Yoko Okunuki, M.D., Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Instructor in Ophthalmology

Massachusetts Eye and Ear


Research Summary

Dr. Okunuki has a strong research and clinical background in retinal inflammatory diseases, especially in uveitis. Her research interests include identification of retinal autoantigens in uveitis, identification of biomarkers in retinal diseases, and elucidating mechanisms of autoimmune uveitis. Dr. Okunuki joined Kip Connor’s laboratory at Massachusetts Eye & Ear in 2014, and began several projects surrounding retinal microglia. Her first research paper published from Dr. Connor’s lab in 2018 demonstrated that microglia have a protective role and actively interact with inflammatory cells during retinal detachment. Currently, her research focuses on the role for microglia in retinal inflammatory diseases, including uveitis.


2003: MD, Tokyo Medical University

2007: PhD, Ophthalmology, Tokyo Medical University and Department of Clinical Proteomics, Institute of Medical Science, St. Marianna University

Postgraduate Training

2009: Fellowship, Ophthalmology, Tokyo Medical University

2018: Senior Research Fellow, Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Academic Appointments

2009-2016: Assistant Lecturer in Ophthalmology, Tokyo Medical University

2018-present: Instructor in Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School

Professional Memberships

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

International Ocular Inflammation Society

Japanese Ophthalmological Society

Japanese Ocular Inflammation Society

Japanese Retina and Vitreous Society

Japanese Society of Immunology


2016: Global Ophthalmology Research Award, Bayer

2013: MEE/BJL Vitreoretinal Research Fellowship, Bausch & Lomb

2012: Alumni Association Award, Tokyo Medical University Alumni Association of Ophthalmology

2011: Encouragement Award, Japanese Ocular Inflammation Society

2010: Experimental Eye Research Top Cited Article 2008-2010 Award, Elsevier

2010: Sasa Memorial Award, Tokyo Medical University

2009: Medical Research Award, Tokyo Medical University Medical Association

2009: Young Researcher’s Award, Tokyo Medical University Alumni Association


For a full publication list, please see her CV.

Okunuki Y, Tsubota K, Kezuka T, Goto H. Differences in the clinical features of two types of Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease: serous retinal detachment and optic disc swelling. Jpn J Ophthalmol. 2015;59(2):103-8. 

Usui Y, Tsubota K, Agawa T, Ueda S, Umazume K, Okunuki Y, Kezuka T, Yamakawa N, Goto H. Aqueous immune mediators in malignant uveal melanomas in comparison to benign pigmented intraocular tumors. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2017;255:393-399.

Hasegawa E, Inafuku S, Mulki L, Okunuki Y, Yanai R, Smith KE, Kim CB, Klokman G, Bielenberg DR, Puli N, Falck JR, Husain D, Miller JW, Edin ML, Zeldin DC, Lee KSS, Hammock BD, Schunck WH, Connor KM. Cytochrome P450 monooxygenase lipid metabolites are significant second messengers in the resolution of choroidal neovascularization. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114(36):E7545-E7553.

Mukai R, Okunuki Y, Husain H, Kim CB, Lambris JD, Connor KM. The complement system is critical in maintaining retinal integrity during aging. Front Aging Neurosci. 2018;10:15  

Okunuki Y
, Mukai R, Pearsall EA, Klokman G, Husain D, Park DH, Korobkina E, Weiner HL, Butovsky O, Ksander BR, Miller JW, Connor KM. Microglia inhibit photoreceptor cell death and regulate immune cell infiltration in response to retinal detachment. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jul 3;115(27):E6264-E6273.

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