Raghavendra Rao

Professor, Division Director, Division of Neonatology
Faculty, Department of Pediatrics
Faculty, Center for Neurobehavioral Development
Faculty, Graduate Program in Neuroscience


Raghavendra ("Raghu") Rao, MD is a tenured Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Neonatology. He earned his MD at Mysore University in India. In addition to his postgraduate training in Mangalore and Chandigarh, India, he spent a year in Pediatric Residency at the University of Minnesota before completing his Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship at the University of Minnesota. When not attending on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, Dr. Rao is involved in research on neurodevelopment under normal and adverse perinatal conditions. Dr. Rao's research interests include early life iron deficiency, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia and intraventricular hemorrhage. He utilizes high-field NMR spectroscopy, molecular and histochemical analyses, and metabolomic and proteomic analyses of biofluids in his research. Dr. Rao's research is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Regenerative Medicine Minnesota and Viking Children's Fund. Dr. Rao is also a faculty member of the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain and a Senior Advising Member of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at University of Minnesota.

Research Summary

A major focus of our research is biomarker discovery using proteomic and metabolomic analyses of paired plasma and CSF samples from nonhuman primate infants with early-life iron deficiency. Early-life iron deficiency anemia is associated with long-term neurodevelopmental impairments in human infants and does not respond to iron treatment. Our goal is to discover plasma biomarkers of impending brain dysfunction in the preanemic period that can be used for early treatment of iron deficiency in human infants. This is a collaborative project with researchers from University of Wisconsin Madison and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Our second goal is to develop novel therapeutic strategies for promoting normal brain development in adverse perinatal conditions. In this area, we are investigating umbilical cord stem cell transfusion as treatment for intraventricular hemorrhage in preterm infants, and intranasal insulin administration as treatment for neonatal hyperglycemia and perinatal iron deficiency in animal models. We collaborate with researchers from the Departments of Pediatrics, Cell Therapeutics, Neurosurgery, Psychology and the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota, and Alzheimer's Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul in these studies.

Clinical Summary

Neonatal intensive care, Neurodevelopment


MD/MBBS, Kasturba Medical College, Magalore Mysore University, Karnatka, India

Fellowships, Residencies, and Visiting Engagements

Residency in Pediatrics,
University of Minnesota Medical School
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine,
University of Minnesota Medical School
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States

Licensures and Certifications

Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, American Board of Pediatrics
Pediatrics , American Board of Pediatrics

Honors and Recognition

Founders Award for Outstanding Service to Pediatric Research, Midwest Society for Pediatric Research (2023)
Alexander Jundt Research Award, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota
Innovator in Basic Science Award, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota
Regular Member, NIH Pregnancy and Neonatology Study Section
Minneapolis - St. Paul Magazine "Top Doctor", Minneapolis - St. Paul Magazine



Pediatric Neonatology
Academic Office Building
2450 Riverside Ave S AO-401
Minneapolis, MN 55454