Jon F. Watchko, MD

  • Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences

Watchko has a keen interest in the pathobiology of bilirubin-induced brain injury and clinical strategies to prevent kernicterus. His early work focused on unconjugated bilirubin brain uptake and clearance, determination of in vivo neurotoxic central nervous system bilirubin thresholds in the Gunn rat model of acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE) and in human neonates with kernicterus, ipharmacologic neuroprotection against ABE, and bilirubin-induced cerebellar hypoplasia.  More recently he has conducted clinical studies on improving the identification of infants at risk for significant hyperbilirubinemia and bilirubin neurotoxicity.  Watchko is recognized as a world authority on neonatal jaundice, authored more than 200 academic papers, chapters and reviews, and co-edited two books, Neonatal Jaundice (2000) and Care of the Jaundiced Neonate (2012).  He serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics National Hyperbilirubinemia Clinical Practice Subcommittee and is a member of the Society for Pediatric Research, the American Pediatric Society, and the Perinatal Research Society. 

Professional and Scientific Society Memberships

  • American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow, 1985
  • Society for Pediatric Research, 1990
  • American Physiological Society, 1992
  • Midwest Society for Pediatric Research, 1995
  • Perinatal Research Society, 2000
  • American Pediatric Society, 2003
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2017

Education & Training

  • BS, Pre-Medicine, The Pennsylvania State University, 1978
  • MD, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 1980
  • Internship in Pediatrics, Upstate Medical Center, 1980-1981
  • Residency in Pediatrics, Upstate Medical Center, 1981-1983
  • Assistant Chief Resident, Upstate Medical Center, 1982-1983
  • Fellowship in Neonatal and Respiratory Diseases, University of Washington, 1983-1986

Selected Publications

Bhutani VK, Maisels MJ, Schutzman DL, Cuadrado C, Aby JL, Bogen DL, Christensen RD, Watchko JF, Wong RJ, Stevenson DK. Identification of risk for neonatal haemolysis. Acta Paediatr 2018; 107:1350-56.

Watchko JF, Spitzer A, Clark R. Prevalence of Hypoalbuminemia and Elevated Bilirubin/albumin ratios in a Large Cohort of NICU Infants. J Pediatr 2017; 188:280-6

Azzuqa A, Watchko JF. Bilirubin concentrations in jaundiced neonates with conjunctival icterus. J. Pediatr 2015; 167(4):840-4.

Daood MJ, Hoyson M, Watchko JF. Lipid peroxidation is not the primary mechanism of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction in jaundiced Gunn rat pups. Pediatr Res 2012; 72:455-59.

Reay DP, Niizawa G, Watchko JF, Daood MJ, Reay JN, Raggi G, Clemens PR. Effect of NF-ĸB inhibition on AAV9 minidystrophin gene transfer in the mdx mouse. Molecular Med 2012; 18:466-76.

Reay DP, Yang M, Watchko JF, Daood MJ, O’Day TL, Rehman KK, Guttridge DC, Robbins PD, Clemens PR. Systemic delivery of NEMO binding domain/IKK-gamma-inhibitory peptide to young mdx mice improves dystrophic skeletal muscle histopathology. Neurobiol Dis 2011; 43:598-608.

Koppanati BM, Li J, Reay D, Wang B, Daood M, Zheng H, Xiao X, Watchko JF, Clemens PR. Improvement of the mdx mouse dystrophic phenotype by systemic in utero AAV8 delivery of a minidystrophin gene. Gene Therapy 2010; 17:1355-62.

Watchko JF, Lin Z, Clark RH, Kelleher AS, Walker MW, Spitzer AR and Pediatrix Hyperbilirubinemia Study Group. The complex multifactorial nature of significant hyperbilirubinemia in neonates. Pediatrics 124: e868-e877, 2009

Daood MJ, Tsai C, Ahdab-Barmada M, Watchko JF: ABC Transporter (P-gp/ABCB1, MRP1/ABCC1, BCRP/ABCG2) Expression in the Developing Human CNS. Neuropediatrics 39:211-18, 2008. PMCID: PMC2821654

Lin Z, Fontaine J, Watchko JF: Co-expression of gene polymorphisms involved in bilirubin production and metabolism. Pediatrics 122: e156-e162, 2008.

Full Publication List via NIH PubMed »

Research Grants

Novel Anti-Clotting Agents and Detection System for Newborns with Congenital Heart Disease, (PI, 1% effort), 2018-2020, Mario Lemieux Foundation Centers for Patient Care and Research, $150,000