Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences

Retina Research Foundation Rebecca Meyer Brown Professor


677a Medical Sciences Center
1300 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53706 

(608) 263-6176

picture of Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD


BS 1994, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kakatiya University, Warangal, India

PhD 2001, Pharmaceutics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Post-Doctoral Research 2002-2008, Cell Biology & Ophthalmology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY


Research Interests
Work in Dr. Lakkaraju's laboratory focuses on understanding the cellular basis of retinal diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of progressive vision loss among older adults worldwide. Her research group studies the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a monolayer of post-mitotic epithelial cells that forms the outermost layer of the retina and performs many functions that are indispensable for vision. It is now believed that over a lifetime, damage to the RPE coupled with genetic and environmental factors predispose a person towards developing AMD. However, AMD is a multifactorial disease, and elucidating the cascade of events that leads to vision loss has proven elusive.

     Previous work by Dr.Lakkaraju showed that RPE cells accumulate high levels of cholesterol under conditions that recapitulate certain features of AMD. Cholesterol homeostasis within cells is tightly controlled because excess cholesterol interferes with intracellular trafficking of proteins and lipids and inhibits basic housekeeping functions like lysosomal degradation, autophagy, and secretion. Chronic disruption of these functions critically damages cell health.

     Dr. Lakkaraju's current research has two main goals: 1) to elucidate the pathogenesis of retinal degenerations at the cellular level using biochemistry, cell biology, and high-speed live microscopy of healthy, aging, and diseased RPE (from human donors, non-human primates, rodents, and pigs); and 2) to use this information to identify novel drug targets and investigate whether existing drugs like statins can help preserve RPE and retinal health in aging and AMD.


Lakkaraju Lab


PubMed Listing of Publications