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Research Focus

Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD, is the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health-funded laboratory that studies mechanisms of normal and aberrant angiogenesis, particularly related to diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity, and age-related macular degeneration.

Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD.

Studying How Blood Vessels Grow

The mission of the laboratory is to understand what causes blood vessels to grow outside their normal tissue compartments and into other areas of the eye where they cause damage, and then to determine safe mechanisms to restore the normal state of the vasculature.

Rather than inhibit or destroy abnormal vessels, the goal is to understand what stimulates endothelial cells of blood vessels to become activated to migrate and proliferate aberrantly, and once this is known, to then restore or contain blood vessel support to normal ocular compartments.

Delivering Top Care, Conducting Critical Research

Dr. Harnett holds the Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Presidential Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Utah, and an Adjunct Professor of Neurobiology and of Pediatrics. Dr. Hartnett is Director of Pediatric Retina at the John A. Moran Eye Center and Principal Investigator of the Retinal Angiogenesis Laboratory.

As Director of Moran's Pediatric Retina Center, Dr. Hartnett is one of a few pediatric retina specialists internationally trained to diagnose and treat pediatric retina disorders, which disrupt the healthy development of the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. There are dozens of conditions that cause retinal blindness in infants and children, but most of them are rare. She is one of only a handful of pediatric retina specialists in the United States offering complete care for these challenging conditions.

Her mission is to deliver the best possible care and education while conducting critical research to make future advances in pediatric retina care possible. She performs surgery at both the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah and the Moran Eye Center at Primary Children's Hospital.

She created the first-ever academic textbook on the subject, Pediatric Retina, currently in the third edition with video capability for surgical procedures, which has proven to be an invaluable resource for residents and ophthalmologists internationally. She is a director of the Advances in Pediatric Retina meeting held every two years, most recently in Utah in 2019 and virtually in 2021, serving to provide training in established and new methods to manage pediatric retinal conditions and to incite collaborations in research in pediatric retina.

In the News

Research Award

The University of Utah has selected John A. Moran Eye Center surgeon-scientist Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD, to receive its prestigious Distinguished Research Award.

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ROP Treatment Advances

Newly published research from a team including the Harnett Laboratory details a different approach to treating premature infants at risk for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)—the leading cause of childhood vision loss and blindness.

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Exploring Treatment-Resistant AMD

Research from the laboratory of Moran Eye Center physician-scientist Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD, reveals how an oxidized form of cholesterol can change choroidal endothelial cells into cells that become scars and may wreak havoc in the eyes of age-related macular degeneration patients.

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Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology

The Ophthalmologist has named the John A. Moran Eye Center’s Kathleen B. Digre, Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, and Liliana Werner to its 2021 Power List of the Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology.

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Potential Hormone Treatment

The Hartnett Lab continues to shed new light on the potential of the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) to treat eye disease. EPO increases red blood cell production, and is already used clinically to treat anemia. More recently, EPO is being recognized for other properties, including blood vessel growth and neuroprotection, making it a potential treatment for diabetic retinopathy.

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Sight-Saving Care, Just in Time

Aidan’s retinopathy of prematurity was becoming more severe, but the delicate surgical and laser treatments that could possibly save the young boy's vision weren’t available in his home of Trinidad and Tobago. Physicians referred the family to Moran’s pediatric retinal specialist, Mary Elizabeth Hartnett, MD.

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Lab Resources

Principal Investigator

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How Research Helps Patients

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Lab Members

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