About Xiao W. Mao, MD


My research started with investigating normal tissue radiation dose response after proton beam irradiation and focused on radiation-induced normal vasculature in the central nervous system (CNS). In past several years, my research has focused on identifying factors and cellular mechanisms which trigger radiation and oxidative stress-induced microvascular and tissue remodeling, especially focuses on mitochondrial oxidative damage in the retina and brain. Ground-based degenerative disease can occur across a wide range of physiological systems and it is becoming increasingly apparent that vascular dysfunction is an important component that underlies the macrovascular and microvascular complications associated with degenerative diseases (e.g. cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, and others that involve neurodegeneration). To date, the role of an abnormal or injured cerebrovascular system in dementia, aging and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as stroke, have been relatively well characterized.

Another interest of my research in to study the effect of the space flight condition on brain, eye and skin. A NASA grant was awarded to use a controlled ground-based animal model to identify factors and cellular mechanisms that trigger radiation and microgravity-induced brain microvascular and tissue remodeling. The data provides unique criteria for risks of functional detriments following combined protracted low-dose radiation and changing gravitational environment. Four papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

An antioxidant protector compound has been used in my research to determine if it would protect normal tissue from radiation-induced damage. This translational research proposal bridges the disciplines of radiation medicine and neuroscience and has a high impact on the rational design of future clinical trials to evaluate role of this metalloporphrin –based SOD mimetic as an adjunct to radiation therapy. Three papers have been published in peer reviewed journals.

More recently, I was awarded a NASA grant to use in-orbit flight animals to evaluate retinal microvascular and tissue remodeling that impact visual function and to identify factors and cellular mechanisms that trigger space environment-induced ocular structure and function. I am very fortunate to be able to participate in a space flight study as a PI to determine the effects on mice that were flown to the International Space Station in the Space X-12 and space x-24 missions. Our study will determine if space flight condition will induce oxidative damage that results in mitochondrial apoptosis in retina. This may indicate that astronauts are at increased risk for late retinal degeneration and suggest possible countermeasures.