DoctorsAaron Nagiel, MD, PhD

Aaron Nagiel, MD, PhD

Title: Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology

Department: Ophthalmology

Clinical Specialty: Vitreoretinal Surgery

Treatment Expertise: Retinopathy of Prematurity, retinal detachment, ocular trauma, familial exudative vitreoretinopathy, Coats disease, Norrie disease, X-linked retinoschisis, retinitis pigmentosa, Leber congenital amaurosis, Stickler syndrome, persistent fetal vasculature, and other pediatric retinal disorders.

Certification: American Board of Ophthalmology

Languages: English, Spanish, Yiddish (basic)

Location: CHLA (Children's Hospital - Los Angeles)

Research Topics:

Neural Circuit Formation
Retinal Development
3-Dimensional Retinal Organoids
Inherited Retinal Disorders

Biography and Education


Dr. Nagiel attended Harvard University where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in biomedical sciences. He received his PhD in neuroscience from The Rockefeller University, where he worked closely with Dr. James Hudspeth, developing a model experimental system using optical imaging in live zebrafish larvae to understand how individual neurons form specific synaptic connections. Dr. Nagiel then completed his MD at Weill Cornell Medical College. He performed his residency in ophthalmology, immediately followed by a vitreoretinal surgery fellowship at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Research Interests:

Dr. Nagiel leads an active clinical and translational research program aimed towards developing better ways to treat pediatric retinal diseases through state-of-the-art imaging, advanced surgical devices, and novel treatments including gene therapy and stem cell-based therapy. In addition, he conducts laboratory research on retinal development by growing human “mini-retinas” in vitro. The aim of this research is to provide insights into cellular differentiation and connectivity in the human retina and how this process goes awry in the disease state.

The development and maintenance of specific synaptic connections between retinal neurons is critical to its function. However, our understanding of neural circuit formation in the human retina remains limited. Within the last 10 years it has become possible to grow 3-dimensional, multi-layered retinal organoids derived from human stem cells. This advance permits the study of human retinal development and the establishment of synaptic connectivity. Our goal is to elucidate mechanisms underlying synapse formation and specificity in the first synapse of the human visual system. Access to patient-derived organoids allows us to understand this process in the disease state and following novel treatment paradigms such as gene therapy and cell-based therapy. We utilize a variety of techniques including live fluorescent imaging, electrophysiology, and gene editing in stem cell-derived human retinal organoids. The long-term goal of this work is to understand how synaptic connections are established and maintained in the human nervous system.


  • MD, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, 2011
  • PhD, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, 2010


  • Ophthalmology, Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, 2015


  • Vitreoretinal Surgery, Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA, 2017


Professional society memberships:

  • Society of Heed Fellows, 2015


  • Detur Prize, awarded to top 200 Harvard freshmen for academic performance, 2001
  • John Harvard Scholarship, awarded for academic distinction, 2001-2003
  • Finalist, Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, 2006
  • Sumi Koide Travel Fellowship, The Rockefeller University, 2010
  • Robert E. Christensen Research Award, Jules Stein Eye Institute, 2013
  • ARVO National Eye Institute Travel Grant, 2014
  • Excellence in Research Award, Jules Stein Eye Institute, 2014
  • Pepose-Saltzman Young Investigator ARVO Award, Jules Stein Eye Institute, 2014, 2015
  • Heed Foundation Residents Retreat Participant, 2014
  • Heed Ophthalmic Foundation Fellowship, 2015-2016
  • Excellence in Research Award, Jules Stein Eye Institute, 2016
  • Ronald G. Michels Fellowship Foundation Award, 2016-2017
  • Allergan FIRST (Fostering Innovative Retina Stars of Tomorrow) Fellowship, 2016-2019
  • Baxter Foundation Fellowship, Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation, 2019-2020
  • Ellison Award, Leon and Carol Ellison Research Career Development Award, Saban Research Institute/CHLA, 2020-2021
  • Career Development Award, Research to Prevent Blindness, 2021-2024


  1. Nagiel A, Lalane RA, Jen JC, Kreiger AE. Superficial and Deep Capillary Ischemia as a Presenting Sign of Retinal Vasculopathy with Cerebral Leukoencephalopathy and Systemic Manifestations. Retin Cases Brief Rep. 2017 Oct. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Nemiroff J, Phasukkijwatana N, Vaclavik V, Nagiel A, Holz ER, Sarraf D. The Spectrum of Amalric Triangular Choroidal Infarction. Retin Cases Brief Rep. 2017 Winter;11 Suppl 1:S113-s20.
  3. Phasukkijwatana N, Freund KB, Dolz-Marco R, Al-Sheikh M, Keane PA, Egan CA, Randhawa S, Stewart JM, Liu Q, Hunyor AP, Kreiger A, Nagiel A, Lalane R, Rahimi M, Lee WK, Jampol LM, Sarraf D. Peripapillary Pachychoroid Syndrome. Retina. 2017 Nov. [Epub ahead of print]
  4. Nagiel A, Lalane RA, Sadda SR, Schwartz SD. Ultra-Widefield Fundus Imaging: A Review of Clinical Applications and Future Trends. Retina. 36 (4): 660-678, 2016.
  5. Schwartz SD, Tan G, Hosseini H, Nagiel A. Subretinal transplantation of embryonic stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium for the treatment of macular degeneration: An assessment at 4 years. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 57 (5): ORSFc1-9, 2016
  6. Nagiel A, Sadda SR, Sarraf D. A Promising Future for Optical Coherence Tomography Angiography. JAMA Ophthalmology. 133 (6): 629-30, 2015.
  7. Nagiel A, Freund KB, Spaide RF, Munch IC, Larsen M, Sarraf D. Mechanism of retinal pigment epithelium tear formation following intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy revealed by spectral-domain optical coherence tomography. American Journal of Ophthalmology. 156 (5): 981-988, 2013.
  8. Nagiel A, Espiritu MJ, Wong RK, Lee TC, Lauer AK, Chiang MF, Chan RV. Retinopathy of prematurity residency training. Ophthalmology. 119 (12): 2644-2645, 2012.