Rosario Fernandez-Godino, Ph.D., M.Sc.

Harvard Medical School

Instructor in Ophthalmology

Massachusetts Eye and Ear


Research Summary

Research Summary

Inherited and age-related macular degenerations (AMD) are leading causes of vision loss.  An early hallmark of these disorders is the accumulation of basal deposits and drusen between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the underlying extracellular matrix, called Bruch’s membrane. Dr. Fernandez-Godino’s research focuses on investigating the molecular pathogenesis of basal deposit formation, with the goal of identifying novel targets for therapies that can be applied prophylactically. She has developed a cell-based system that mimics the formation of drusen by RPE cells in vitro, and shows that abnormalities in the extracellular matrix caused by aging or genetic mutations increase the activation of C3 via tick-over.

Selected Publications

For a full list of publications, please see her CV.

Garland DL, Fernandez-Godino R, Kaur I, Speicher KD, Harnly JM, Lambris JD, Speicher DW, Pierce EA. Mouse genetics and proteomic analyses demonstrate a critical role for complement in a model of DHRD/ML, an inherited macular degeneration. Human Molecular Genetics. 2014 Jan 1;23(1):52-68.

Fernandez-Godino R, Garland DL, Pierce EA.  A Local Complement Response by RPE Causes Early-Stage Macular Degeneration. Human Molecular Genetics. 2015 Oct 1;24(19):5555-69.

Fernandez-Godino R, Pierce EA, Garland DL. Extracellular matrix alterations and deposit formation in AMD. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016;854:53-8.

Fernandez-Godino R, Garland DL and Pierce EA. A protocol for the isolation, culture and characterization of polarized primary RPE cells from mice. Nature protocols. 2016 Jul;11(7):1206-18.

Fernandez-Godino R. Alterations in Extracellular Matrix/Bruch’s Membrane can cause the Activation of the Alternative Complement Pathway via Tick-over. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1074:29-35.

Fernandez-Godino R, Bujakowska K, and Pierce EA. Changes in extracellular matrix cause RPE cells to make basal deposits and activate the alternative complement pathway. Hum Mol Genet. 2018 Jan 1;27(1):147-159.

Fernandez-Godino R, and Pierce EA. C3a triggers formation of sub-retinal pigment epithelium deposits via the ubiquitin proteasome pathway. Scientific Reports. 2018. Jun 26;8:9679.

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2004: B.S., Biology, Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain

2006: M.Sc., Genetics and Cellular Biology, Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain

2009: Ph.D., Personalized medicine for colorectal cancer patients, Spanish National Center of Cardiovascular Research- Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain

Postgraduate Training

2009-2010: Postdoctoral Fellow, Study of polymorphisms associated with resistance to swine flu in pigs, National Institute of Technological Agrarian and Alimentary (INIA), Madrid, Spain

2010-2011: Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, Screening of genetic causes of rare diseases, Genome center, Medical Genome Project, Junta de Andalucia, Seville, Spain

2011-2016: Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, Studying the role of complement in macular degeneration, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Academic Appointments

2016-present: Instructor in Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School

Professional Memberships

American Association for Cancer Research

Spanish Association of Cancer Research

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

American Society of Human Genetics

Spanish Scientists in the USA

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Travel Grant, Pauline and Oswald Lapp Travel Award

MIT Outstanding Poster Award, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Young Investigator Award, Fritz Tobler Foundation

Gragoudas Prize for Best Basic and Translational Paper by a Mass. Eye and Ear trainee, Mass. Eye and Ear

BrighFocus Foundation Travel Grant. RD meeting. Japan.