Skip Navigation

Dr. Gladys Ko


Dr. Gladys Ko

No Eyeballs Left Behind!

A. Small molecules playing big roles in pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of blindness among American adults with a projected prevalence of more than 11 million patients by 2030 in the US.  While 70% of DR patients respond very well to the current anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapies, the first-line gold standard treatment, 30% are unresponsive, and often these non-responders are identified months after the treatments have started.  Hence, finding new therapeutic targets and strategies are in critical needs. 

We and others have found that retinal photoreceptors contribute to the pathogenesis of DR.  More specificallly, we found that the profile of calcium ions coming into the retinal photoreceptors has altered in early diabetic retina.  We are now investigating on ion channels, cell-signaling molecules, and microRNAs in retinal photoreceptors on how they cause photoreceptors going haywire in early diabetes.  We have also identified a couple of molecules that might have therapeutic potentials to treat, prevent, or delay the onset of DR.

Ko lab 1

B. Characterization of a novel bioactive peptide, peptide Lv: angiogenesis.

Our lab recently discovered a novel bioactive peptide, peptide Lv.  Peptide Lv natually exists in many tissues, including the eye, brain, heart, spleen, lung, and intestines.  We found that peptide Lv regulates calcium channel activities in the retina and heart through various intracellualr signaling pathways.  More specifically, peptide Lv enhances the action of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptors.  We are now investigating the physiological functions of peptide Lv in the retina, blood vessels, and heart.

GKo Lab 2

C. Signaling network responsible for the circadian regulation in retinal photoreceptors.

In the past 11 years, our lab has devoted in mapping out the complex signaling network that regulates circadian rhythms in the retina. Circadian clocks are biological clocks that exist in almost all living organisms on the earth from bacteria to humans with persistent rhythmic periods close to 24 hours (circa: about; dian: a day) even in the absence of external timing cues.  The circadian clocks coordinate rhythmic changes in metabolic processes, physiological states, and behaviors of living organisms, so organisms can be in sync with the 24 hour oscillations of the external environment--the planet earth.  The visual system has to detect images despite large daily changes in ambient illumination between day and night, so intrinsic circadian clocks in the retina provide such a mechanism for the visual system to initiate more sustained adaptive changes throughout the course of the day.  Photoreceptors are the very first retinal neurons that process the light information, and therefore, circadian rhythms of photoreceptors are critical in the overall retinal light sensitivities and adaptation to the ambient light changes.

Updated models


Students and post-docs joining the lab will learn various techniques, including patch-clamp electrophysiological recordings, electroretinogram (ERG), fundus angiography, Western immunoblotting, immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry (confocal imaging), quantitative RT-PCR, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), gene transfections (knock-down or knock-in), and other molecular techniques in addition to the basic research laboratory techniques.


  • VIBS / NRSC 277 - Introduction to Neuroscience (3 credit hours)
  • VIBS / NRSC 450 H - Mammalian Functional Neuroanatomy (4 credit hours)
  • VIBS 485 - Directed Studies: Undergraduate Studies
  • VIBS 491 - Undergraduate Research
  • BIOL / NRSC 601 - Biological Clocks
  • VIBS 684 - Professional Internship
  • VIBS 685 - Directed Studies: Graduate Studies
  • VIBS 691 - Graduate Research
  • VIBS / NRSC 603 - Neuroanatomy (in the past)

« Back to Faculty Members
« Back to Neuroscience Research