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University of Utah's M.E. Hartnett Presents on ROP at ARVO

The University of Utah's M.E. Hartnett, M.D., has a full calendar at this week's Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting in Orlando. She is organizing and moderating a cross-disciplinary symposium that addresses retinopathy of prematurity: the epidemiology, environmental effects from oxygen and nutrition, stem cell studies on repair of injured vessels and clinical treatments. She is also chairing an ethics committee on vulnerable populations in clinical research.

She helped put together a program for retinal cell biology this year and assumes the role of chair for that program next year for ARVO. She is presenting a talk to a special interest group at the meeting on the blood retinal barrier in retinal pigment epithelium and how reactive oxygen species can reduce the integrity of the barrier in diseases like macular degeneration (AMD).


Plus, her lab has a poster and paper presentation — one on work using a gene therapy strategy to target pathways in retinopathy of prematurity and the other to target pathways in macular degeneration.

Hartnett a vitreoretinal surgeon, who treats and manages adult and pediatric retinal cases, has worked at the University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center since 2010. Her clinical interests include vitreoretinal surgical diseases, including retinopathy of prematurity, or abnormal blood vessel development in the eye of a premature baby; pediatric vitreoretinopathies; trauma; retinal detachments; and diabetic eye disease. She also has a special interest in AMD.

She stopped for a minute to talk about why she enjoys ARVO and one of the presentations she'll be giving.

Q: You have many active roles in ARVO. What do you like about the organization and its annual meeting in particular?

A: I enjoy the collegiality of ARVO and the opportunity to learn about other areas of the eye in a cross-disciplinary fashion. I like the opportunities for leadership and to support clinician scientists and collaborative efforts between scientists and clinicians in improving patient outcomes.

Q: You'll be discussing, among other issues, retinopathy of prematurity. For people who might not be familiar with this topic, how would you describe the issue?

A: Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide and is increasing as emerging countries develop technology to save preterm infants but lack resources to provide optimal care.

In the U.S., about 14 percent of childhood blindness is attributed to ROP and estimates are higher for some other developing countries around the world. ROP is characterized by two phases based on clinical observations and animal models.

Treatment options are continuing to be researched and advanced.

Q: Why is ROP a hot topic right now?

A: ROP is increasing in developing countries. Larger and older babies are getting ROP because countries either don't have the technology or resources to regulate oxygen. The development of better treatment options could result in a healthier population around the world.

Learn more about Dr. Hartnett's work in this interview with University of Utah John A. Moran Eye Center CEO Randall J. Olson, who speaks about her important contributions here: