Genetics, Epigenetics, and Stem Cell Based Therapies for Blinding Eye Diseases

Friday, May 1, 2015 - 2:00pm
Fung Auditorium, Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Kang Zhang

Professor of Ophthalmology, Chief of Ophthalmic Genetics
University of California, San Diego

Genetics, Epigenetics, and Stem Cell Based Therapies for Blinding Eye Diseases


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of visual impairment of the elderly in the developed countries. AMD is a multi-factorial disease that involves interaction of genetic and environmental influences. Allelic variants of genes encoding members of the alternative complement pathway including CFH, CFI and C3 strongly influence an individual's risk of developing AMD. We and others demonstrated that HTRA1 locus at chromosome 10q26 also strongly impact AMD risk. We showed that variations in CFH, HTRA1, and C3 contribute to a majority of the genetic risk for AMD and are strongly predictive of advanced AMD. Smoking is the strongest identifiable environmental factor that interacts with CFH genotypes to impact AMD risk. Epigenetics contributes to aging and age related diseases. Stem cell and 3D bioprinting show great promise in modeling disease and restoring vision in blind patients. The recent advance in genomics and stem cell therapy will allow identification of high risk patients for customized intervention and treatment in the near future.


Kang Zhang, MD, PhD is Professor of Ophthalmology, Chief of Ophthalmic Genetics at University of California San Diego. Zhang obtained his M.D. with Magna Cum Laude honors from Harvard Medical School and MIT joint MD program and his PhD in genetics from Harvard University. He completed his residency in ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University and his retina fellowship at University of Utah. He was a faculty at Johns Hopkins University, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and University of Utah. Dr. Zhang's clinical and research focuses are on novel disease gene targets and treatment, gene and stem cell based therapies in age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and inherited retinal degeneration. Dr. Zhang is bi-lingual in Chinese and he has numerous grants from the National Institute of Health, and other foundations. Dr. Zhang has published or co-authored more than 100 peer reviewed manuscripts in top journals - covering a wide range of topics in genetics, molecular biology, stem cell, and clinical trials in ophthalmology.