yutao liu

Yutao Liu, MD, PhD, FARVO

Director, CBA Graduate Program
Cellular Biology and Anatomy
Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine

Basic Science Co-Director
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, B.S.
Postdoctoral Fellow: Jingwen Cai, M.S., PhD
Research Associate: Jason Sun, B.S.
Graduate Student: Rachel Hadvina, B.S.
Graduate Student: Ola Elsayed, B.S.
Graduate Student: Mofazzal Hossain, B.S.
Medical Student: Keerti Soundappan, B.S.
Medical Student: Joshua Washington, B.S.
Medical Student: Yejin (Jinny) Heo, B.S.
Medical Student: Carol Beaty, B.S.
Medical Student: Haley Chishom, B.S.
Medical Student: Tarab Ajjan, B.S.

Former Members

Graduate Student: Theresa Akoto, Ph.D. with Distinction (2023)
Graduate Student: Hannah Youngblood, Ph.D. with Distinction (2022)
Graduate Student: Jingwen Cai, M.S., Ph.D. (2019)
Graduate Student: Mariam Khaled, M.S., Ph.D. (2019)
Visiting Scholar: Yemin Zhang, Ph.D.
Visiting Scholar: Yu Yan, Ph.D.
STAR Student: Fikir Tefera, Lindsey Wilson College (2023)
STAR Student: Hayden McCord, University of Georgia (2022)
STAR Student: Jason Sun, University of Georgia (2021)
STAR Student: Anush Aryal, Mississippi University for Women (2019)
STAR Student: Rebecca Anderson, Emory University (2018)
STAR Student: Sarah Yablonski, St. Lawrence University (2017)
Postdoctoral Fellow: Inas Helwa, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow: Mutsa Seremwe, Ph.D.
Research Associate: Michelle Drewry, B.S. (2015-2018)
Research Associate, Arthur Zimmerman, M.S. (2014-2015)
Medical Scholar (2015), Mohammed Waqar


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

Selected Honors and Awards

  • 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
  • Annual Educator Award, Division of Medical Genetics, Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine; 2013
  • Elected Member of GEN (genetics) Cross-sectional Group, Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC), ARVO; 2017-2019
  • Elected Chair of GEN (genetics) Cross-sectional Group, Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC), ARVO; 2020
  • Basic Science Research Distinguished Faculty Award, Medical College of Georgia Faculty Senate, Augusta University; 2021
  • Elected ARVO Fellow (Silver) in recognition of individual accomplishments, leadership and contributions; 2022-now
  • Distinguished Service Award, The Graduate School, Augusta University; 2023
  • Member of the Scientific Advisory Board, The Glaucoma Foundation; 2017-now
  • Elected ARVO Fellow (Gold) in recognition of individual accomplishments, leadership, and contributions to ARVO; 2024-now

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. Dr. Liu’s participation of 2015 and 2016 Think Tank for The Glaucoma Foundation in New York City
  6. Our Aqueous humor miRNA screening published in Human Molecular Genetics 2018 by multiple media
         Science Daily, Deccan Chronicle, The HealthSite, EurekAlert, News Medical
  7. 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, EER, 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 > 30 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. Hadvina R, Estes A, Liu Y*. Animal Models for the Study of Keratoconus. Cells. 2023 Nov 22;12(23):2681. doi: 10.3390/cells12232681. PMID: 38067109.
  2. Youngblood H, Schoenlein PV, Pasquale LR, Stamer WD, Liu Y*. Estrogen dysregulation, intraocular pressure, and glaucoma risk. Exp Eye Res. 2023. 109725. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exer.2023.109725.
  3. Hernandez BJ, Skiba NP, Plössl K, Strain M, Liu Y, Grigsby D, Kelly U, Cady MA, Manocha V, Maminishkis A, Watkins TJ, Miller SS, Ashley-Koch A, Stamer WD, Weber BHF, Bowes Rickman C, & Klingeborn M. Polarized desmosome and hemidesmosome shedding via small extracellular vesicles is an early indicator of outer blood-retina barrier dysfunction. Journal of Extracellular Biology. 2023, 2, e116. https://doi.org/10.1002/jex2.116
  4. Hadvina R, Lotfy Khaled M, Akoto T, Zhi W, Karamichos D*, Liu Y*. Exosomes and their miRNA/protein profile in keratoconus-derived corneal stromal cells. Exp Eye Res. 2023 Sep 13:109642. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2023.109642. PMID: 37714423.
  5. Washington J, Ritch R, Liu Y*. Homocysteine and Glaucoma. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jun 28;24(13):10790. doi: 10.3390/ijms241310790. PMID: 37445966. PMCID: PMC10341544.
  6. Akoto T, Cai J, Nicholas S, McCord H, Estes AJ, Xu H, Karamichos D, Liu Y*. Unravelling the Impact of Cyclic Mechanical Stretch in Keratoconus-A Transcriptomic Profiling Study. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Apr 18;24(8):7437. doi: 10.3390/ijms24087437. PubMed PMID: 37108600. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC10139219.
  7. Greene KM, Stamer WD, Liu Y*. The role of microRNAs in glaucoma. Exp Eye Res. 2022 Feb; 215:108909. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2021.108909. Epub 2021 Dec 27. Review. PubMed PMID: 34968473; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8923961.
  8. Youngblood HA, Parker E, Cai J, Perkumas K, Yu H, Sun J, Smith SB, Bollinger KE, Wiggs JL, Pasquale LR, Hauser MA, Stamer WD, Liu Y*. Identification of Estrogen Signaling in a Prioritization Study of Intraocular Pressure-Associated Genes. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Sep 24;22(19). doi: 10.3390/ijms221910288. PubMed PMID: 34638643; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC8508848.
  9. Youngblood H†, Cai J†, Drewry MD†, Helwa I, Hu E, Liu S, Yu H, Mu H, Hu Y, Perkumas K, Aboobakar IF, Johnson WM, Stamer WD, Liu Y*. Expression of mRNA, miRNA, and lncRNA in human trabecular meshwork cells upon mechanical stretch. Invest Ophthalol Vis Sci. 61 (5): 2. doi: 10.1167/iovs.61.5.2. 2020. († Co-First Authors with equal contribution)
  10. Cai J, Perkumas KM, Stamer WD, Liu Y*. An in vitro bovine cellular model for human Schlemm's canal endothelial cells and their response to TGFβ treatment. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 9 (7): 32. 2020.
  11. Cai J, Estes A, Liu Y*. Omics analyses in keratoconus: from transcriptomics to proteomics. Curr Ophthalmol Rep. 8: 216-225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40135-020-00253-x. 2020.
  12. Youngblood H, Hauser MA, Liu Y*. Update on the Genetics of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Exp Eye Res. 188:107795. 2019.
  13. Khaled ML#, Bykhovskaya Y#, Gu C, Liu A, Drewry MD, Chen Z, Mysona BA, Parker E, McNabb RP, Yu H, Lu X, Wang J, Li X, Al-Muammar A, Rotter JI, Porter LF, Estes A, Watsky MA, Smith SB, Xu H, Abu-Amero KK, Kuo A, Shears SB, Rabinowitz YS*, Liu Y*. PPIP5K2 and PCSK1 are Candidate Genetic Contributors to Familial Keratoconus. Sci Rep. 9(1): 19406. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-55866-5. 2019. (# Co-first authors)
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Khaled ML, Inas H, Drewry M, Seremwe M, Estes A, Liu Y*. Molecular and Histopathological Changes associated with Keratoconus. BioMed Res Intl. 2017.7803029.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.