Q & A with Dr. Debora Nickla

Dr. Nickla is an instructor of record for the courses Cell Biology, Histology, and Ocular Anatomy. She joined the faculty as a research associate in 1996, shortly after being recruited to work in the college’s Myopia Research Center. Dr. Nickla explains her latest research investigations and how these areas of focus are impacting the field of optometry.

NECO: What are your areas of research?

DN: My interest is in the visual regulation of eye growth, using the chicken model. They are one of the first models for myopia research. I study pharmacological questions (drugs; signal molecules) as well as influences of visual parameters on ocular rhythms. 

NECO: What are you currently working on?

DN: My main focus is on how disruptions in circadian rhythms might influence eye growth. This relates to light at night, and blue light in the morning or evening. I am particularly interested in how the choroid is involved in eye growth regulation. Together with collaborators at University of Pennsylvania and Emory, I am looking at the involvement of clock gene alterations in ametropias. 

NECO: What inspired you to look into this area?

DN: I am a member of IDA (International Dark Sky Association), and am concerned about how light at night affects animals (migration etc.) and human health. I was one of the first to show how ocular rhythms are altered in eyes developing myopia. 

NECO: What impact will your research have on optometry?

DN: This is evolving. Perhaps it will involve the recommendation of blue-blocking lenses for children at risk of becoming myopic. The knowledge that light at night may have deleterious consequences on ocular health. 

NECO: Why is this impact important?

DN: Myopia is reaching epidemic proportions in the developed world.