Tong Li
Research Associate,Sr

Web Bio Page

Current Activities

Current Research Activities

I started to work in Professor Brenna’s lab in Nutrition Science at May 2006.   The research area I am interested and involved in is to investigate the physiological role of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), especially with respect to early development of the central nervous system and the eye

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are involved in a wide variety of physiological processes. They are particularly critical in the perinatal period when the developing fetus or newborn is forming neural tissue with membranes rich in unsaturated fatty acids. The nutritional supply of certain long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) during development is critical. 

We are particularly interested in the role of LCPUFA in the nutritional health of premature infants. Their nutritional requirements are ill defined because their survival was very low until the advances in neonatal medicine of the last two decades; thus neither breast milk nor traditional formula can be assumed to meet their needs.  

Using primates as models for quantitative requirements of the human brain, we administer tracer doses of essential fatty acids to pregnant primates and analyze fetal tissues to determine levels of accumulation and metabolism. This work has shown that large amounts of essential fatty acids are metabolized in pathways other than those required for essential components of neural tissue, indicating that the role of these fatty acids is more complex and probably even more critical than previously supposed. We have also established the relative efficacy of linolenic acid (C18:3w3) as a precursor to the structurally important docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6w3) in pregnancy and in neonatal baboons.

In addition, many evidence suggest that mitochondra have a central role in aging-related neurodegeneration diseases (Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease). My current research is also focus on the role of mitochondria in neurodegeneration.


Biographical Statement

In 1977, I graduated from Harbin Medical School in China.  As a resident, I worked in the ophthalmology department of The First Harbin Hospital in Harbin until 1982.  I started my graduated (in Ophthalmology) study at Harbin medical school.  The research focused on the mechanism of immune ophthalmitis, the effects of lysosome enzymes on immune ophthalmitis.  In 1984, I worked as an ophthalmologist in the ophthalmology department of the Second Teaching Hospital of Harbin Medical School doing routine clinical practice in both in-patient and out-patient departments, and teaching, instructing the medical school students.  In 1985, I was promoted to be an ophthalmologist-in-charge until I left the hospital for US in1988.

In 1988, I started to work as a research assistant for visual development screening and the research of myopia and amblyopia in Professor Howland at Cornell University.  In 1990, I registered as a PhD graduate student in physiology department of veterinary medicine in Cornell university.  My research is on regulation of the eye growth, the effects of constant light on the development of the chick eye, including the effects of darkness and strength of diurnal lightening rhythm on light-induced changes in the chick eyes, the modulation of constant light effects on the chick eyes by ciliary ganglionectomy and optic nerve section and consensual pupillary response in chicks.  After my PhD study, I continued to study on the circadian rhythm of the eyes and ocular development, working on animal model to investigate the effects of melatonin, dopamine and pineal gland on the growing as a postdoctoral, research associate, senior research associate in the department of neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University.  In  2006, I started to work in professor Tom Brenna’s Lab at Nutrition Science of Cornell University.



Postdoctoral Associate (Neurobiology) Cornell University, Ithaca, NY     1996 - 1999

Ph.D.   Physiology (Vision)     Cornell University, Ithaca, NY                   1990 - 1996

M. S.    Ophthalmology            Harbin Medical School, Harbin, China      1982 - 1984

Resident in Ophthalmology     The Harbin First Hospital, Harbin, China   1977 - 1981

 M. D.    Medicine                     Harbin Medical School, China                    1973 - 1977

Courses, Websites, Pubs

Li, T. & H.C. Howland  (2006) Role of the pineal gland in ocular development of the chick under normal and constant light conditions.  Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. Vol. 47, (11) 5132-5136