Retinal Cell Biology Laboratory


Dr. Janet Blanks

Research in the Blanks' lab at Florida Atlantic University is currently focused on developing and testing unique hypoxia-regulated, cell specific recombinant Adeno-Associated Virus (rAAV) vectors for gene therapy of different target cell types within the eye and brain. 


This research collaboration with Howard Prentice Ph.D. (Associate Professor, School of Medicine at FAU) and Kathleen Dorey Ph.D. (Professor, Virginia Tech/Carilion Hospital School of Medicine, Roanoak, VA) brings together experts in the fields of ocular cell biology and vascular biology. The project focus is to create a series of third generation gene therapy vectors for preclinical trials and ultimate therapeutic application in retinal diseases involving neovascularization (NV). 



Left: IOVS 2011 Nov 1; 52 (12): 8562-70                                                                 

Right: IOVS 2008 Jul; 49 (7): 3207-15

Current Research Projects

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Hypoxia-regulated cell-specific gene therapy to treat retinal angiogenesis

    -Retinal epithelial cell (RPE) specific gene therap

    - Retinal glial cell-specific gene therapy

Project 2: 

Protection of retinal pigment epithelial cells from oxidative stress  

Project 3:

Enhanced apoptosis of retinoblastoma cells under oxidative stress       

Project 4:

Gene therapy to protect cortical hippocampal neurons and astrocytes under oxidative stress

FAU Digital Library:     

The NSAID, Sulindac confers protection against oxidative stress induced damage in retinal pigmented epithelial cells


Prentice and ManasJanet, President and Manas

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Janet Blanks, PhD


Professor and Director

Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences

Office: 561-297-4310


Manas R. Biswal 


Gradute student

Integrative Biology PhD program 

Project: Hypoxia-regulated, glial cell-specific gene  therapy


Arunodoy Sur


Gradute student

Integrative Biology PhD program 

Project: Protection of retinal pigment epithelial cells from oxidative stress


Ulrike Leipscher


Visiting Scholar, Germany

Integrative Biology PhD program 

Project: Protection of hippocampal neurons against amyloid beta peptide induced oxidative stress



Former Students

Tyler Smith                        : Post-doc at John A. Moran eye Center, Utah

Liz Greene                         : Medical Student, College of Medicine, University of Florida

Olena Makhnyeva              : PhD Student, Florida Atlantic University

Tyler House                       : Medical Student, Nova Southern University

Corey Robinson                 : College of medicine, University of Florida 

Former Post-Doc

Christopher Daugherty       : Manager- Clinical Science at Biotest Pharamaceuticals Corporation


1: Prentice HM, Biswal MR, Dorey CK, Blanks JC. Hypoxia-regulated retinal glial

cell-specific promoter for potential gene therapy in disease. Invest Ophthalmol

Vis Sci. 2011 Nov 1;52(12):8562-70. doi: 10.1167/iovs.10-6835. PubMed PMID:

21960554; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3208385.

2: Nachman-Clewner M, Giblin FJ, Dorey CK, Blanks RH, Dang L, Dougherty CJ,

Blanks JC. Selective degeneration of central photoreceptors after hyperbaric

oxygen in normal and metallothionein-knockout mice. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci.

2008 Jul;49(7):3207-15. doi: 10.1167/iovs.07-1039. PubMed PMID: 18579766; PubMed 

Central PMCID: PMC2709831.

3: Dougherty CJ, Smith GW, Dorey CK, Prentice HM, Webster KA, Blanks JC. Robust

hypoxia-selective regulation of a retinal pigment epithelium-specific

adeno-associated virus vector. Mol Vis. 2008 Mar 7;14:471-80. PubMed PMID:

18334957; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2268848.

4: Schmidt-Kastner R, Yamamoto H, Hamasaki D, Yamamoto H, Parel JM, Schmitz C,

Dorey CK, Blanks JC, Preising MN. Hypoxia-regulated components of the U4/U6.U5

tri-small nuclear riboprotein complex: possible role in autosomal dominant

retinitis pigmentosa. Mol Vis. 2008 Jan 25;14:125-35. PubMed PMID: 18334927;

PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2263009.

5: Pang J, Cheng M, Haire SE, Barker E, Planelles V, Blanks JC. Efficiency of

lentiviral transduction during development in normal and rd mice. Mol Vis. 2006

Jul 11;12:756-67. PubMed PMID: 16862069.

6: Pang J, Cheng M, Stevenson D, Trousdale MD, Dorey CK, Blanks JC.

Adenoviral-mediated gene transfer to retinal explants during development and

degeneration. Exp Eye Res. 2004 Aug;79(2):189-201. PubMed PMID: 15325566.

7: Rich KA, Zhan Y, Blanks JC. Migration and synaptogenesis of cone

photoreceptors in the developing mouse retina. J Comp Neurol. 1997 Nov

10;388(1):47-63. PubMed PMID: 9364238.

8: Blanks JC, Spee C, Barrón E, Rich KA, Schmidt S. Lineage study of degenerating

photoreceptor cells in the rd mouse retina. Curr Eye Res. 1997 Jul;16(7):733-7.

PubMed PMID: 9222093.

9: Rich KA, Zhan Y, Blanks JC. Aberrant expression of c-Fos accompanies

photoreceptor cell death in the rd mouse. J Neurobiol. 1997 Jun 5;32(6):593-612. 

PubMed PMID: 9183740.

10: Organisciak DT, Darrow RM, Jiang YL, Blanks JC. Retinal light damage in rats 

with altered levels of rod outer segment docosahexaenoate. Invest Ophthalmol Vis 

Sci. 1996 Oct;37(11):2243-57. PubMed PMID: 8843911.

11: Kido M, Rich KA, Yang G, Barrón E, Kohn DB, al-Ubaidi MR, Blanks JC. Use of a

retroviral vector with an internal opsin promoter to direct gene expression to

retinal photoreceptor cells. Curr Eye Res. 1996 Aug;15(8):833-44. Erratum in:

Curr Eye Res 1996 Nov;15(11):1148. Lang G [corrected to Yang G]. PubMed PMID:


12: Blanks JC, Schmidt SY, Torigoe Y, Porrello KV, Hinton DR, Blanks RH. Retinal 

pathology in Alzheimer's disease. II. Regional neuron loss and glial changes in

GCL. Neurobiol Aging. 1996 May-Jun;17(3):385-95. PubMed PMID: 8725900.

13: Blanks JC, Torigoe Y, Hinton DR, Blanks RH. Retinal pathology in Alzheimer's 

disease. I. Ganglion cell loss in foveal/parafoveal retina. Neurobiol Aging. 1996

May-Jun;17(3):377-84. PubMed PMID: 8725899.

14: Rickman DW, Blanks JC, Brecha NC. Somatostatin-immunoreactive neurons in the 

adult rabbit retina. J Comp Neurol. 1996 Feb 12;365(3):491-503. PubMed PMID:


15: Rich KA, Figueroa SL, Zhan Y, Blanks JC. Effects of Müller cell disruption on

mouse photoreceptor cell development. Exp Eye Res. 1995 Aug;61(2):235-48. PubMed 

PMID: 7556487.

16: Organisciak DT, Darrow RM, Noell WK, Blanks JC. Hyperthermia accelerates

retinal light damage in rats. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995 May;36(6):997-1008.

PubMed PMID: 7730034.

17: Pandey S, Blanks JC, Spee C, Jiang M, Fong HK. Cytoplasmic retinal

localization of an evolutionary homolog of the visual pigments. Exp Eye Res. 1994

May;58(5):605-13. PubMed PMID: 7925698.

18: Blanks JC, Johnson LV, Hageman GS. Stage-specific binding of peanut

agglutinin to aggregates of degenerating photoreceptor cells in the rd mouse

retina. Exp Eye Res. 1993 Sep;57(3):265-73. PubMed PMID: 8224014.

19: Blanks JC, Pickford MS, Organisciak DT. Ascorbate treatment prevents

accumulation of phagosomes in RPE in light damage. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci.

1992 Sep;33(10):2814-21. PubMed PMID: 1526731.

20: Blanks JC, Spee C. Retinal degeneration in the pcd/pcd mutant mouse:

accumulation of spherules in the interphotoreceptor space. Exp Eye Res. 1992

May;54(5):637-44. PubMed PMID: 1623950.

21: Organisciak DT, Darrow RM, Jiang YI, Marak GE, Blanks JC. Protection by

dimethylthiourea against retinal light damage in rats. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci.

1992 Apr;33(5):1599-609. PubMed PMID: 1559759.

22: de Queiroz JM Jr, Blanks JC, Ozler SA, Alfaro DV, Liggett PE. Subretinal

perfluorocarbon liquids. An experimental study. Retina. 1992;12(3 Suppl):S33-9.

PubMed PMID: 1455081.

23: Blanks JC, Torigoe Y, Hinton DR, Blanks RH. Retinal degeneration in the

macula of patients with Alzheimer's disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1991;640:44-6.

PubMed PMID: 1776758.

24: Hinton DR, Blanks JC, Fong HK, Casey PJ, Hildebrandt E, Simons MI. Novel

localization of a G protein, Gz-alpha, in neurons of brain and retina. J

Neurosci. 1990 Aug;10(8):2763-70. PubMed PMID: 2117645.

25: Woodford BJ, Blanks JC. Uptake of tritiated thymidine in mitochondria of the 

retina. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1989 Dec;30(12):2528-32. PubMed PMID: 2512268.

Additional Publications 


Archive Laboratory Website: Retinal Cell Biology Laboratory

Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences

Florida Atlantic University - 777 Glades Road, BS-12 - Boca Raton, FL 33431

Phone: (561) 297-2230 - Email: