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Research

TERTC is comprised of several research divisions:



Clinical Research Facility

The University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) has developed one of the largest clinical facilities of its kind. The College contains more than 133,000 square feet of health related science and research space and the University Eye Institute maintains seven clinics:


Altogether, our seven clinics serve a diverse population of over 40,000 patients a year. TERTC also has the ability to reach special patient and ethnic populations within the Texas Medic Center (TMC) and the greater Houston metropolitan region. In the clinical setting, we have access to the latest clinical techniques and the most advanced clinical technology. We have the latest corneal topography equipment, video/biomicroscopy camera instruments, confocal microscopy, tear clearance and osmometer.




The TERTC Clinical Research Facility has recently moved into a dedicated space adjacent to the Cornea and Contact Lens Service area of the UHCO University Eye Institute. The new refurbished space will allow TERTC the opportunity to expand its clinical research services. The space includes the TERTC administrative office and five exam rooms. Each room has the latest clinical equipment and were specially designed with consultation from TERTC personnel.



Anatomy and Pathology Laboratory

Since 1976, UHCO has maintained a state-of-the-art histology laboratory housing an electron microscope laboratory with highly trained staff. In 2005, UHCO upgraded the JEOL 100C Transmission Electron Microscope with a new, state of the art instrument (FEI). The laboratory maintains comprehensive and up-to-date auxiliary instrumentation for histological work. Moreover, UHCO has invested in sophisticated computer hardware and software that allows for high-resolution image capture and manipulation in morphometric analysis of tissues.

The UHCO anatomy and Pathology Laboratory, with its research and full-time staff, is recognized globally for the high quality of its work and the research techniques it has developed. The TERTC research in these laboratories covers a broad spectrum of interests ranging from Anatomy, Pathology, and Toxicology.

Currently under way is an ambitious effort involving animal experiments on corneal wound healing and ultraviolet effects on the eye and surrounding tissues. The corneas from these experiments are evaluated histopathologically and quantified morphometrically. Human corneal buttons are also assessed histopathologically on a regular basis for purposes of diagnosis, research, and teaching. TERTC also conducts research in cytotoxicology studies in collaboration with industry. In addition, TERTC has ongoing studies on the ocular adnexa and dermatology.

Confocal Microscopy Laboratory

The ability to analyze the cornea in vivo has been enhanced with the recent acquisition of a ConfoScan3 (Nidek) confocal microscope. Under the guidance of Dr. William L. Miller, a valuable member of TERTC, this instrument allows advanced imaging capabilities not previously available at the College. This instrument is currently only one of two in the Houston area.

The ConfoScan3 is a confocal imaging microscope that can view, magnify, measure and photograph separate layers of the cornea. The parameters of the examination, such as the number of passes and the depth of the scan can be precisely defined. This improved quality of corneal imaging, in micron resolution, allows investigations associated with corneal disorders, effects of surgical alterations and to enhance and develop potential treatments.

This instrument uses the Distance Immersion Principle (DIP), allowing the patients to be evaluated in a non-invasive manner. This allows imaging without direct contact with the cornea. The space between the front lens of the ConfoScan3 and the patient's cornea is filled with an immersion gel. This allows the maintenance of the refractive index, shape of the tissue, and patient comfort during an exam.

Upon completion of an exam, this system provides up to 350 different images to be evaluated. Integrated cell analysis software within the ConfoScan3 can automatically count the cells of the endothelium providing a measure of cell density, polymegethism and other significant statistical data.


This new technological addition will enable clinicians to further evaluate patients who are suspected of having corneal dystrophies, keratoconus, keratitis and trauma. It serves a a useful research toll to follow the effects of contact lenses and corneal surgery. Specifically, it can assess the effect of ophthalmic solutions and/or toxicity on specific corneal entities such as epithelial cells and keratocytes.








Environmental Research

TERTC has a long-standing record in research on ultraviolet radiation (UVR) effects on the ocular and related tissues. Regular measurements of ambient UVR intensities from the roof of the J. Davis Armistead Building provide data from which the protective efficacy of UVR blocking and other contact and ophthalmic lenses can be evaluated. In addition, ocular tissues are examined following UVR exposure in animal experiments.

Recently, studies concerning skin cancer and their relationship to UVR exposure have been undertaken as well. These studies examine human biopsies while also estimating lifetime UVR dosages of individuals. We are also using new technologies to determine the vulnerability of ocular and adjacent facial tissues and their subsequent requirements for UVR protection.


TERTC is fortunate to be joined by two eminent Irish researchers, Dr. James Walsh, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Dr. Judy Harmey, Department of Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons. Dr. Walsh is a physicist and he is the designer of the novel instrumentation we use in our experiments. Dr. Harmey is a cancer researcher, who is collaborating with us in determining the origin of pterygium formations, which may affect as many as 10% of the population.


Industry has provided generous support to TERTC and its commitment to research on the important health issue of biological effect of UVR. We were the first research team that showed that UVR incident tangentially is focused nasally, where pterygia most commonly appear. Previously, this was only a theory. Our next step will be to understand the disease process and corneal invasion with the ultimate goal to stop its progress.


Our research has shown that soft contact lenses uniquely and effectively blocks tangentially incident, and therefore, pterygia stimulating UVR. UVR blocking contact lenses may, therefore, be used proactively to prevent pterygium growth.

Tear Film and Dry Eye Laboratory

Under Construction