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Donald Mutti, OD, PhD

Award Name Pilot and Collaborative Studies Award
Award Date 12/01/2011


Harnessing time outdoors: environmental correlates of plasma vitamin D

photo credit: Robin Hecker

The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science awarded Donald Mutti, OD, PhD, with a pilot award for his research involving refractive error development and myopia, which he has studied for more than 20 years.

Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, has long been believed to have a correlation with the environment. 

Many people think that excessive amounts of reading and watching too much television can cause myopia in children. Mutti, however, found that this is not the case; rather, myopia is a function of spending too much time inside instead of outdoors. The more time spent outside, the lower the chances of developing myopia. 

“There is brighter visible light outside. Even on a cloudy day, there is more visible light outside than there is inside,” Mutti said. The visible light outside stimulates a release of dopamine from the retina that may slow how fast the eye grows. A myopic eye is a long eye, and dopamine inhibits eye growth. 

Mutti aims to figure out why being outside is so beneficial to eye development. 

With the pilot grant, he was able to obtain and use devices that can monitor how study participants spend their time outside. About 60 adults were given monitors with timers, clocks and sensors that detect levels of personal exposure to UV and visible light. Levels of vitamin D are also being measured via blood samples.

At this time, Mutti continues to pilot and collect data, comparing myopic and normal adults to see if there are any differences. In the future, he aims to use these findings as pilot data to support a grant application to the National Eye Institute so he can study the phenomenon in children. 

“The pilot award really jumpstarted this kind of work for me,” Mutti said. “I now have the evidence and tools I need to pursue these ideas in another (larger) grant.”

By Kasasha Arum, July 17, 2014

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