Richard “Steve” Brush

Research Instructor, Department of Ophthalmology
Systems Manager, Lipid Core Facility

Special Interests

  • Lipid Biochemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry/Mass Spectrometry
  • Lipids in Macular Degeneration/STGD3
  • Lipid Metabolism in Male Infertility
  • Lipids in Skin Disorders
  • Lipids in Spinocerebellar Ataxia
  • Very Long Chain Fatty Acids
  • Elovl4


  • BS: Chemistry (magna cum laude), University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK
  • MBA: University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
Richard “Steve” Brush

Research Summary

Richard Brush’s primary research interests involve utilizing various analytical technologies and approaches to study lipid metabolic changes associated with a number of diseases and conditions, primarily through the use of mass spectrometry. His long-term research interests are in understanding the role of lipids in the health and diseases of the central nervous system with particular interest in retina, brain, skin, and sperm/testis lipid metabolism. 

One thing all of these tissues have in common are the presence of Very Long Chain Fatty Acids (VLC-FA). VLC-FA (>26 carbons) are essential for life. They are either saturated (VLC-SFA) or polyunsaturated (VLC-PUFA). Complete deletion in humans of the enzyme (ELOVL4) that synthesizes VLC-FA has devastating consequences, including mental retardation, seizures, erythrokeratodermia, and early death. Heterozygous inheritance of different ELOVL4 mutations leads to Stargardt-like macular dystrophy (STGD3) or spinocerebellar ataxia-34 (SCA34). 

We hypothesize that the loss/reduction of VLC-SFA in skin and brain leads to dehydration (dry skin) as well as seizures and gait disturbances (SCA34), respectively. In addition, we have shown that the loss/reduction of VLC-PUFA in retina and testis leads to macular degeneration and male infertility, respectively. Our aim is to study the underlying mechanisms regarding these VLC-FA and their contribution to these associated conditions. 

Long term, our goal is to treat these human diseases/conditions with VLC-FA by oral and/or topical supplementation. Brush, along with two of his colleagues, have an issued U.S. Patent (8,021,874) for the biological synthesis of VLC-PUFA, which they aim to develop into a means of generating large-scale amounts of VLC-PUFA for human clinical trials.