prevent DR are a major health issue, which is also the research focus in our laboratory. Interestingly, diabetic patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a congenital blindness with degenerated retinal photoreceptors, rarely develop DR. This suggests that the neural retina, especially the photoreceptors contribute to the development of DR. Our laboratory has been investigated the molecular mechanisms that regulate photoreceptor physiology over 13 years. More specifically, we have been investigating how metabolism and energy expenditure of photoreceptors are regulated throughout the course of 24 hours. We employ different techniques, including electroretinogram (ERG) recordings, fundus angiography, electrophysiological patch-clamp recordings, various biochemical and molecular assays, and imaging at cellular and tissue levels, and now focus on how early diabetic conditions trigger changes in photoreceptors that might lead to DR. In addition, we have recently discovered a new bioactive peptide, peptide Lv. This peptide not only regulates photoreceptor physiology, it also modulates cardiovascular functions. We now further elucidate the molecular mechanisms of peptide Lv's bioactivities, as well as its other unknown function.

Request Update