Kang Zhang, MD, PhD
The retina is a sheet of light-sensing cells that convert complex external visual stimuli to electrical and chemical signals. The signals generated by the retina are then transmitted to the brain to form visual images. Collectively, retinal degeneration is the most common cause of irreversible visual loss in the United States and developed world. The overall goal of Dr. Zhang's laboratory is to discover novel disease genes and gain insights into molecular mechanisms of retinal degeneration. Dr. Zhang has made important and original discoveries that provide new understanding of retinal degeneration. His laboratory has identified several important retinal disease genes, including Stargardt macular degeneration, cone dystrophy, and retinitis pigmentosa. Building on these discoveries he is currently dissecting these diseases using a combination of biochemistry, cell biology and genetically engineered mouse models. A focus of his ongoing genetic studies is to identify genes responsible for retinal diseases including macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Taking advantage of tremendous genetic resources at the University of Utah, particularly the Mormon genealogy records and Utah Population Database of 1.6 million individuals derived from 20,000 founders, Dr. Zhang is conducting genome-wide linkage scans and association studies to identify these retinal disease genes.