Yutaka Niihara, MD, MPH

Yutaka Niihara, MD, MPH

Investigator, The Lundquist Institute
Professor of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, Emmaus Life Science, Inc.


Sickle cell disease; Regenerative medicine

Research Description

Dr. Niihara has been involved in patient care and research for sickle cell disease for most of his career, is the founder of Emmaus Life Sciences, Inc., and the principal inventor of Endari, an L-glutamine therapy for treatment of sickle cell disease approved by FDA in July 2017. Additionally, his laboratory focuses on regenerative medicine using cell sheet technology. This treatment uses autologous progenitor cell sheets to repair damaged organs such as cornea epithelium and myocardium.
Theme Groups
Research Interests


  • BA, 1982, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
  • MD, 1986, Loma Linda University, School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA
  • MPH, 2006, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, MA

Recent and/or Significant Publications

Bardag-Gorce F, Hoft R, Meepe I, Garcia J, Tiger K, Wood A, Laporte A, Pan D, Makalinao A, Niihara R, Oliva J, Florentino A, Gorce AM, Stark J, Cortez D, French SW, Niihara Y. Proteasomes in corneal epithelial cells and cultured autologous oral mucosal epithelial cell sheet (CAOMECS) graft used for ocular surface regeneration. The Ocular Surface 2017 Oct;15(4):749-758.
Bardag-Gorce F, Hoft RH, Wood A, Oliva J, Niihara H, Makalinao A, Thropay J, Pan D, Meepe I, Tiger K, Garcia J, Laporte A, French SW, Niihara Y. The Role of E-Cadherin in Maintaining the Barrier Function of Corneal Epithelium after Treatment with Cultured Autologous Oral Mucosa Epithelial Cell Sheet Grafts for Limbal Stem Deficiency. J Ophthalmol. 2016:4805986.
Oliva J, Bardag-Gorce F, Wood A, Sota H, Niihara Y. Direct labeling of 19F-perfluorocarbon onto engineered multilayered cell sheet for MRI-based non-invasive cell tracking. Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (TERM). Tissue Eng Regen Med 2015; 12(5):371-378.
Bardag-Gorce F, Oliva J, Wood A, Hoft RH, Pan D, Thropay J, Makalinao A, French SW, Niihara Y. Carrier-free Cultured Autologous Oral Mucosa Epithelial Cell Sheet (CAOMECS) for Corneal Epithelium Reconstruction: A Histological Study. Ocul Surf 2015;13(2):150–163. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtos.2014.12.003.
Bardag-Gorce F, Oliva J, Wood A, Niihara H, Makalinao A, Sabino S, Pan D, Thropay J, Sota H, Niihara Y. Microarray analysis of oral mucosal epithelial cell sheet. Tissue Eng Regn Med 2013;10(6):362-370. http://link.springer.com/search?sortOrder=newestFirst&facet-content-type=Article&facet-journal-id=13770.


Dr Yutaka Niihara Discusses Sickle Cell Research on American Health Journal
Sickle Cell Disease Spotlight: Dr. Yutaka Niihara and Grateful Patient Juanita Gougis