The University of Houston-Victoria is launching a new series — UHV Discovers — to highlight the research conducted by faculty members and share how they are impacting their fields of study.

“The events of the past year and a half have shown the importance of scientific research, and UHV has faculty members who are doing amazing work,” said Joann Olson, UHV associate provost for research and dean of graduate studies. “The university has wanted to offer a free series that showcases the work of our faculty for a while, and now we will be able to show the communities we serve and area industries how research in higher education can impact lives.”

The first UHV Discovers session will feature two presentations about research involving the human eye. Humberto Hernandez, a UHV assistant professor of biology, will give a presentation titled “Dietary Fiber for the Treatment of Ocular Diseases.” It will be followed by a presentation titled “The Use of Mouse Cells for the Study of Ocular Diseases” by UHV student Thanh Le, a sophomore biology major from Victoria.

The presentations will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 in Room 111 of UHV University North, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. It also will be streamed live on Microsoft Teams. The event will be free and open to the public.

Hernandez’s research focuses on finding the underlying cause for eye diseases, especially primary open-angle glaucoma, a disease that causes blindness after a buildup of fluid inside the eye causes damage to a person’s optic nerve. In his research, Hernandez has found a link between the bacteria used in human digestion and the occurrences of glaucoma.

Digestive bacteria produce molecules called short-chain fatty acids when they break down fiber. Patients who have a good balance of bacteria in their digestive systems have a good balance of these fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Hernandez’s research indicates that there is a connection between the health of the gut, or digestive system, and the health of an individual’s eyes.

“For decades, the health of the digestive system has been considered separate from other bodily health and functions,” Hernandez said. “Now, this research shows that a healthy balance of bacteria in a person’s gut can actually protect a patient from diseases in other parts of the body. This could help find new treatments to help patients recover from or even avoid ocular diseases.”

Le’s presentation will focus on how she has assisted in Hernandez’s research by identifying trabecular meshwork cells — eye cells that regulate fluid pressure inside the eye — from mouse eyes. In order to identify the correct cells, Le looked for certain proteins created by the cells. Once the cells were identified, Le and Hernandez could use the cells to test treatments using different molecules.

“Getting the opportunity to be part of this research has been an amazing experience,” Le said. “I get to work in the lab every day, and my work is part of something big that could help people. I’m helping people find ways to treat diseases.”

During the event, Hernandez and Le will give short presentations about their research, and each presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The university plans to hold two UHV Discovers events each semester.

“This is a great opportunity for people to see the important, relevant work that UHV’s faculty members are doing in an up-close and personal way,” Olson said. “These presentations offer a chance for people to gain a little more knowledge about glaucoma and eye diseases and look at a common problem from a perspective they’ve never considered before.”

To learn more about the UHV Discovers series or find a link to attend the session on Microsoft Teams, go to uhv.edu/uhv-discovers.

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