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Development of a three dimensional in vitro model of the human cornea to dissect the inflammatory events associated with sight-threatening ocular pathogens

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Dobson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Principal Supervisor: Dr Curtis Dobson. Co-Supervisors: Dr Bianca Price, Dr Carole Maldonado-Codina, Professor Phil Morgan.

The presence of microbes at the corneal surface may trigger low grade discomfort through to acute eye infection and permanent loss of vision. The molecular events underlying the inflammatory response associated with colonisation of these tissues with specific microbes remain unclear; understanding these events may uncover new targets for pharmaceutical intervention. We will establish and validate a corneal epithelial model system making use of our expertise in collagen gel tissue modelling (enabling us to replicate stromal epithelial tissue), and additionally using corneal epithelial cells cultures (grown as multilayer cultures).

This model will then be exposed to live bacteria and / or bacterial toxins from different bacterial species, and the cellular response assessed by proteomic analysis for production of cytokines and other pro-inflammatory signals. Additionally we will obtain tear samples from the clinic and compare the inflammatory response associated with specific colonising organisms with that uncovered after introduction of the same organisms to our model system.

The model would ultimately be useful in screening novel antimicrobial formulations to tailor activity towards those organisms with the strongest pro-inflammatory effect.

This is an opportunity to work with two award-winning and well-funded University of Manchester research groups, supported by an industry-funded scholarship, on a project with potential to have direct real-world impact.

Funding Notes

AMCo PhD Scholarship - applications are invited for this fully-funded studentship, commencing September 2016 Applications should be submitted online by Friday 5 February 2016.

Applicants must be from within the UK/EU, and the scholarship will cover fees and an annual maintenance stipend for four years. See


Bakkar MM, Hardaker L, March P, Morgan PB, Maldonado-Codina C, Dobson CB. The cellular basis for biocide-induced fluorescein hyperfluorescence in mammalian cell culture. PLoS ONE 2014;9.

Forbes S, McBain AJ, Felton-Smith S, Jowitt TA, Birchenough HL, Dobson CB. Comparative surface antimicrobial properties of synthetic biocides and novel human apolipoprotein E derived antimicrobial peptides. Biomaterials 2013;34:5453–64.

Maldonado-Codina C, Read ML, Efron N, Dobson CB, Morgan PB. Observation of solution-induced corneal staining with fluorescein, rose bengal and lissamine green. Cont Lens Anterior Eye 2013.

Wright EA, Payne KAP, Jowitt TA, Howard M, Morgan PB, Maldonado-Codina C, et al. Preservation of human tear protein structure and function by a novel contact lens multipurpose solution containing protein-stabilizing agents. Eye Contact Lens 2012;38:36–42.

Werthén M, Henriksson L, Jensen PØ, Sternberg C, Givskov M, Bjarnsholt T. An in vitro model of bacterial infections in wounds and other soft tissues. Apmis 2010;118:156–64.

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