As a member of the medical scientist training program (MSTP) at Baylor College of Medicine, my Ph.D. thesis focused on the molecular genetics of eye development. This research led to a number of publications and awards, and also inspired me to pursue a residency in ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and a fellowship in glaucoma at Baylor College of Medicine. During my training I have remained steadfastly committed to a career as a clinician scientist, and plan to continue along this path. My immediate professional goal is to develop a new basic research skill set in retinal neurophysiology which, along with my prior training in genetics and molecular biology, can be used to better understand the fundamental changes to the retina that occur in mouse models of human glaucoma. This training and research will be conducted as a tenure-track faculty member of the Department of Ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine, under the close supervision of my chosen mentor, Samuel M. Wu, Ph.D. I have the support of our chairman, Dan B. Jones, M.D. who has provided laboratory space, financial support, and full access to departmental resources including an NEI Core Grant for Vision Research. During the proposed period of the award, I will enhance and extend my training as a scientist, merge my own expertise in genetics with Dr. Wu's knowledge of retinal physiology, and become a unique and independent investigator. I will begin a clinical ophthalmology practice focused on the management of glaucoma, linking my research and clinical interests. My long-term professional goal is to become and an independent investigator whose research program is focused on describing mechanisms of glaucoma disease. I hope to use this new information to develop insightful new translational applications that enhance our ability to diagnose and treat glaucoma. My research project will focus on the effects of intraocular pressure (IOP) elevation in mice. Preliminary data suggest that when IOP is elevated in mice, both retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and AII amacrine cells (AIIACs) have diminished light responses before any RGC structural changes are observed, and that AIIAC disturbances may occur because of abnormal rod-mediated signaling. The observed changes in these assays of retinal cell function may underlie the early visual disturbances seen in glaucoma. Using mouse models of elevated IOP, I plan to establish a timeline of RGC death, RGC light responses, and visual function through a combination of immunohistochemical techniques, single-cell voltage clamping, multi- electrode arrays which allow for sampling of multiple RGCs simultaneously, and an optomotor system that allows for the reliable non-invasive assessment of both visual acuity and contrast sensitivity in living mice. I will also test the hypothesis that AIIAC dysfunction occurs via abnormal rod-mediated signaling with similar techniques, augmented with pharmacologic tools and knockout mouse strains.

Public Health Relevance

Glaucoma is a leading cause of progressive, irreversible blindness. This proposal will study changes that occur in the retina of mice with experimentally induced glaucoma. This project has the potential to directly impact our understanding of human disease, as well as provide insights regarding new potential treatments and diagnostics for glaucoma.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Clinical Investigator Award (CIA) (K08)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZEY1-VSN (10))
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Agarwal, Neeraj
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Baylor College of Medicine
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van der Heijden, Meike E; Shah, Priya; Cowan, Cameron S et al. (2016) Effects of Chronic and Acute Intraocular Pressure Elevation on Scotopic and Photopic Contrast Sensitivity in Mice. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 57:3077-87
Khan, A Kareem; Tse, Dennis Y; van der Heijden, Meike E et al. (2015) Prolonged elevation of intraocular pressure results in retinal ganglion cell loss and abnormal retinal function in mice. Exp Eye Res 130:29-37
Pang, Ji-Jie; Frankfort, Benjamin J; Gross, Ronald L et al. (2015) Elevated intraocular pressure decreases response sensitivity of inner retinal neurons in experimental glaucoma mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:2593-8
Nusbaum, Derek M; Wu, Samuel M; Frankfort, Benjamin J (2015) Elevated intracranial pressure causes optic nerve and retinal ganglion cell degeneration in mice. Exp Eye Res 136:38-44
Frankfort, Benjamin J; Khan, A Kareem; Tse, Dennis Y et al. (2013) Elevated intraocular pressure causes inner retinal dysfunction before cell loss in a mouse model of experimental glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 54:762-70
Butler, Michelle R; Prospero Ponce, Claudia M; Weinstock, Y Etan et al. (2013) Topical silver nanoparticles result in improved bleb function by increasing filtration and reducing fibrosis in a rabbit model of filtration surgery. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 54:4982-90