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Two research presentations by UAB School of Optometry faculty and students were identified as some of the newest and most innovative topics at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

The presentations are part ARVO’s list of Emerging Trends and Hot Topics, which is compiled by ARVO committee members. The 2017 ARVO Annual Meeting was held May 7-11 in Baltimore, Maryland.

One research presentation labeled as a hot topic explores the role visual environment can play in the development of nearsightedness by examining the effects of narrow-band flickering blue light in young tree shrews, which are animals with good vision that are closely-related to primates, says Timothy Gawne, Ph.D., associate professor at the School of Optometry.

Gawne, Alexander Ward, a graduate student, and Thomas Norton, Ph.D., professor, are authors of the research, entitled, “Wavelength Cues are Essential to Maintain Emmetropia in Tree Shrews.”

“Nearsightedness is not a genetic disorder,” says Norton. “Most children initially develop normal eyesight.”

He says that their research shows it is not just the sharpness of an image but also aspects of color that are essential for a young animal to be able to achieve and maintain good focus.

“By changing the color of ambient light, we can radically increase or decrease the rate of eye growth,” he says. “These results may open the door to someday preventing nearsightedness.”

Another research presentation reports the first clinical use of elastography imaging, which is an emerging technique used to assess the stiffness of tissue, to help diagnose eye diseases like keratoconus, glaucoma and cataract, says Michael Twa, O.D., Ph.D., professor and associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies and the principal investigator of the research.

Gongpu Lan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow, and Alexander Zotov, programmer and analyst for the School of Optometry’s Vision Science Research Center, are the other UAB authors of the research, entitled “Effect of Heartbeat and Respiration on Elastography Measurement Precision.”

The impact of normal physiological movements, such as heartbeat and respiration, on the effectiveness of the technique, were also examined.

“We showed that it is not only possible to determine sub-micron tissue displacements, but that these microscopic displacements during measurements are possible to make with excellent repeatability despite resting eye movements, breathing motion and heart pulsations that can affect the eye position,” Twa says.

Altogether, 26 research presentations were made by School of Optometry faculty and students at the ARVO Annual Meeting, which is the largest gathering of eye and vision researchers in the world. More than 11,000 researchers from more than 75 countries attend the meeting. About 45 percent of attendees are from outside the U.S.