Jessica I.W. Morgan, Ph.D.

faculty photo
Carolyn F. Jones Associate Professor in Ophthalmology II
Department: Ophthalmology
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
3400 Civic Center Blvd.
Ophthalmology 3rd floor WEST 3-112W
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6100
Office: 215-614-4196
BS (Physics with honors)
Wake Forest University, 2002.
BA (Mathematics with honors)
Wake Forest University, 2002.
MS (Optical Engineering)
University of Rochester, 2005.
PhD (Optical Engineering)
University of Rochester, 2008.
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Description of Research Expertise

Of all of our senses, we rely on vision to provide timely and accurate information so that we can interact with our environment. Visual experience begins when light enters the eye and is focused by the cornea and lens onto the retina. Cone and rod photoreceptors (the primary light sensitive cells in the retina) capture this light and initiate phototransduction, thereby transforming the retinal image to electrical signals that are then relayed from the eye to the brain. The photoreceptors are thus crucial for vision, and diseases that interrupt their function cause blindness. Such diseases include age-related macular degeneration along with most of the more than 220 different types of inherited retinal degenerations. Thus, understanding the structure and function of the photoreceptors and the mechanisms through which they degenerate is critical for developing treatments for blinding conditions.

Dr. Morgan’s laboratory investigates the structure and function of individual photoreceptors in the living human retina, noninvasively. To do this, the lab uses numerous high-resolution retinal imaging techniques, the primary technique being adaptive optics in combination with scanning light ophthalmoscopy (AOSLO). Adaptive optics ophthalmoscopy involves measuring the optical aberrations of a person’s eye and compensating for those aberrations through use of a wavefront corrector such as a deformable mirror. This enables diffraction-limited imaging through the dilated eye, and enables visualization of the cone and rod photoreceptor mosaic noninvasively.

One goal of the Morgan lab is to use AOSLO to image photoreceptor structure and thereby characterize photoreceptor phenotypes and investigate the mechanisms of photoreceptor degeneration in inherited retinal diseases as compared with normal sighted individuals. For example, Dr. Morgan’s team has shown that patients with Choroideremia can retain normal cone density at many retinal locations while other locations exhibit reduced cone density. Choroideremia patients’ cones also showed abnormal morphology; cones were enlarged and the mosaic displayed abnormal reflectance throughout the mosaic. Dr. Morgan’s team continues to study the presentation and progression of photoreceptor degeneration in Choroideremia, and in other inherited retinal degenerations.

A second goal of the Morgan lab is to evaluate the safety and efficacy of therapeutic approaches for restoring vision in retinal degenerations. Recently, Dr. Morgan's team demonstrated that cone mosaic integrity and cone photoreceptor density are maintained one-month following subretinal injection of AAV2-hCHM gene augmentation for choroideremia providing evidence in support of the safety of this therapeutic approach. The group continues to evaluate cellular responses to gene therapy in choroideremia and achromatopsia caused by CNGA3 and CNGB3 genes, and in RPE65-mediated retinal disease.

A third goal of the Morgan lab is to investigate individual photoreceptor function. Standard tests of visual system function evaluate vision on a significantly coarser scale than that which is routinely used for structural imaging. However, by incorporating functional testing protocols through the AOSLO imaging system, the lab is able to study photoreceptor function at the same resolution with which they image. The functional protocols in use include: 1) testing sensitivity thresholds of individual cones and small spots using adaptive optics-guided cellular-scale microperimetry and 2) optoretinography to quantify changes in cone near infrared reflectance in response to visual stimuli.

Students who are interested in joining the lab should contact Dr. Morgan by email and attach an up-to-date CV/resume.

Selected Publications

Xu P, Cooper RF, Jiang YY, Morgan JIW: Parafoveal cone function in choroideremia assessed with adaptive optics optoretinography. Scientific Reports 14(8339), 2024.

Wynne N, Jiang YY, Aleman TS, Morgan JIW.: Foveal Phenotypes in Choroideremia on Adaptive Optics Scanning Light Ophthalmoscopy. Retina 44(4): 659-668, April 2024.

Morgan JIW, Chui TYP, Grieve K.: “Twenty-five years of clinical applications using adaptive optics ophthalmoscopy.” Biomedical Optics Express. 14(1): 387-428, 2023.

Xu P, Jiang YY, Morgan JIW. : Cone Photoreceptor Morphology in Choroideremia Assessed Using Non-confocal Split-detection Adaptive Optics Scanning Light Ophthalmoscopy. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 64(10): 36, 2023.

Warner RL, Brainard DH, Morgan JIW.: “Repeatability and reciprocity of the cone optoretinogram.” Biomedical Optics Express 13(12): 6561-6573, 2022.

Aleman TS, Huckfeldt RM, Serrano LW, Pearson DJ, Vergilio GK, McCague S, Marshall KA, Ashtari M, Doan TM, Weigel-DiFranco CA, Biron BS, Wen XH, Chung DC, Liu E, Ferenchak K, Morgan JIW, Pierce EA, Eliott D, Bennett J, Comander J, Maguire AM.: AAV2-hCHM Subretinal Delivery to the Macula in Choroideremia: Two Year Interim Results of an Ongoing Phase I/II Gene Therapy Trial. Ophthalmology June 2022 Notes: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2022.06.006.

Chen M, Jiang YY, Gee JC, Brainard DH, Morgan JIW.: Automated Assessment of Photoreceptor Visibility in Adaptive Optics Split-Detection Images Using Edge Detection. Translational Vision Science & Technology 11: 25, May 2022 Notes: DOI: 10.1167/tvst.11.5.25.

Morgan JIW, Jiang YY, Vergilio GK, Serrano LW, Pearson DJ, Bennett J, Maguire AM, Aleman TS.: Short-term Assessment of Subfoveal Injection of Adeno-Associated Virus-Mediated hCHM Gene Augmentation in Choroideremia Using Adaptive Optics Ophthalmoscopy. JAMA Ophthalmology 140: 411-420, April 2022 Notes: DOI: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2022.0158.

Cooper RF, Brainard DH, Morgan JIW. : Optoretinography of individual human cone photoreceptors. Opt Express. 28(26): 39326-39339, Dec 2020 Notes: doi: 10.1364/OE.409193.

Morgan JIW, Chen M, Huang AM, Jiang YY, Cooper RF. : Cone Identification in Choroideremia: Repeatability, Reliability, and Automation Through Use of a Convolutional Neural Network. Transl Vis Sci Technol. 9(2): 40, July 2020 Notes: doi: 10.1167/tvst.9.2.40.

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Last updated: 05/30/2024
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