Research

  • Winston Whei Yang Kao, PhD
  • Professor
  • Academic Office:
    Stetson Building
    Suite 5300
    Cincinnati, OH 45267
  • Phone: 513-558-5151
  • Email: winston.kao@uc.edu

    Research/Clinical Interests:

  • Roles of Mesenchyme-Epithelium Interactions on Morphogenesis during Eye Development, And Homeostasis And Wound Healing in Adult Corneas The central hypothesis of our ongoing research is that the mesenchyme-epithelium interactions via signal transduction of growth factors and their receptors play pivotal roles in eye morphogenesis during development and in ocular homeostasis and wound healing in adults. Morphogenesis of cornea, conjunctiva and eyelids during vertebrate eye development involves themigration and differentiation of mesenchymal cells of neural crest origin, and the differentiation of cells of the surface ectoderm. The bi-directional mesenchyme-epithelium interactions via growth factors are essential for morphogenesis during development and homeostasis in adults. Growth factors (e.g., TGF-&61538;s and FGF-7) play pivotal roles in modulating functions of mesenchymal cells of neural crest origin and differentiation of ectoderm cells during ocular morphogenesis. Conditional gene ablation in cornea has been achieved by the use of Cre-LoxP system with keratocyte-specific keratocan promoter and modification Krt12 allele via knock-in strategy. Tetracycline inducible mouse lines have been used to overexpress reporter genes in corneas. Development of Gene Therapy Strategy for Treating Ocular Surface Diseases The success of a gene therapy strategy relies on the delivery of reporter gene constructs to target tissues and sustained expression levels of the reporter genes sufficient to revert the pathological processes. Easy access of ocular surface tissues presents itself as an ideal model to examine the efficacy of gene therapy. We recently used Gene Gun, a particle-mediated gene transfer technique, to characterize the promoter of cornea-specific keratin 12 gene. We have also adapted the techniques of expressing reporter genes by injecting plasmid DNA into cornel stroma. The techniques can be potentially used as a mean of gene transfer for ocular surface tissues, e.g., cornea, conjunctiva, eyelid. To examine the efficacy of growth factors, e.g., TGF-&61538;s, FGF-7, HGF, etc. in modulating cornea functions, keratin 12 and keratocan promoters will be used to prepare reporter genes of afore mentioned growth factors. Gene gun will be used to deliver the reporter gene to corneal epithelium and their effects on corneal wound healing will be examined. Isolation and Characterization of Limbal Stem Cells Effective gene therapy to treat ocular surface diseases is not yet available. Limbal transplantation is an option of treating many ocular surface diseases. It is known that stem cells of corneal epithelium reside in the basal cell layer of limbus. Thus, the success of limbal transplantation to treat ocular surface diseases may result fromthe restoration of stem cells in the diseased tissues. However, our skill of culturing limbal stem cells is limited. Thus, there is a need to isolate and characterize the epithelial cells that posses characteristics of limbal stem cells, which can be used as un-limited sources for the use as auto graft or allograft to treat patients of limbal deficiency.

    Peer Reviewed Publications (in chronological order):

    • Mongan, M., Wang, J., Liu, H., Fan, Y., Jin, C., Kao, W. Y., & Xia, Y. (2011). Loss of MAP3K1 enhances proliferation and apoptosis during retinal development. . Development (Cambridge, England) , 138 (18) , 4001-12.

      Research Grants:

    • R01 EY011845 National Eye Institute. Structure/Function Relationship of the Lumican Gene, PI, Active.
    • Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.. RPB International Research Scholar Award, PI, Closed.
    • Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.. RPB Senior Scientific Investigator Award, PI, Closed.
    • R01 EY010556 National Eye Institute. K12 Expression Cornea-Type Epithelial Differentiation, PI, Closed.
    • 5-R03-EY-14207-03-A0-S0-E0 National Eye Institute. Mouse Lines Overexpressing rtTa and Cre in Corneal Epithelium, PI, Closed.
    • 5-R01-EY-09368-13-A0-S0-E0 National Eye Institute. Proteoglycans in Normal and Scarred Corneas, PI, Closed.
    • 5-R01-EY-013755-04-A0-S0-E0 National Eye Institute. Roles of Growth Factors on Corneal Morphogensis, PI, Closed.
    • 5-R01-EY-10556-04-A0-S0-E0 National Eye Institute. Structure and Function of Corneal Keratin K12 Gene, PI, Closed.
    • 5-R01-GM-50959-05-A0-S0-E0 National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Growth Factors and Impaired Wound Healing, PI, Closed.
    • 5-R01-EY-11845-04-A0-S0-E0 National Eye Institute. Structure-Function Relationship of Lumican, PI, Closed.
    • R01 EY013755 National Eye Institute. Roles of Growth Factors on Corneal Morphogenesis, PI, Active.
    • R01 EY015227 National Eye Institute. The Role of MAP 3 Kinase 1 in Ocular Surface Morphogenesis, Collaborator, Active.
    • 2 R01 EY012486-08A1 National Eye Institute. Role of Keratocan in Corneal Biology, Collaborator, Closed.
    • CK 1603 Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. 2009 Eye Research Grant, PI, Active.
    • T32 NS007453 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Predoctoral Training Program in the Neurosciences, Collaborator, Active.
    • RPB2011JA Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.. 2011 Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) International Research Scholar Award, PI, Active.
    • R21 EY021768 National Eye Institute. Cell Therapy of Corneal Diseases with Umbilical Mesenchyme Stem Cells, PI, Active.
    • R01EY011845 National Eye Institute. Structure/Function Relationship of the Lumican Gene, PI, Awarded.
    • Saenger eqmt grant Cincinnati Sight Restoration Foundation. Saenger Grant 2014, PI, Awarded.
    • R01 EY015227-10A1 National Eye Institute. The Role of MAP 3 Kinase 1 in Ocular Surface Morphogenesis, Collaborator, Active.
    • EY022502 SubK Yr 1 TissueTech, Inc.. Engineering of Human Corneal Endothelial Grafts, PI, Awarded.
    • LSU/RPB Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.. Creation and Characterization of Mouse Mutant Carrying N120S in Ubiad1 Gene, PI, Active.
    • Glaucoma Glaucoma Foundation, The. Characterization of a mouse model of glaucoma with exfoliation syndrome, Collaborator, Active.
    • Fellowship Check 1116 Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. Ohio Lions Eye Research Fellowship Application FY 2017, PI, Active.
    • Fellowship Check 1159 Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. Effect of Extracellular Matrix Components on Umbilical Cord derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (UMSCs), PI, Active.
    • Check 1157-Eye Research Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. Gene and Cell Therapy of Ocular Surface Diseases, PI, Active.
    • Check 1158 AMD Research Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. “On-demand” Long-Term Drug Delivery for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment , PI, Active.
    • CEB Grant Cincinnati Eye Bank. Treatment of Dog Dry Eye Diseases with Umbilical Mesenchymal Stromal/Stem Cells, PI, Active.
    • IGNITE Grant The Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation. CRISPR Gene Editing for Lysosomal Storage Diseases: Mucopolysaccharidosis VII (MPS VII), PI, Active.
    • Check 1201 Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. Effect of Extracellular Matrix Components on Umbilical Cord derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells (UMSCs), PI, Active.
    • Check 1197 Eye 2018-19 Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. Gene and Cell Therapy of Ocular Surface Diseases, PI, Awarded.
    • Check 1206 Adm 2018-19 Ohio Lions Eye Research Foundation. “On-demand” Long-Term Drug Delivery for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment , PI, Awarded.
    • CRFF-2018-004 Cystinosis Research Foundation. Cell Therapy and Gene Editing for Cystinosis, PI, Awarded.
    Faculty Researcher

    More Information

    For more information on the UC Department of Ophthalmology, please contact us at:

    Mailing Address:
    University of Cincinnati
    Department of Ophthalmology
    PO Box  670527
    Cincinnati, OH 45267-0527

    Office Address:
    University of Cincinnati
    Department of Ophthalmology
    Stetson Building
    260 Stetson St, Suite 5300
    Cincinnati, OH 45267-0527

    Phone: 513-558-5151 
    Fax: 513-558-3108