Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD

Associate Professor
Ophthalmology
+1 415 502-9670
Research Description: 

Research in the Lakkaraju laboratory builds on fundamental insights from retinal cell biology to develop effective therapies for inherited and age-related macular degenerations (AMD). These diseases destroy central high-resolution vision in over 30 million people globally and have limited therapeutic options. We study the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which performs numerous functions indispensable for vision, and is a key site of injury in macular degenerations. Current areas of research focus include: 1. Autophagy and extracellular vesicles in the RPE; 2.Mitochondrial dynamics, metabolic stress and inflammation in the retina; 3. The role of complement activation in AMD; 4. Biophysical approaches to understanding the genetic basis of AMD; and 5. Novel drug targets for macular degenerations. Using advanced live imaging of the RPE and retina, we recently identified promising FDA-approved drugs that can be repositioned to treat macular degenerations (U.S. Patent P140282US01).

Primary Thematic Area: 
Neurobiology
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Tissue / Organ Biology & Endocrinology
Research Summary: 
Molecular mechanisms and novel therapeutic targets for retinal degenerations
Featured Publications: 

Aberrant early endosome biogenesis mediates complement activation in the retinal pigment epithelium in models of macular degeneration.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Kaur G, Tan LX, Rathnasamy G, La Cunza N, Germer CJ, Toops KA, Fernandes M, Blenkinsop TA, Lakkaraju A

Protective responses to sublytic complement in the retinal pigment epithelium.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Tan LX, Toops KA, Lakkaraju A

Cholesterol-mediated activation of acid sphingomyelinase disrupts autophagy in the retinal pigment epithelium.

Molecular biology of the cell

Toops KA, Tan LX, Jiang Z, Radu RA, Lakkaraju A

The lipofuscin fluorophore A2E perturbs cholesterol metabolism in retinal pigment epithelial cells.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Lakkaraju A, Finnemann SC, Rodriguez-Boulan E