Jeremy Nathans, M.D., Ph.D.

Headshot of Jeremy Nathans
  • Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics

Research Interests

Molecular mechanisms of visual system development, function and disease more


Dr. Jeremy Nathans is a professor of molecular biology and genetics, neuroscience and ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on molecular mechanisms of visual system development, function, and disease.

Dr. Nathans is responsible for landmark discoveries that have changed our understanding of how humans see the world. His investigations into the mechanisms that allow us to see colors led him to identify the genes that code for color-vision receptors in the light-sensing cones of the retina. This breakthrough finding allowed him to show that variations in these genes cause color blindness. His work has also led to new understandings of the development, function and survival of the retina.

Dr. Nathans received his undergraduate degree in Life Sciences and Chemistry from MIT and earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and M.D. from Stanford University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Genentech, Inc. Dr. Nathans joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1988.

He serves on the editorial board of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is on many scientific advisory boards including The Foundation Fighting Blindness and Merck Research Laboratories. He became a member of the Institute of Medicine in 2011 and his work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience by the McGovern Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. more


  • Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Professor of Neuroscience
  • Professor of Ophthalmology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • B.S.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts) (1979)
  • M.D.; Stanford University School of Medicine (California) (1987)
  • Ph.D.; Stanford University School of Medicine (California) (1985)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Nathans and his laboratory are interested in the mammalian visual system and, in particular, the retina, the light-absorbing sheet of cells that lines the back of the eye. Their general approach is to use the tools of molecular genetics to identify and study genes involved in development, function, and disease. A second interest is in elucidating the mechanisms of pattern formation during animal development and, in particular, the role of the Frizzled family of cell-surface receptors. These two interests have converged with our discovery of a Frizzled-based system for controlling the development and integrity of retinal blood vessels.

Currently, they are working on defining the roles of Frizzled receptors in mammalian development. The foundation of our approach is the production and analysis of mice carrying targeted null or conditional null mutations in one or more Frizzled genes. They have constructed such lines for each of the ten Frizzleds, as well as for other genes that act in the same signaling pathways. This genetic analysis has revealed both diversity and unity in the functions of different Frizzled receptors, and has revealed the requirement for Frizzled signaling in a wide variety of developmental contexts, including axon guidance, vascular growth and differentiation, inner ear development, neural tube and palate closure, kidney development, and hair orientation on the body surface.

Selected Publications

Yu, H., Ye, X., Guo, N. and Nathans, J. “Frizzled2 and Frizzled7 function redundantly in convergent extension and closure of the ventricular septum and palate: evidence for a network of interacting genes.” Development 139: 4383-4394. (2012)

Wang, Y., Rattner, A., Zhou, Y., Williams, J., Smallwood, P.M., and Nathans, J. “Norrin/Frizzled4 signaling in retinal vascular development and blood brain barrier plasticity.” Cell 151: 1332-1344. (2012)

Wu, H., Williams, J., and Nathans, J. “Morphologic diversity of cutaneous sensory afferents revealed by genetically directed sparse labeling.” eLife 1:e00181. (2012)

Badea, T.C., Williams, J., Smallwood, P., Shi, M., Motajo, O., and Nathans, J. “Combinatorial expression of Brn3 transcription factors in somatosensory neurons: genetic and morphologic analysis.” Journal of Neuroscience. 32: 995-1007. (2012)

Ye, X., Wang, Y., Rattner, A., and Nathans, J. “Genetic mosaic analysis reveals a major role for frizzled4 and frizzled8 in controlling ureteric growth in the developing kidney.” Development 138: 11161-1172. (2011)

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) Graduate Program


Cellular and Molecular Medicine (CMM)

Activities & Honors


  • Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research, ARVO, 2019
  • Beckman-Argyros Award Winner, The Beckman Foundation, 2016 - 2016
  • Albert Muse Prize (The Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh), 2012
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2009
  • Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience ( McGovern Institute, 2009
  • Champalimaud Award for Vision Research (shared with King-Wai Yau), 2008
  • Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence, American Medical Student Association, 2004
  • Teacher of the Year, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 2010
  • Professor’s Award for Distinction in Teaching in the Basic Sciences, Johns Hopkins Medical School, 2004
  • Young Investigator Award, Society for Neuroscience, 1995
  • Alcon Research Institute Award for Vision Research, Alcon Laboratories, 1992
  • Cogan Award, The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 1992
  • Golden Brain Award, Minerva Foundation, 1989
  • Distinguished Young Scientist Award, Maryland Academy of Sciences, 1989
  • Wilson S. Stone Memorial Award, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1988
  • Rank Prize in Opto–Electronics, Rank Prize Fund (London), 1988
  • Initiatives in Research Award, National Academy of Sciences, 1987
  • Young Scientist Award, Passano Foundation, 1987
  • Newcomb–Cleveland Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1986
  • Alpha Chi Sigma Award for excellence in chemistry, M.I.T., 1979
  • John Asinari Award for undergraduate research in the life sciences, M.I.T., 1978


  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2000
  • Institute of Medicine, U.S.A., 2011
  • National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 1996

Professional Activities

  • Advisor, HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, 2009
  • Associate Editor, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2005 - 2006
  • Associate Editor, Journal of Neuroscience, 1991 - 1996
  • Grant Review Board, Life Sciences Research Foundation, 2005
  • Grant Review Board, McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, 2000 - 2011
  • Grant Review Panel, Beckman Initiative for Macular Research, 2010
  • Grant Review Panel, HHMI Professors Program, 2010
  • Grant Review Panel, HHMI International Scholars Program, 2006 - 2011
  • Intramural Program Review Committee, National Eye Institute, 1997 - 1998
  • Scientific Advisory Board, The Ruth and Milton Steinbach Fund, 1997 - 2007
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Merck Research Laboratories, 2008
  • Scientific Advisory Board, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, 1995
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Johns Hopkins University, 1991 - 1992
  • Scientific Advisory Board for Ophthalmology, Novartis, 2005 - 2008
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Machiah Foundation, 2009 - 2011
  • Visiting Committee, Harvard Medical School, 2006

Videos & Media

Play Video:

Jeremy Nathans On Studying The Retina

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Seeing X Chromosomes in a New Light,” New York Times

Patient Ratings & Comments

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