Stefanie Wohl, PhD

Assistant Professor
Biological and Vision Sciences


I was born in Germany and studied Biology at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany (Bachelor 2001, Master 2005). In 2003, I started with neurobiology research as an undergraduate student in the Laboratory of Dr. Stefan Isenmann MD, Department of Neurology, at Jena University Hospital. I received my Ph.D. in Biology 2011 from the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena with “highest honors”. My thesis advisor was Dr. Jurgen Bolz, my external reviewer Dr. Andreas Reichenbach. In May 2012, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Reh PhD, at the University of Washington in Seattle.
For the past six years, I studied the role of microRNAs in Müller glia cell development and function and gained deeper knowledge in molecular biology, genetics, and epigenetics. I was awarded a two-year scholarship from the German Research Foundation (DFG) from 2014-2016. From 2008 through 2018, I have mentored 17 students (14 undergraduate and 3 graduate) and I have acted as advisor to 4 students for their bachelor theses.


  • PhD, Biology (Neuroscience, Ophthalmology), Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany , 2011
  • MS, Biology (Zoology, Neurobiology, Genetics), Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany, 2005
  • BS, Biology , Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany, 2001

Residency/Other Post Graduate Training

  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist/Senior Fellow - Array, 2017
  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist/Senior Fellow - Array, 2012
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  • Epigenetic Boot Camp Certificate of Participation - Columbia University, 2022
  • CITI Certificate Research Personnel (ID 229626) - CITI Program, 2021
  • CITI Certificate Conflicts of Interest (ID 62118) CITI Reducing Pain and Distress in Laboratory Mice and Rats (ID 73674) CITI Working with Animals in Biomedical Research (ID 73687) - CITI Program, 2019
  • ASCLA P.A.C.E. Certificate for Transporting Dangerous Goods - ASCLA, 2019
  • CITI Certificate Human Research – All Investigators and Key Personnel (ID 662) CITI Working with the IACUC (ID 73672) CITI Working with Mice in Research Settings (ID 73677) - CITI Program, 2019
  • Certificate of Fitness for Supervision of Storage, Handling and Use of Chemicals in Non-Production Laboratories C-14 - The Fire Department of New York (FDNY), 2018
  • Gene editing with CRISPR: From discovery to therapy workshop, Certificate of Participation - ARVO, 2018
  • Epigenetic and miRNA regulation in normal and diseased retina, Certificate of Participation - ARVO, 2016
  • Certificate of Participation Zeiss Workshop - Carl Zeiss Jena, 2012
  • Certificate Good Scientific Practice - University of Jena, 2011


  • Research Grant Award R01EY032532-01A1 , 2022
  • The Empire Innovation Program Grant (EIP), 2018
  • Scholarship , 2014
  • Novartis Travel Award, 2012
  • PhD degree "highest honors" (summa cum laude), 2011

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, SUNY College of Optometry, 2018 - Present
  • Acting Instructor, University of Washington, 2017 - 2018
  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist, University of Washington, 2012 - 2017
  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Jena University Hospital, 2011 - 2012
  • Research Associate , Private University of Witten/Herdecke, 2009 - 2011
  • Research Associate, Jena University Hospital, 2007 - 2009
  • Research Associate , Jena University Hospital, 2005 - 2006
  • Student Research Assistant, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (FSU), Jena University Hospital, 2004 - 2005

Research Interests

The Role of microRNAs in Retinal Glia Function

My laboratory studies the neural retina at the cellular and molecular level. The cells we are interested in and focus on are called glia cells, more precisely Müller glia. Müller glia are the predominant glia in the neural retina and named after Professor Heinrich Müller (described in 1851). Glia cells per se are known as the support cells in the central nervous system but have a variety of other functions including maintaining the homeostasis of the tissue but also protection after injury or disease.
In mammals, including humans, the central nervous system i.e., the brain (including the retina) and the spinal cord, does not regenerate after injury or disease. We know that glia, as part of their protective function, undergo morphological changes to create a barrier and a non-permissive environment for regeneration. This glial response, called gliosis, is a very complex process and includes a variety of factors and mechanisms which are not fully understood.
Molecules known to play in role in Müller glia development and function are microRNAs. microRNAs are small molecules present in every cell of the body that act as translational repressors. That means mRNA (transcribed from DNA) is not translated into protein. About 1000 different microRNAs have been identified so far and it is known that they have a huge impact in development, independent from tissue origin and cell type. However, their expression pattern can vary between different cell types, developmental stages (maturation of a cell) as well as physiological and pathophysiological conditions. For the latter, there is increasing evidence that microRNAs play an important role in various diseases and can be used as a biomarker for certain diseases.

In my laboratory, we investigate the role of microRNAs in the glial response to injury/disease as well as for cell replacement therapies by reprogramming Müller glia into retinal neurons. The focus lies on Müller glia but will also include other glia types such as astrocytes and microglia. Specific approaches are
1) Transgenic models to visualize and isolate the different kind of glia
2) Cell and tissue culture to study cellular and molecular changes in glia
3) microRNA profiling and mRNA analyses
4) Techniques to overexpress or inhibit microRNAs and alter protein expression
5) identification of biomarkers for retinal diseases
6) Development and implementation of cell replacement therapies using glial cells

Investigating the impact of microRNAs in the different phases of glial activation after injury and/or disease will give us a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of gliosis in order to develop strategies to minimize the inhibitory nature of this process. The long-term goal is to develop new approaches and therapies to attenuate the glial response after damage which might allow regeneration of the central nervous system including the neural retina.


  • View in microRNAs as a potential tool to fight blindness: focus on Müller glia and gliosis, Neural Regeneration Research 17 (7): 1501-1502 1501-1502, 2022
  • A comparative analysis of reactive Muller glia gene expression after light damage and microRNA-depleted Muller glia - Focus on microRNAs, Fontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 8 (620459): 2021
  • Retinal miRNA functions in health and disease, Molecular Therapies for Inherited Retinal Diseases 2020
  • Developmental changes in the accessible chromatin, transcriptome and Ascl1-binding correlate with the loss in Muller glia regnerative potential, Scientific Reports 10 (13615): 2020
  • Retinal miRNA Functions in Health and Disease, Genes 10 (5): 2019
  • Cis-Regulatory Accessibility Directs Muller Glial Development and Regenerative Capacity, BioRxiv 2019
  • microRNAs miR-25 and let-7 promote a neurogenic potential of Muller glia in mice., Development 146 2019
  • Frataxin overexpression in Muller cells protects retinal ganglion cells in a mouse model of ischemia/reperfusion injury in vivo, Sci Rep 8 (1): 4846 4846, 2018
  • Stimulation of functional neuronal regeneration from Muller glia in adult mice, Nature 548 (7665): 103-107 103-107, 2017
  • Muller glial microRNAs are required for the maintenance of glial homeostasis and retinal architecture., Nature Communications 8 1603 1603, 2017
  • miR-124-9-9* potentiates Ascl1-induced reprogramming of cultured Muller glia, Glia 64 (5): 743-62 743-62, 2016
  • The microRNA expression profile of mouse Muller glia in vivo and in vitro. , The microRNA expression profile of mouse Muller glia in vivo and in vitro. 6 35423 35423, 2016
  • Cell-replacement therapy and neural repair in the retina, Cell Tissue Res 349 (1): 363-74 363-74, 2012
  • Neurogenic potential of stem/progenitor-like cells in the adult mammalian eye, Prog Retin Eye Res 31 (3): 13-42 13-42, 2012
  • In situ dividing and phagocytosing retinal microglia express nestin, vimentin, and NG2 in vivo, PLoS One 6 (8): e22408 e22408, 2011
  • Proliferative response of microglia and macrophages in the adult mouse eye after optic nerve lesion, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 51 (5): 2686-96 2686-96, 2010
  • Optic nerve lesion increases cell proliferation and nestin expression in the adult mouse eye in vivo, Exp Neurol 219 (1): 175-86 175-86, 2009


  • The role of microRNA in Muller glia function: glial reprogramming, 2021
    Oral Presentation
  • The role of microRNAs in Müller glia reprogramming, 2020
    Oral Presentation
  • The Role of microRNAs in Early Postnatal Retinal Development, 2020
  • The role of miRNAs in Gliosis, 2020
    Oral Presentation
  • Muller glia lose neurogenic potential over development, 2019
  • The impact of the loss of Muller glia microRNAs in Muller glia function, 2019
    Oral Presentation
  • The microRNA and mRNA profile of Müller glia after light damage, 2018
  • Changes in Müller glia microRNAs after light damage, 2018
  • microRNAs and Muller glia, 2017
    Oral Presentation
  • The role microRNAs in Muller glia function and retinal architecture, 2017
    Oral Presentation
  • microRNAs are required for maintenance of Müller glia homeostasis and retinal architecture, 2017
    Oral Presentation
  • microRNAs in Muller glia function and reprogramming, 2017
    Oral Presentation
  • A potential role for epigenetic repression in retinal regeneration, 2016
  • Dicer conditional knock out in mature Müller glia leads to upregulation of Brevican and disorganization of the retinal structure, 2016
  • Changes in microRNAs after injury and Dicer deletion, 2016
  • The Role of miR-124-9-9* in Müller glia reprogramming, 2014
  • Microglia cell proliferation in the ipsi- and contralateral retina after acute retinal ischemia/reperfusion in the mouse retina in vivo, 2013
    Oral Presentation
  • Retinal microglia response following optic nerve injury and retinal ischemia, 2012
    Oral Presentation
  • Adult retinal microglia express neural markers nestin and NG2 which are involved in cell proliferation and phagocytosis, 2011
  • Erythropoietin (EPO) and EPO receptor expression patterns in neuronal and glial cells of the adult retina after optic nerve lesion, 2011
  • Injury-induced proliferation of glial cells, 2011
    Oral Presentation
  • Microglia/macrophage proliferative response in the adult rat retina after optic nerve and retinal lesion - a comparative study of cell proliferation potential and nestin expression., 2010
  • Microglia proliferate and express nestin following ON transection in the adult rat retina, 2009
  • Optic nerve transection and crush lesion increases cell proliferation in the adult rat retina, 2008
  • Lesion-induced generation of putative neural progenitor cells in the adult rat retina, 2007
  • Microglia after optic nerve injury and ischemia, 2006
    Oral Presentation
  • Optic nerve lesion induces potential neural progenitor cell proliferation in the adult mouse retina, 2006
  • Lesion-induced generation of neural cells in the adult rodent retina., 2005



  • 2020 - Present : Dissertation Committee of Khulan Batsuuri - Array


  • 2020 - Present : Brain Sciences - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2020 - Present : Cells MDPI - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2020 - Present : Experimental Eye Research - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2020 - Present : Journal of Diabetes Research - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2020 - Present : Molecular Biology Reports - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2019 - Present : BiologyOPEN - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2019 - Present : Cancer - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2019 - Present : Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2019 - Present : Medical Science Monitor - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2019 - Present : Scientific Reports - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2019 - Present : The Journal of Neuroscience - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2018 - Present : Neuroscience Research - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2012 - Present : Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences (IOVS) - Reviewer/Referee
  • 2020 - 2020 : ARVO meeting - Session Chair
  • 2020 - 2020 : ISER Meeting - Session Chair
  • 2019 - 2019 : Australia National University - Committee Member
  • 2019 - 2019 : CCNY - Session Chair
  • 2018 - 2018 : ARVO meeting - Session Chair
  • 2017 - 2017 : University of Washington Faculty Retreat - Program Coordinator
  • 2017 - 2017 : ARVO meeting - Session Chair
  • 2009 - 2009 : Array - Committee Member

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