Dr. Brenda Bohnsack

Brenda L. Bohnsack, MD, PhD

Helmut F. Stern Career Development Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Associate Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Academic Office: 734-763-8097

Areas of Interest

Research Summary

Congenital malformations of the cornea, iris, and aqueous humor outflow tracts of the eye comprise a group of abnormalities that are often referred to as anterior segment dysgeneses. These diseases such as primary congenital glaucoma, aniridia, Peter’s Anomaly, and Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome are important causes of childhood blindness. Affected children often undergo multiple surgeries to maximize vision, however, many are blind with little hope for visual improvement. 

My laboratory aims to understand the genetic regulation of the development of the cornea, iris, and aqueous humor outflow tracts. For an animal model, we utilize zebrafish as this is an excellent model for studying eye development. Since zebrafish develop outside the mother’s body, we are able to analyze the effect of toxic exposures and genetic disruption of genes on eye formation. Further, the structures of the zebrafish eye are similar to their mammalian counterparts and many genes are evolutionarily conserved between zebrafish and mammals. We also use human embryonic stem cells that carry genetic mutations that are associated with congenital eye anomalies. With these stem cell lines we are further able to observe and analyze the effect of different genes on human-derived ocular cells. 

We are specifically interested in identifying and studying genes that regulate the ocular neural crest, a transient population of embryonic stem cells that contribute to these important anterior segment structures. By gaining insight into the genetic regulation of normal eye development, we aim to understand the pathogenesis of congenital eye diseases. This information may lead to breakthroughs in genetic testing and new therapeutic approaches to preventing blindness in affected children.


Research image from the Bohnsack Lab
Click on the image to enlarge


Time-lapse imaging of a transgenic zebrafish embryo which expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the neural crest [Tg(sox10::EGFP)]. We can visualize the neural crest as it migrates into the head and splits into two waves that go around the developing eye to form the facial region. The movie spans 18 hours of development, from 12 hours post fertilization to 30 hours post fertilization.

Clinical Interests

Medical and surgical management of congenital eye diseases such as cataracts, anterior segment dysgenesis, primary congenital glaucoma, aniridia, Peters anomaly, Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome, and microphthalmia. 

Medical and surgical management of glaucomas affecting infants and children such as congenital glaucoma, juvenile glaucoma, uveitic glaucoma, and traumatic glaucoma.

Subspecialties: Pediatric Ophthalmology; Glaucoma

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  • Graduate School – Baylor College of Medicine 2004
  • Medical School – Baylor College of Medicine 2006
  • Residency – Ophthalmology, Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan
  • Fellowships
    • Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan
    • Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus, Duke University
  • Board Certification - American Board of Ophthalmology

Published Articles or Reviews

Web Sites