A long and high-pitched “beeeeeep” signals the positioning of an instrument called the adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope, thankfully, AO for short. A patient’s head is gently secured to the instrument, so that a beam of light can bounce off of a series of mirrors and into to the eye.
The AO allows Jason Porter, vision scientist at the UH College of Optometry, to see and correct optical imperfections, so that detail on the cellular level becomes visible. This instrument may be useful in understanding the third leading cause of blindness, Glaucoma.
“There are lots of hypothesis about why the disease occurs and there is a large body of work that shows the initial insults of Glaucoma occur in a structure inside the eye called the ‘lamina cribrosa,'” Porter said.
He and his research team received a nearly 2-million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to study changes in the structure of that sponge-like material in the eye and its connection to glaucoma.
“What we’re interested in doing is try to image this structure with our instrument to see if we can see changes in the lamina cribrosa before we see changes in visual function,” he said.
Porter credits the collaborative nature of the college for securing the NIH grant. His group works closely with Ronald Harwerth, John and Rebecca Moores Professor and chair of the department of basic sciences, Laura Frishman, John and Rebecca Moores Professor and associate dean for graduate research, and Danica Marrelli, a clinical professor and optometric glaucoma specialist.
“Together, we will better understand how this disease is progressing on a cellular level in individuals who are affected, and better understand some of the reasons why diseases in the eye occur.”
Vision Science is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.