Seungil Ro, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Headshot of Seungil Ro


  • 2019-present Director, Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology Graduate Program
  • 2015-present Associate Professor, Physiology & Cell biology
  • 2007-2015 Assistant Professor, Physiology & Cell biology
  • 2004-2007 Research Assistant Professor, Physiology & Cell biology
  • 2003-2004 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Physiology & Cell biology, UNR

Research interests

My research interests are focused on elucidating the roles of microRNAs (miRNAs) that control diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, gut neuromuscular disorders, and COVID-19. We have identified anti-diabetic miRNAs (Singh R and Ha S et al, Gastroenterology 2021; PCT Int’l Patent WO/2020/219872), which have a prolonged effect on diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease, and gut dysmotility in animal models. The miRNAs also have been shown to prevent the onset of diabetes and obesity in animal models. Our research suggests miRNAs prevent the onset of diabetes in young and healthy individuals, but aging, poor diet and/or lack of exercise reduce the expression of the anti-diabetic miRNAs, triggering the development of these diseases. Restoring the miRNAs remarkably reverses diabetes by recovering the function of beta cells, adipocytes, and skeletal muscle (insulin production and sensitivity) in animal models. In addition, the miRNAs dramatically reverse obesity, fatty liver disease (steatosis and fibrosis), and dysmotility in the GI tract.

Furthermore, we identified anti-coronavirus miRNAs that are depleted in COVID-19 patients. The miRNAs target all members of the human α and β coronavirus family including SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 have multiple target sites on key viral proteins including RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase and the Spike protein. All the target sites are conserved in the seven SARS-CoV-2 variants including delta and omicron. The miRNAs target the RNA genome and subgenomic RNAs to reduce replication and protein synthesis. In addition, the miRNAs reduce expression of proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNFα as well as IL-6R by targeting their transcription factors ATF6 and E2F3.

When patients with diabetes and/or obesity are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the severity and fatality of COVID-19 symptoms is drastically increased. Using anti-diabetic miRNAs, anti-coronavirus miRNAs, and mouse models with diabetes and/or COVID-19, we are performing preclinical studies to develop therapeutic approaches to treat these diseases.

We launched a biotech startup company “RosVivo Therapeutics Inc” in March, 2021. RosVivo has received Series A funding and is working with leading global biopharma companies specializing in diabetes care to develop therapeutic miRNAs that can prevent and rescue these diseases. 

Selected publications

*Equally contributed


  • Ro S and Ewing NN. Promoter of the tomato expansion gene LeExp-1. U.S. Patent number 6,340,748, Issued January 22, 2002
  • Ro S. MiR-10 mimic and targets thereof for use in the treatment of diabetes and gastrointestinal motility disorders. U.S. Patent, provisional, 2019 

Technology Transfer

  • Ro S, Yan W and Sanders KM. Transgenic line B6.129S7- Kittm1Rosan/J transferred to The Jackson Laboratory. STOCK#15813, 2011 
  • Smooth Muscle Genome/Transcriptome/Methylome Databases
    • The databases are available.
    • UCSC Smooth Muscle Genome Browser: The UCSC Smooth Muscle Genome Browser is an interactive browser that was built with custom tracks of transcriptomes from intestinal smooth muscle, mucosa, as well as sorted cells (SMC, ICC, and PDGFRα+ cells) including CArGome [serum response factor (SRF) binding sites] reference sites. This browser provides a comprehensive reference for all transcriptional variants expressed in the cell populations, GI tissues, and genome-wide SRF binding sites. The browser can also interact with the genome bioinformatics (e.g. ENCODE) data publically available in the UCSC Genome Browser.
  • Smooth Muscle Transcriptome Browser: The Transcriptome Browser offers genome-wide genetic references that bring new insight into genetic structures, expression profiles, and isoforms of each individual gene expressed in the key cell populations for functional studies.
  • UCSC Smooth Muscle Methylome Browser: The UCSC Smooth Muscle Methylome Browser is an interactive browser that was built with custom tracks representing the methylome and transcriptome of Dnmt1-WT and Dnmt1-KO murine jejunal smooth muscle. This browser provides a comprehensive reference for genomic DNA methylation status at CpG sites in Dnmt1-WT and Dnmt1-KO. The browser can also interact with the genome bioinformatics (e.g. ENCODE) data publically available in the UCSC Genome Browser.

Principal lab members

  • Se Eun Ha PhD, Research Assistant Professor
  • Rajan Singh, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • Lai (Lisa) Wei PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • Brian Jorgensen, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • Byungchang Jin, Graduate Student (CMB)
  • Hannah Zogg, Graduate Student (CMB)
  • Allison Bartlett, Graduate Student (CMPP)
  • Ga-in Beak, Graduate Student (Wonkang University, South Korea)
  • Sandra Poudrier, Lab Manager (SRA II)

Other lab members

Medical students volunteers (2019)

  • Brooke Clemmensen
  • Robert Gullickson
  • Denise Julian
  • Charles Ronkon

Undergraduate thesis students and volunteers (2019)

  • Mirabel Dafinone, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2016- present)
  • Yixin Huang, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2019-present)
  • Evan Lipschultz, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Kaitlyn Solomon, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2017-2019)
  • Marielle Tedlos Chemistry with Premed emphasis (2019-present)


Medical students

Block 1: Foundations and Principles of Medical Sciences, CELL BIOL: Protein Synthesis, Modifications & Targeting, Molecular Biology and Forensics, Cell Renewal, Cell Death & Apoptosis

Graduate students

  • BCH 705: Translation, Using the Genetic Code, Molecular Genetics, Regulatory RNAs, and Epigenetic Effects
  • CMPP794 Journal Club:  Gastrointestinal motility disorders and related metabolic diseases
  • PCB 711: Genetic methods of physiological experimentation

Undergraduate students

  • BIO298, 491, 492 Independent Study
  • BCH 407/408 Senior Thesis



  • Ph.D., Cell & Molecular Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, 2002
  • M.S., Biological Sciences, California State University, Sacramento, 1999
  • M.S., Molecular Biology, Wonkwang University, Korea, 1994
  • B.S., Molecular Biology, Wonkwang University, Korea, 1992