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Andrew Hartwick, OD, PhD

Award Name KL2 Award

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Developing a new pupil testing strategy for detecting glaucoma

Andrew Hartwick, OD, PhD, has been awarded a KL2 Career Development Award by the Center for Clinical and Translational Science for his research on flicker sensitivity of retinal ganglion cell photoreceptors. 

Hartwick is developing a new pupil testing strategy for detecting glaucoma. By using a recently discovered cell in the retina, the researchers are hopeful that this new test will identify the blindness-causing disease earlier and more accurately than current tests that rely on human input. The newly discovered cell reacts very slowly to changes in light, which may lead to developing early interventions that can help slow the progression of glaucoma.

“Tests for glaucoma, particularly those that rely on quick exposure to bright light and subjective human observation or feedback, may actually be missing the early signs of glaucoma,” Hartwick said. “By the time someone has detectable symptoms of glaucoma, irreversible damage has likely already occurred. We know there’s probably a lot happening on a microscopic level in the early stages of the disease that we just can’t detect yet.”

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. It disrupts the flow of communication between the eye and the brain when pressure from extra fluid in the eye slowly destroys the optic nerve and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). A rare group of RGCs, called intrinsically photoreceptive RGCs (ipRGCs), were only discovered within the last decade. They represent less than one percent of ganglion cells in the retina, but play a critical role in communicating the presence of light to the brain in ways that affect the sleep cycle and pupil size. 

“We’ve shown that we can isolate the ipRGC response from other photoreceptors in healthy patients and that we can quantify those responses objectively with technology that’s already used in many optometrists’ and ophthalmologists’ offices,” Hartwick said. 

Hartwick is working with his mentor, Karla Zadnik, OD, PHD, on the study. They are hopeful the research could lead to a clinical test that is used in conjunction with the tonometry test, another common in-office test that measures the pressure of the fluid inside the eye. 

Hartwick has made great progress in his research and he submitted and presented his results at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting in May 2013. He has also completed pilot studies on healthy human subjects and has submitted a presentation at the 2013 American Academy of Optometry Meeting in October 2013. 

He anticipates that his clinical project, “Developing and evaluating the effectiveness of the pupil test,” will be finished nine months after recruiting enough study participants.

By Kaileigh Witczak, June 30, 2013

Related Pages

Career Development Program (KL2)
Awardee Profiles

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