Staff Collaborate Conference Room

Janice M. Burke, PhD


Janice M. Burke, PhD

Emeritus Professor of Ophthalmology


PhD, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Massachusetts
Postdoctoral Training in Biochemistry, University of Washington School of Medicine


Janice M. Burke, PhD has used cells cultured from the human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) for many years to study basic features of the structure and function of these cells. Her current major interests are in determining how the RPE develops and maintains its characteristic cell shape, and in identifying how aging may reduce the effectiveness of the RPE as a supporting layer for retinal photoreceptors. These two areas are particularly timely. Transplantation of the RPE is being developed by others to treat degenerative diseases of the retina, such as age-related macular degeneration. However, one impediment to transplantation is producing donor RPE tissue in which the cells develop and retain their normal, highly-regular cell phenotype. Dr. Burke has determined that a major molecular determinant of cell shape, cellular adhesion, is altered by the very dissociation process used to produce tissue for transplantation, and most RPE cells fail to restore their shape even after months. The next step, which is a significant challenge, is to identify the molecular pathways which regulate the formation of adhesions in RPE cells so that cell shape recovery can be accelerated and induced to occur in a higher proportion of cells.

Honors and Awards

Executive Vice President, ARVO (1992-1997)
Research to Prevent Blindness Senior Scientific Investigator Award (1992 & 1999)
National Eye Institute Advisory Panels and Review Groups (1981-present)
Principal Investigator, NEI Core Grant for Vision Research (1985-present)
Grant Reviewer, NSF, VA Merit Review, California Tobacco Foundation (1983-present)
American Association for Advancement of Science
American Society for Cell Biology
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Research Interests

  • Cell-Cell Adhesion in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium
  • Cytoskeleton and Determinants of RPE Cell Shape
  • Cellular Aging of the RPE and Aging Macular Degeneration


Olchawa MM, Herrnreiter AM, Skumatz CM, Zareba M, Sarna TJ, Burke JM. Photosensitized oxidative stress to ARPE-19 cells decreases protein receptors that mediate photoreceptor outer segment phagocytosis. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 Mar 28;54(3):2276-87.

Pilat A, Herrnreiter AM, Skumatz CM, Sarna T, Burke JM. Oxidative Stress Increases HO-1 Expression in ARPE-19 Cells, But Melanosomes Suppress the Increase When Light Is the Stressor. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 Jan 7;54(1):47-56.

Kaczara P, Zaręba M, Herrnreiter A, Skumatz CM, Ządło A, Sarna T, Burke JM. Melanosome-iron interactions within retinal pigment epithelium-derived cells. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2012 Nov;25(6):804-14.

Song W, Wei Q, Liu T, Kuai D, Burke JM, Jiao S, Zhang HF. Integrating photoacoustic ophthalmoscopy with scanning laser ophthalmoscopy, optical
coherence tomography, and fluorescein angiography for a multimodal retinal imaging platform. J Biomed Opt. 2012 Jun;17(6):061206.

Liu T, Wei Q, Song W, Burke JM, Jiao S, Zhang HF. Near-infrared light photoacoustic ophthalmoscopy. Biomed Opt Express. 2012 Apr 1;3(4):792-9.

Burke JM, Kaczara P, Skumatz CM, Zareba M, Raciti MW, Sarna T. Dynamic analyses reveal cytoprotection by RPE melanosomes against non-photic stress. Mol Vis. 2011;17:2864-77. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Burke JM, Zareba M. Sublethal photic stress and the motility of RPE phagosomes and melanosomes. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2009 Apr;50(4):1940-7. Epub 2008 Dec 13.

Burke JM. Epithelial phenotype and the RPE: is the answer blowing in the Wnt? Prog Retin Eye Res. 2008 Nov;27(6):579-95. Epub 2008 Aug 19. Review.

Zareba M, Sarna T, Szewczyk G, Burke JM. Photobleaching of melanosomes from retinal pigment epithelium: II. Effects on the response of living cells to photic stress. Photochem Photobiol. 2007 Jul-Aug;83(4):925-30.

Burke JM, Henry MM, Zareba M, Sarna T. Photobleaching of melanosomes from retinal pigment epithelium: I. Effects on protein oxidation. Photochem Photobiol. 2007 Jul-Aug;83(4):920-4.