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Bioengineering a model of the outer blood retinal barrier to test treatments for diabetic retinopathy

Project Description

Research project: This studentship aims to engineer and qualify a model of a diabetic outer blood-retinal barrier. The model will be used to study the behaviour of nanomedicines in this part of the eye. Diabetic eye diseases can lead to sight loss, reducing quality of life and economic opportunities of those affected. Current treatments are costly, inconvenient to patients and carry the risk of complications. Nanomedicines have significant potential to achieve sustained, controlled delivery of drugs to treat diabetic eye diseases, which often lead to sight loss. Development of clinically relevant laboratory models of the diabetic retina will help accelerate the design and translation of new treatments, which, given the large number of diabetics, will help them maintain functional vision.

The student will work across the Departments of Eye and Vision Science and Chemistry, developing a wide range of bioengineering and chemistry skills. They will engineer a model of the diabetic outer blood-retinal barrier, determine that the model is able to reproduce certain published characteristics important in the response to drugs in a diabetic environment, then use the model to study the behaviour of nanomedicines designed for intravitreal use. They will join a cross-faculty team of researchers working on the development of nanomedicines for use in the eye and development of laboratory and computer models to accelerate their development. The student will benefit from clinical supervision and patient interaction, which will maintain clinical relevance throughout the studentship. They will also collaborate with an industrial partner to gain additional technical and commercial skills, and network with other researchers developing disease models.

For more details on the research project please contact the supervisors:

Dr Victoria Kearns, Department of Eye and Vision Science
Dr Hannah Levis, Department of Eye and Vision Science
Dr Tom McDonald, Department of Chemistry

Fourth supervisor: Mr Ian Pearce, Clinical Eye Research Centre (CERC), St Paul’s Eye Unit

Please apply by sending CV and letter of application to Ms Diane Ashton

Training: The University of Liverpool is setting up a Doctoral Network in Technologies for Healthy Ageing to train the next generation of physical scientists and engineers to develop novel technologies and devices to address the challenges faced by older people and our clinical colleagues who work with them. It is structured around three healthy ageing challenges; prolonging independence, maintaining wellness and accelerating recovery.

All students will undertake a specific training programme in conjunction with their research project. A range of training modules have been designed to provide the student cohort with the high levels of scientific knowledge and engineering expertise needed for research and development of devices and technologies appropriate for the Healthy Ageing agenda. Through this approach our students will learn skills that will provide them with a unique advantage to develop technologies appropriate for this community and significantly enhance their employability in this emerging field. At the start of the programme students will have a masterclass session with a consultant in clinical geriatric medicine, a therapist and a social worker to introduce them to the challenges of the older person in the community through case studies. Each student will spend a week with a Consultant Geriatrician in clinics and community visits. This clinician will remain in contact with the student throughout their PhD in the role of a mentor to maintain the interface between their projects and the healthcare challenges. Innovative training sessions will ensure the training and research is grounded in real world challenges and have been constructed to provide Essential Transferable Skills and Subject Broadening Skills. The student will be a member of the Liverpool Doctoral College which provides further training opportunities over all three years of the PGR programme, and includes Inductions (general and safety), E-learning (e.g. Good Research Practice), seminars (presenting as well as attending), outreach opportunities and journal clubs.

Funding Notes

Studentships will be funded for 3.5 years covering the home fees and typical Research Council stipend.
Research Council Doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees for 2019
• National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2019/20 is £15,009
• Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2019/20 is £4,327

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