Rajesh C. Rao, M.D.

Michigan Neuroscience Institute Affiliate
Leonard G. Miller Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Associate Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Associate Professor, Pathology
Associate Professor, Human Genetics

Areas of Interest

Stem cells for regeneration of retina and central nervous system; epigenetics and chromatin modifying enzymes; age-related macular degeneration; diabetic retinopathy; retinal dystrophies; retinal detachment repair; tumors of the eye. The goal of my research is to use stem cell and epigenetic-based strategies to promote retinal regeneration, and reduce scar and tumor formation.

The long-term goal of our work is to use stem cell biology and epigenetics as languages to decipher the pathogenesis of retinal disease. To understand the role of epigenetic mechanisms in retinal development and disease, we employ conditional knockout mice, and wild-type and mutant embryonic stem cell-derived retinal tissues with alterations in specific chromatin modifying enzymes.

The explosion of small-molecule epigenetic modifiers in drug development for cancer and inflammatory disorders allows us a new toolbox to assess whether some of these agents target critical pathways required for retinal cell survival in a variety of retinal degenerative, fibrotic, and neoplastic disorders.

We collaborate with researchers and clinicians in a variety of departments and programs, including the Department of Pathology, Taubman Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies, and University of Michigan-wide faculty involved in epigenetics and drug discovery. Through these collaborative efforts, we hope to develop novel pharmacologic gene and cell-based clinical therapies to promote regeneration and reduce scar and tumor formation in patients with blinding retinal diseases.

Clinical Interests

Diseases and surgery of the retina and vitreous, including retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, retinal vascular disease, ocular trauma, ocular inflammation, macular and submacular surgery, and surgical management of complex retinal detachment

Subspecialty: Retina


  • Medical School - Yale University, 2007
  • Residency - Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard University, 2011
  • Research Fellowship - Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard University, 2011
  • Fellowship - Vitreoretinal Surgery, Joint Fellowship of Washington University and The Retina Institute, St. Louis, MO (formerly Barnes Retina Institute), 2013
  • Board Certification - American Board of Ophthalmology

Published Articles or Reviews

Web Sites