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Ophthalmic Vascular Research Program


With support from the Kruse Endowment Fund and the establishment of the Kruse Centennial Chair in Ophthalmology of Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH), Dr. Lih Kuo – Regents Professor of Medical Physiology at the Texas A&M Health Science Center with a specialization in microvascular research – was recruited as the Endowed Chair and the Director of the Ophthalmic Vascular Research Program (OVRP) in 2003 through a national search.

The OVRP is the first in the nation and the world to be designated for ophthalmic vascular research in translational medicine. Dr. Robert Rosa (clinician scientist in ophthalmology) and Dr. Travis Hein (basic scientist in microcirculation) joined the OVRP as core members of the team to facilitate retinal disease research. Dr. Kuo moved his laboratories from College Station to the Temple campus in March 2004.

The OVRP has grown significantly in the past 18 years and has received national/international recognition in ophthalmic vascular research and benefited the institution in translational research and education. In 2019, the BSWH eliminated all fundamental research programs on the Temple campus, and the OVRP was then adopted by the Department of Medical Physiology at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. In 2020, the OVRP moved back to the Texas A&M Medical Campus in Bryan, TX, to continue the mission.


Goals & Accomplishments

Goals: The long-term goal of the OVRP is to establish a nationally and internationally recognized ophthalmic research center or Institute at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center for translational and clinical research to ultimately benefit patient care and improve quality of life. The short-term (5 years) goals are to 1) develop retinal disease animal models resembling human pathophysiology; 2) conduct translational research on diabetic retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, retinal degeneration, and spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome; and 3) develop therapies for vision-threatening eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and macular degeneration.  

Achievements: The scientific quality and merit of the OVRP can be evaluated in five categories: publications, research funding, scientific review, international visiting scholars, and industry consulting. The OVRP investigators have published more than 60 peer-reviewed premier publications, 65 abstracts, and 17 book chapters. The OVRP has been successful in securing grants and funding from multiple foundations, philanthropic donations, as well as the NIH National Eye Institute and NASA. The OVRP has also obtained research funding from the Retina Research Foundation for the past 17 consecutive years with several research awards, signifying the scientific quality and merit of the OVRP. In total, the OVRP lab and clinical trials have been granted over 18 million dollars throughout the past decade. The investigators of the OVRP frequently receive invitations to review manuscripts and grants from various scientific journals and granting agencies, demonstrating the OVRP as a leading research program. The OVRP has hosted research sabbaticals for scientists from the US and foreign countries and provided research consulting to the pharmaceutical industry for drug development. These activities demonstrate the national/international leadership of the OVRP in retinal research.


Impacts on the Community/Patients

The OVRP is committed to promoting and advancing medical knowledge in the vision research community and to improving patient care and human health through the education and training of tomorrow’s health leaders. The OVRP Principal Investigators have trained and mentored more than 5 research associates, 3 postdoctoral researchers, 1 research scientist, 2 PhD students, and 2 MD/PhD students. Since 2003, there have been more than 30 MD and PhD trainees under OVRP supervision.

The OVRP has been instrumental in research education for many ophthalmology residents at BSWH and medical students at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center. Many OVRP former trainees are now directly involved in patient care as clinicians and clinician scientists at other institutions. The key members of the OVRP frequently present and disseminate medical knowledge in vision health and research and promote vision care locally, nationally, and internationally.

Ophthalmic Vascular Research Program Faculty

Lih Kuo, PhD, Regents Professor
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Travis Hein, PhD, Professor
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Robert Rosa, MD, Professor
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Recent Peer Reviewed Manuscripts

  • Hein TW, Ren Y, Potts L, Yuan J, Kuo E, Rosa RH Jr, and Kuo L. Acute retinal ischemia inhibits endothelium-dependent nitric oxide-mediated dilation of retinal arterioles via enhanced superoxide production. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 53:30-36, 2012.
  • Potts LB, Ren Y, Lu G, Kuo E, Ngo E, Kuo L, and Hein TW. Constriction of retinal arterioles to endothelin-1: requisite role or rho kinase independent of protein kinase C and L-type calcium channels. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 53:2904-2912, 2012.
  • Nakabayashi S, Nagaoka T, Tani T, Sogawa K, Hein TW, Kuo L, and Yoshida A. Retinal arteriolar responses to acute severe elevation in systemic blood pressure in cats: Role of endothelium-derived factors. Exp Eye Res 103:63-70, 2012.
  • Hein TW, Potts LB, Xu W, Yuan Z, and Kuo L. Temporal development of retinal arteriolar endothelial dysfunction in porcine type 1 diabetes. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 53: 7943-7949, 2012.
  • Potts LB, Bradley PD, Xu W, Kuo L, and Hein TW. Role of endothelium in vasomotor responses to endothelin system and protein kinase C activation in porcine retinal arterioles. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 54:7587-7594, 2013.
  • Hein TW, Qamirani E, Ren Y, Xu X, and Kuo L. Selective activation of LOX-1 mediates C-reactive protein evoked endothelial vasomotor dysfunction in coronary arterioles. Circ Res 114: 92-100, 2014.
  • Hein TW, Rosa RH Jr, Ren Y, Xu W, and Kuo L. VEGF receptor-2-linked PI3K/Calpain/SIRT1 activation mediates retinal arteriolar dilations to VEGF and shear stress. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 56:5381-5389, 2015.
  • Mehra NK, Cai D, Kuo L, Hein TW, Palakurthi S. Safety and toxicity of nanomaterials for ocular drug delivery applications. Nanotoxicology 10:836-860, 2016.
  • Hein TW, Xu W, Xu X, Kuo L. Acute and chronic hyperglycemia elicit JIP1/JNK mediated endothelial vasodilator dysfunction of retinal arterioles. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 57 :4333-4340, 2016.
  • Otani S, Nagaoka T, Omae T, Tanano I, Kamiya T, Ono S, Hein TW, Kuo L, Yoshida A. Histamine-induced dilation of isolated porcine retinal arterioles: Role of endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 57: 4791-82016, 2016.
  • Tsai S-H, Xie W, Zhao M, Rosa RH Jr, Hein TW, Kuo L. Alterations of ocular hemodynamics impair ophthalmic vascular and neuroretinal function. Am J Pathol 188:818-827, 2018.
  • Zhao M, Xie W, Tsai S-H, Hein TW, Rocke BA, Kuo L, Rosa RH. Intravitreal stanniocalcin-1 enhances new blood vessel growth in a rat model of laser induced choroidal neovascularization. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 59:1125-1133, 2018.
  • Xie W, Zhao M, Tsai S-H, Burkes WL, Potts LB, Xu W, Payne HR, Hein TW, Kuo L, Rosa RH Jr. Correlation of spectral domain optical coherence tomography with histology and electron microscopy in the porcine retina. Exp Eye Res 177:181-190, 2018.


Peer Reviewed Abstracts

  • Hein TW, Potts LB, Ren Y, Kuo L. Retinal arteriolar endothelial dysfunction in early stage of diabetes in porcine model. FASEB J 24:592.4, 2010.
  • Rosa RH Jr, Roddy GW, Krause U, Prockop DJ. Feasibility study on intravitreal and subretinal delivery of adult stem/progenitor cells (MSCs) for retinal repair. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51:E-Abstract 3153, 2010.
  • Potts LB, Hein TW, Lu G, Ren Y, Ngo E, Kuo L. Selective activation of ROCK2 isoform contributes to vasomotor regulation of retinal arterioles. FASEB J, 2011.
  • Potts LB, Kuo E, Lu G, Ren Y, Ngo E, Kuo L, Hein TW. ROCK-II isoform and PKC mediate porcine retinal arteriolar constriction to endothelin-1. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2011.
  • Roddy GW, Rosa RH Jr, LaVail MM, Matthes MT, Yasumura D, Oh JY, Prockop DJ. Intravitreal administration of adult stem/progenitor cells and their secreted proteins delays retinal degeneration in two rat models. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 52:E-Abstract 2218, 2011.
  • Oh JY, Roddy G, Choi H, Lee RH, Rosa RH Jr, Prockop DJ. Defining a therapeutic window for sterile injuries of cornea: the anti-inflammatory protein (TSG-6) inhibits the severe second phase of inflammation. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 52:E-Abstract 1122, 2011.
  • Potts LB, Kuo L, Xu W, Hein TW. Signaling pathway for porcine retinal arteriolar constriction to PKC activation: Roles of L-type voltage-operated calcium channels, myosin light chain kinase and myosin light chain phosphatase. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 53:E-Abstract 6845, 2012.
  • Potts L, Ren Y, Kuo L, Hein T. Endothelium independence of ROCK-mediated retinal arteriolar constriction. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 54:E-Abstract 3703, 2013.


Awards & Honors

April 2015

Dr. Shu-Hua Tsai, Postdoctoral Research Associate, won the first place prize in the postdoctoral poster competition at the Graduate Student Organization Research Symposium held on the Bryan campus. The title of his poster was Arterial hypertension induces retinal degeneration in mice with pressure-overload cardiac hypertrophy . Tsai is mentored by Dr Lih Kuo, Kruse Professor and Director of the Ophthalmic Vascular Research Program.