Matthew M. Harper, PhD

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Contact Information

Bldg 42 VAMC
Iowa City, IA 52242


BS, Biology, Iowa State University
PhD, Neuroscience Graduate Program, Iowa State University
Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuroscience, Iowa State University

Center, Program and Institute Affiliations

Institute for Vision Research

Research Summary

My area of expertise is evaluation of retinal functional and structural outcomes in rodent models of damage and disease. The current focus of my research program is to examine the effects of traumatic brain injury on the visual system. Our research team has chosen to examine the visual system because of its highly accessible nature and the ability to examine retinal structure and function over time. Similarly, the retina offers a unique system to carefully examine the effects of diabetes over time.

The most recent focus on my research program addresses the identification and treatment of traumatic brain injury. Specifically, we have found that retinal ganglion cells in the eye are highly susceptible to blast-mediated traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that this population of cells undergoes a temporally bimodal period of neurodegeneration, with a latent period of functional recovery. Our research team has also identified a novel drug, P7C3-S243, capable of neuroprotection of the brain and the eye after blast-mediated TBI.

Another major area of publication has been the structural and functional analysis of the visual system in normal and diseased animals. The studies that I have been involved with include the assessment of retinal ganglion cell function using pattern electroretinography, optical coherence tomography, intraocular pressure assessment and fluorescein angiography in rodent and canine models of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. I have also worked with teams to develop new ways to analyze optical coherence tomography scans from glaucomatous animal models. Finally, I have worked with a team to develop a new method of Raman spectroscopy for the analysis of glaucomatous tissue.

Early work that I was involved with included evaluation of stem cell development as a function of integrin attachment to different extracellular matrices, evaluation of neural progenitor cells after transplantation and also within the developing animal, and evaluation of mesenchymal stem cells to produce neurotrophic factors to be used as vectors for treatment of glaucoma and other forms of optic neuropathies.


Hedberg-Buenz, A., Christopher, M. A., Lewis, C. J., Meyer, K. J., Rudd, D. S., Dutca, L. M., Wang, K., Garvin, M. K., Scheetz, T. E., Abràmoff, M. D., Harper, M. M. & Anderson, M. G. (2015). RetFM-J, an ImageJ-based module for automated counting and quantifying features of nuclei in retinal whole-mounts. Experimental eye research. PMID: 26283021.

Shevalye, H., Yorek, M. S., Coppey, L. J., Holmes, A., Harper, M. M., Kardon, R. H. & Yorek, M. A. (2015). Effect of enriching the diet with menhaden oil or daily treatment with resolvin D1 on neuropathy in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes. Journal of neurophysiology, 114(1), 199-208. PMID: 25925322.

Yorek, M. S., Obrosov, A., Shevalye, H., Holmes, A., Harper, M. M., Kardon, R. H. & Yorek, M. A. (2015). Effect of diet-induced obesity or type 1 or type 2 diabetes on corneal nerves and peripheral neuropathy in C57Bl/6J mice. Journal of the peripheral nervous system: JPNS, 20(1), 24-31. PMID: 25858759.

Dutca, L. M., Stasheff, S. F., Hedberg-Buenz, A., Rudd, D. S., Batra, N., Blodi, F. R., Yorek, M. S., Yin, T., Shankar, M., Herlein, J. A., Naidoo, J., Morlock, L., Williams, N., Kardon, R. H., Anderson, M. G., Pieper, A. A. & Harper, M. M. (2014). Early detection of subclinical visual damage after blast-mediated TBI enables prevention of chronic visual deficit by treatment with P7C3-S243. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 55(12), 8330-41. PMID: 25468886.

Yin, T. C., Britt, J. K., De Jesús-Cortés, H., Lu, Y., Genova, R. M., Khan, M. Z., Voorhees, J. R., Shao, J., Katzman, A. C., Huntington, P. J., Wassink, C., McDaniel, L., Newell, E. A., Dutca, L. M., Naidoo, J., Cui, H., Bassuk, A. G., Harper, M. M., McKnight, S. L., Ready, J. M. & Pieper, A. A. (2014). P7C3 neuroprotective chemicals block axonal degeneration and preserve function after traumatic brain injury. Cell reports, 8(6), 1731-40. PMID: 25220467.

Yorek, M. S., Obrosov, A., Shevalye, H., Lupachyk, S., Harper, M. M., Kardon, R. H. & Yorek, M. A. (2014). Effect of glycemic control on corneal nerves and peripheral neuropathy in streptozotocin-induced diabetic C57Bl/6J mice. Journal of the peripheral nervous system: JPNS, 19(3), 205-17. PMID: 25403729.

Harper, M. M. (2014). Author response: Pressure wave dosimetry for "Retinal ganglion cell damage in an experimental rodent model of blast-mediated traumatic brain injury". Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 55(3), 1350-1. PMID: 24603601.

Wang, Q., Grozdanic, S. D., Harper, M. M., Hamouche, K., Hamouche, N., Kecova, H., Lazic, T., Hernandez-Merino, E. & Yu, C. (2013). Detection and characterization of glaucoma-like canine retinal tissues using Raman spectroscopy. Journal of biomedical optics, 18(6), 067008. PMID: 23804216.

Antony, B. J., Abràmoff, M. D., Harper, M. M., Jeong, W., Sohn, E. H., Kwon, Y. H., Kardon, R. & Garvin, M. K. (2013). A combined machine-learning and graph-based framework for the segmentation of retinal surfaces in SD-OCT volumes. Biomedical optics express, 4(12), 2712-28. PMID: 24409375.

Harper, M. M. (2013). Visual Function and its management in mTBI. IN: New Information Learned from experimental blast TBI. Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute Press.

Mohan, K., Harper, M. M., Kecova, H., Ye, E. A., Lazic, T., Sakaguchi, D. S., Kardon, R. H. & Grozdanic, S. D. (2012). Characterization of structure and function of the mouse retina using pattern electroretinography, pupil light reflex, and optical coherence tomography. Veterinary ophthalmology, 15 Suppl 2, 94-104. PMID: 22642927.

Mohan, K., Kecova, H., Hernandez-Merino, E., Kardon, R. H. & Harper, M. M. (2012). Retinal ganglion cell damage in an experimental rodent model of blast-mediated traumatic brain injury. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 54(5), 3340-50. PMID: 23620426.

Harper, M. M., Mohan, K., Kecova, H., Hernandez-Merino, E. & Kardon, R. H. (2012). Experimental blast-mediated TBI results in a biphasic loss of visual function. 5th military vision symposium on Ocular and Vision Injury.

Wang, Q., Grozdanic, S. D., Harper, M. M., Hamouche, N., Kecova, H., Lazic, T. & Yu, C. (2011). Exploring Raman spectroscopy for the evaluation of glaucomatous retinal changes. Journal of Biomedical Optics, 16(10), 107006. PMID: 22029368.

Harper, M. M., Grozdanic, S. D., Blits, B., Kuehn, M. H., Zamzow, D., Buss, J. E., Kardon, R. H. & Sakaguchi, D. S. (2011). Transplantation of BDNF-secreting mesenchymal stem cells provides neuroprotection in chronically hypertensive rat eyes. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 52(7), 4506-15. PMID: 21498611.

Jiang, B., Harper, M. M., Kecova, H., Adamus, G., Kardon, R. H., Grozdanic, S. D. & Kuehn, M. H. (2010). Neuroinflammation in advanced canine glaucoma. Mol Vis, 16, 2092-108. PMID: 21042562.

Grozdanic, S. D., Lazic, T., Kuehn, M. H., Harper, M. M., Kardon, R. H., Kwon, Y. H., Lavik, E. B. & Sakaguchi, D. S. (2010). Exogenous modulation of intrinsic optic nerve neuroprotective activity. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol, 248(8), 1105-16. PMID: 20229104.

Grozdanic, S. D., Kecova, H., Harper, M. M., Nilaweera, W., Kuehn, M. H. & Kardon, R. H. (2010). Functional and structural changes in a canine model of hereditary primary angle-closure glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 51(1), 255-63. PMID: 19661222.

Harper, M. M., Adamson, L., Blits, B., Bunge, M. B., Grozdanic, S. D. & Sakaguchi, D. S. (2009). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor released from engineered mesenchymal stem cells attenuates glutamate- and hydrogen peroxide-mediated death of staurosporine-differentiated RGC-5 cells. Exp Eye Res, 89(4), 538-48. PMID: 19524566.

Harper, M. M., Ye, E. A., Blong, E. A., Jacobson, M. L. & Sakaguchi, D. S. (2009). Integrins contribute to initial morphological development and process outgrowth in rat adult hippocampal progenitor cells. J Mol Neurosci, 40(3), 269-83. PMID: 19499350.

Grozdanic, S. D., Harper, M. M. & Kecova, H. (2008). Antibody-mediated retinopathies in canine patients: mechanism, diagnosis, and treatment modalities. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, 38(2), 361-87. PMID: 18299012.

Sakaguchi, D. S., Hoffelen, S. V., Greenlee, M. H., Harper, M. M. & Au, D. T. (2008). Cell birth and death in the developing retina of the Brazilian opossum, Monodelphis domestica. Brain Res, 1195, 28-42. PMID: 18191114.

Sakaguchi, D. S., Van Hoffelen, S. J., Theusch, E., Parker, E., Orasky, J., Harper, M. M., Benediktsson, A. & Young, M. J. (2004). Transplantation of neural progenitor cells into the developing retina of the Brazilian opossum: an in vivo system for studying stem/progenitor cell plasticity. Dev Neurosci, 26(5-6), 336-45. PMID: 15855762.