yutao liu

Yutao Liu, MD, PhD

Director, CBA Graduate Program
Cellular Biology and Anatomy
Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine
James & Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute

Office: Carl T. Sanders Research and Education Building, CB1123
Phone: 706-721-2015
Lab: 706-721-4843
envelope-o icon yutliu@augusta.edu

Laboratory Members

Research Associate/Lab Manager: Hongfang Yu
Research Associate: Jingwen Cai, Ph.D., M.S.
Graduate Student: Theresa Akoto
Graduate Student: Karah Greene
Graduate Student: Hannah Youngblood

Former Members

Graduate Student: Mariam Khaled, M.S. (Graduated 5/10/2019)
STAR Student (2018): Rebecca Anderson, Emory University
STAR Student (2017): Sarah Yablonski, St. Lawrence University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Inas Helwa: Lecturer, Department of Biology, Augusta University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Mutsa Seremwe; Research Associate, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University
Research Associate, Arthur Zimmerman, M.S., Graduate Student, Univ. of Florida
Medical Scholar (2015), Mohammed Waqar; Medical Student, Augusta University
Visiting Scholar: Yu Yan, Ph.D.


1990-1995 MD Beijing Medical University, Beijing, China
1999-2001 MS Truman State University, Kirksville, MO, USA
2001-2006 PhD University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
2006-2010 Postdoctoral Associate, Duke University Medical Center, Durham NC, USA

Honors and Awards

  • Travel Scholarship for the 18th International Mouse Genome Conference, Seattle, WA; 2004
  • Experimental Eye Research Top Cited Article 2008-2010 for the paper entitled “The genetics of primary open-angle glaucoma: a review” by Allingham RR, Liu Y, and Rhee DJ.; 2010
  • The Thomas R. Lee Award for National Glaucoma Research, American Health Assistance Foundation, Clarksburg, MA; 2010-2013
  • Full scholarship to attend the 21st Annual Summer Training Course in Experimental Aging Research, the Barshop Institute in San Antonio, San Antonio, TX (supported by NIA funding); 2013 June
  • Annual Educator Award, Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine; 2013

News/media coverage of our research at Augusta University

  1. Our research on exosome research with Particle Matrix’s ZetaView
  2. Three glaucoma-related genes discovered from Science Daily
  3. Liu’s interview with MD Magazine at the 2016 annual ARVO meeting at Seattle, WA
  4. Our research discovery of miR-182 association with POAG and funding from BrightFocus by multiple media
         JAGWIRE, Science Daily, MedicalXpress, BioQuick News
  5. Our Aqueous humor miRNA screening published in Human Molecular Genetics 2018 by multiple media
         Science Daily, Deccan Chronicle, The HealthSite, EurekAlert, News Medical
  6. Our research in the role of a long noncoding RNA in the LOXL1 locus in exfoliation glaucoma by multiple media
         Science Daily, Technology Networks

Research Goals

The long term goal of our laboratory is to dissect age-related genetic diseases (glaucoma and keratoconus) using systematic approaches, including human genetics/epigenetics, functional genomics, and molecular/cellular biology. Our lab has extensive research experience in the area of human genetics, bioinformatics, and functional genomics using several model systems, including human samples, in vitro cell/tissue culture and mouse models. Our research has been published in over 100 peer-reviewed articles, including Nature Genetics, PLoS Genetics, AJHG, PNAS, HMG, IOVS, and Molecular Vision. Our research has been supported by a variety of different organizations, including the National Eye Institute at the National Institute of Health, several private foundations (The Glaucoma Foundation - TGF, the Glaucoma Research Foundation – GRF, the American Health Assistance Foundation – AHAF or BrightFocus, and RPB), and institutional supports.

Our current research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms and pathogenesis of two vision-related disorders: keratoconus (KC) and glaucoma. KC, a progressive thinning of the cornea, is the most common corneal ectasia, affecting one in every 500 to 2000 Americans. KC causes moderate to severe astigmatism, nearsightedness, swelling and cornea scarring. It is necessary for 10-20% KC patients to have cornea transplants. Using whole exome and whole genome sequencing, we have identified novel mutations in multiplex KC families. We are characterizing these mutations using primary human corneal cells and transgenic mouse models. We have research collaborations with investigators from California, Iowa, Illinois, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Duke University in North Carolina. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting over 60 million people. It is characterized as a progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells and visual field. Dr. Liu is a Co-Investigator of the NEIGHBORHOOD glaucoma genetics consortium. Our lab has been involved in the identification of several glaucoma-associated genes, including but not limited to LOXL1, CDKN2B-AS1, SIX6, GALC, and chr8q22 locus. We are currently using primary human trabecular meshwork cells and other cells under cyclic mechanical stretch to determine their cellular functions in glaucoma. We are also interested in characterizing how the exosomes and its content – miRNA/proteins are involved in the pathogenesis of glaucoma and keratoconus. We have extensive experience in working with exosomes with > 20 peer-reviewed publications since 2013. Our team is highly motivated, cordial, collaborative, and trainee-friendly.


We are using a number of advanced cutting-edge technologies, including whole exome/genome sequencing, Total RNA-Seq, small RNA-Seq, genome-wide DNA genotyping/gene expression, realtime PCR, droplet digital PCR, and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) with ZetaView for exosomes and other nanoparticles. Bioinformatics is an important part of our research. We use a number of different bioinformatics tools in our daily research. We also use available mouse models to study both glaucoma and keratoconus by characterizing their ocular phenotypes.

liu lab equipment

selected recent publications (of > 100)

For a detailed list of recent publications, please refer to NCBI My Bibliography

  1. Shah N, Ishii M, Brandon C, Ablonczy Z, Cai J, Liu Y, Chou CJ, Rohrer B. Extracellular vesicle-mediated long-range communication in stressed retinal pigment epithelial cell monolayers. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2018 Aug; 1864(8):2610-2622. (Contributed exosome NTA and TEM data)
  2. Khaled ML, Bykhovskaya Y, Yablonski SER, Li H, Drewry MD, Aboobakar IF, Estes A, Gao XR, Stamer WD, Xu H, Allingham RR, Hauser MA, Rabinowitz YS, Liu Y*. Differential Expression of Coding and Long Noncoding RNAs in Keratoconus-Affected Corneas. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2018 Jun 1; 59(7): 2717-2728. (*corresponding author)
  3. Drewry MD, Challa P, Kuchtey JG, Navarro I, Helwa I, Hu Y, Mu H, Stamer WD, Kuchtey RW, Liu Y*. Differentially expressed microRNAs in the aqueous humor of patients with exfoliation glaucoma or primary open-angle glaucoma. Hum Mol Genet. 2018 Apr 1; 27(7):1263-1275. (*corresponding author)
  4. Bykhovskaya Y, Fardaei M, Khaled ML, Nejabat M, Salouti R, Dastsooz H, Liu Y, Inaloo S, Rabinowitz YS. TSC1 Mutations in Keratoconus Patients With or Without Tuberous Sclerosis. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2017 Dec 1;58(14):6462-6469.
  5. Aung T, Ozaki M, Lee MC, Schlötzer-Schrehardt U, …, Liu Y, Challa P, Herndon L, Kuchtey RW, Kuchtey J, Curtin K, Chaya CJ, Crandall A, Zangwill LM, Wong TY, Nakano M, Kinoshita S, den Hollander AI, Vesti E, Fingert JH, Lee RK, Sit AJ, Shingleton BJ, Wang N, Cusi D, Qamar R, Kraft P, Pericak-Vance MA, Raychaudhuri S, Heegaard S, Kivelä T, Reis A, Kruse FE, Weinreb RN, Pasquale LR, Haines JL, Thorsteinsdottir U, Jonasson F, Allingham RR, Milea D, Ritch R, Kubota T, Tashiro K, Vithana EN, Micheal S, Topouzis F, Craig JE, Dubina M, Sundaresan P, Stefansson K, Wiggs JL, Pasutto F, Khor CC. Genetic association study of exfoliation syndrome identifies a protective rare variant at LOXL1 and five new susceptibility loci. Nat Genet. 2017, 49(7):993-1004. (contributed to sample and data collection as well as manuscript preparation)
  6. Kolhe R, Hunter M, Liu S, Jadeja RN, Pundkar C, Mondal AK, Mendhe B, Drewry M, Rojiani MV, Liu Y, Isales CM, Guldberg RE, Hamrick MW, Fulzele S. Gender-specific differential expression of exosomal miRNA in synovial fluid of patients with osteoarthritis. Sci Rep. 2017, 7(1): 2029.
  7. Liu Y and Allingham RR. Major review: Molecular Genetics of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Exp Eye Res. 2017 Jul; 160:62-84.
  8. Helwa I, Cai J, Drewry MD, Zimmerman A, Dinkins MB, Khaled ML, Seremwe M, Dismuke WM, Bieberich E, Stamer WD, Hamrick MW, Liu Y*. A comparative study of serum exosome isolation using different ultracentrifugation and three commercial reagents. PLoS ONE 2017, 12(1):e0170628. (*corresponding author)
  9. Khaled ML, Inas H, Drewry M, Seremwe M, Estes A, Liu Y*. Molecular and Histopathological Changes associated with Keratoconus. BioMed Res Intl. 2017.7803029. (* corresponding author)
  10. Cooke Bailey JN, Loomis SJ, Kang JH, Allingham RR, Gharahkhani P, Khor CC, Burdon K, Aschard H, Ashley-Koch A, Brilliant M, Budenz DL, Chasman D, Choi H, Christen WG, Curhan G, De vivo I, Fingert J, Fuchs C, Gaasterland D, Gaasterland T, Hu F, Hunter D, Igo RP, Khajara A, Kraft P, Lee RK, Lichter PR, Moroi SE, Qi Q, Richards JE, Realini T, Rimm E, Schuman JS, Scott WK, Singh K, Sit AJ, Song YE, Ramimi R, Vollrath D, Wollstein G, Yaspan BL, Zack DJ, Zhang K, Robert N. Weinreb RN, Pericak-Vance MA, Liu Y, Aung T, MacGregor S, Howell G, Hauser MA, Pasquale LR, Haines JL, Wiggs JL. Meta-analysis of 40,495 individuals identifies TXNRD2, ATXN2 and FOXC1 as novel susceptibility loci for primary open angle glaucoma. Nat Genet. 2016 Feb; 48(2): 189-94 (contributed to the genetic association and human ocular gene expression data)
  11. Dinkins M, Enasko J, Hernandez C, Wang G, Kong JN, Helwa I, Liu Y, Terry A, Bieberich E. Neutral sphingomyelinase-2 deficiency ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and improves cognition in the 5XFAD mouse. J. Neuroscience. 2016, 36(33):8653-67. (contributed to the exosome characterization and measurement using ZetaView, Collaboration with Dr. Bieberich at MCG)
  12. Drewry M, Helwa I, Allingham RR, Hauser MA, Liu Y*. miRNA profile in three different normal human ocular tissues by miRNA-Seq. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016, 57(8): 3731-9. (* corresponding author).
  13. Liu Y*, Bailey JC, Helwa I, Dismuke WM, Cai J, Drewry M, Brilliant MH, Budenz DL, Christen WG, Chasman DI, Fingert JH, Gaasterland D, Gaasterland T, Gordon MO, Igo RP Jr, Kang JH, Kass MA, Kraft P, Lee RK, Lichter P, Moroi SE, Realini A, Richards JE, Ritch R, Schuman JS, Scott WK, Singh K, Sit AJ, Song YE, Vollrath D, Weinreb R, Medeiros F, Wollstein G, Zack DJ, Zhang K, Pericak-Vance MA, Gonzalez P, Stamer WD, Kuchtey J, Kuchtey RW, Allingham RR, Hauser MA, Pasquale LR, Haines JL, Wiggs JL. A common Variant in MIR182 is associated with primary open-angle glaucoma in the NEIGHBORHOOD consortium. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016, 57(10): 3974-81. (* corresponding author).
  14. Dismuke WM, Challa P, Navarro I, Stamer WD, Liu Y*. Human Aqueous Humor Exosomes. Exp Eye Res. 2015, 132:73-77. (* corresponding author)
  15. Aung T, Ozaki M, …, Liu Y, Ashley Koch AE, Challa P, Rautenbach RM, Ziskind A, Carmichael T, Ramakrishnan R, Narendran K, Venkatesh R, Vijayan S, Guadarrama-Vallejo D, Perera SA, Husain R; Ho SL, Welge-Luessen UC, Mardin C, Schloetzer-Schrehardt U, Axel M. Hillmer AM, Herms S, Markus M. Nothen MM, Teo YY, Brown MA, Lischinsky I, Zhao B, Sang J, Zhang N, You Q, Vysochinskaya V, Founti P, Chatzikyriakidou A, Lambropoulos A, Coleman AL, Wilson MR, Mori K, Rhee DJ, Kang JH, Bolchakova IM, FingertJ, Jonas JB, Xu L, Lerner F, Wang N, Yang Z, Frezzotti P, Kinoshita S, Edward D, Inatani M, Tashiro K, Reis A, Pasquale L, Janey L. Wiggs JL, Kubota T, Pasutto F, Topouzis F, Dubina M, Craig JE, Yoshimura N, Sundaresan P, John SWN, Ritch R, Hauser MA, Khor CC. A common variant mapping to CACNA1A is associated with susceptibility to Exfoliation syndrome. Nat Genet. 2015; 47 (4): 387-92.
  16. Gordon-Shaag A, Millodot M, Shneor E, Liu Y*. The Genetic and Environmental Factors for Keratoconus. BioMed Res Intl. 2015: 795738 (* corresponding author).
  17. Wang Y, Zhang L, Li Y, Chen L, Wang X, Guo W, Zhang X, Qin G, He S, Zimmerman A, Liu Y, Kim I, Weintraub NL, Tang Y. Exosomes/microvesicles from induced pluripotent stem cells deliver cardioprotective miRNAs and prevent cardiomyocyte apoptosis in the ischemic myocardium. Int J Cardiol. 2015; 192: 61-9. (contributed to exosome size/concentration/zeta potential measurement and data interpretation).
  18. Hauser MA*, Aboobakar IF*, Liu Y*, Miura S, Whigham BT, Challa P, Wheeler J, Williams A, Santiago-Turla C, Qin X, Rautenbach RM, Ziskind A, Ramsay M, Uebe S, Song L, Safi A, Vithana EN, Mizoguchi T, Nakano S, Kubota T, Hayashi K, Manabe SI, Kazama S, Mori Y, Miyata K, Yoshimura N, Reis A, Crawford GE, Pasutto F, Carmichael TR, Williams SE, Ozaki M, Aung T, Khor CC, Stamer WD, Ashley-Koch AE, Allingham RR Genetic Variants and Cellular Stressors Associated with Exfoliation Syndrome Modulate antisense Promoter Activity within the LOXL1 Locus. Hum Mol Genet. 2015; 24(22): 6552-63. (* Co-first author with equal contribution).
  19. Liu Y*, Garrett ME, Yaspan BL, Cooke Bailey JN, Loomis SJ, Brilliant M, Budenz DL, Christen WG, Fingert JH, Gaasterland D, Gaasterland T, Kang JH, Lee RK, Lichter PR, Moroi SE, Realini T, Richards JE, Schuman JS, Scott WK, Singh K, Sit AJ, Vollrath D, Weinreb RN, Wollstein G, Zack DJ, Zhang K, Pericak-Vance M, Haines JL, Pasquale LR, Wiggs JL, Allingham RR, Ashley-Koch AE, Hauser MA. DNA Copy Number Variants of Known Glaucoma Genes in Relation to Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014. 55(12): 8251-8 (*Corresponding author).