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Contribution of mechanical action to the initiation and progression of keratoconus

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  • Full or part time
    Dr B Geraghty
    Mr V Romano
    Dr H Levis
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Keratoconus (KC) is the most prevalent form of idiopathic corneal ectasia and is characterised by progressive thinning and conical protrusion of the cornea. Depending on ethnicity, KC affects up to one in 450 people and is usually diagnosed in young people at puberty, in their late teens or early twenties. KC is considered a multifactorial disorder but is strongly associated with eye rubbing. Although the aetiology and pathology of the disease are still not fully understood, various microstructural differences have been reported in the literature. While these microstructural differences undoubtedly affect the biomechanical behaviour of the tissue, there is currently very little detailed data available related to altered biomechanics in KC. Obtaining detailed knowledge of biomechanical changes in KC would help improve our understanding of the initiation and progression of the disease. The aims of this project are to:
1. Characterise the anisotropic and viscoelastic behaviour of healthy and KC ex vivo corneas;
2. Develop specimen specific computational models to simulate the effect of eye rubbing;
3. Investigate the influence of eye-rubbing and cornea morphology on the progression of KC.

This project would be suited to a candidate with a Bachelor or Master’s degree in an engineering discipline (biomedical, civil, mechanical or structural) and experience of finite element modelling. Knowledge of material characterisation of biological tissue and basics of the coding process, especially for MATLAB and/or LabView, are desirable but not essential.

The work will involve the development of an experimental set up capable of controlling the pressure within ex vivo whole globe eye specimens and monitoring their 3D deformation. Characterisation of biomechanical properties will be achieved through a combination of experimental testing and inverse finite element modelling. The candidate will also gain experience in optical coherence elastography, electron microscopy, data analysis, scientific writing and presenting to peers as well as lay audiences. Guidance will be provided by the supervisors whose backgrounds are in biomedical engineering, ophthalmology and cell biology.

The successful applicant will join the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease working in a £40M purpose-built facility which houses a range of interdisciplinary laboratories. All postgraduate research students (PGRs) undertake formal, personalised training at the University of Liverpool, co-ordinated by the Liverpool Doctoral College. This creates a learning environment that allows all PGRs to enhance their skills for successful research experience and career. You will also be encouraged to attend relevant conferences and apply for conference bursaries and awards, as well as taking part in public engagement activities.

The Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease is fully committed to promoting gender equality in all activities. In recruitment, we emphasize the supportive nature of the working environment and the flexible family support that the University provides. The Institute holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of on-going commitment to ensuring that the Athena SWAN principles are embedded in its activities and strategic initiatives.

Please submit CV and cover letters to Brendan Geraghty [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

The award covers:
• University fees for 3 years at UK or EU postgraduate student rates (NOT Overseas), £4,324 for 2019 - 20
• Student stipend for 3 years at the recommended UKRI rate, £14,999 for 2019 – 20
• A total of £23,400 research costs to cover the whole 3 year period of the study

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