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EASTBIO Unravelling the normal development of anterior eye structures relevant to glaucoma.

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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Prof L Erskine , Dr Joe Rainger No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


Professor Lynda Erskine (University of Aberdeen)

Dr Joe Rainger (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh)

This project will use state-of-the-art approaches in cell, developmental and molecular biology to provide fundamental new information on the cellular mechanisms driving the development of anterior eye structures and will determine the functional requirement for glaucoma-associated genes in anterior eye development.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) due to an imbalance between aqueous production and resorption is one of the most important risk factors for glaucoma. The aqueous is produced by the ciliary body and drains from the eye primarily via the trabecular meshwork and Schlemm’s canal. These structures are all found in the anterior part of the eye.

Many genes have been associated with predisposition to common, adult-onset forms of glaucoma, but in most cases the mechanistic link between gene mutation and disease is unclear. Although glaucoma is generally associated with aging, many of the candidates are developmental genes. Using a screen to identify genes that regulate the developmental progression of anterior eye structures, we identified recently multiple known glaucoma-associated genes as having potential roles in this process. This suggests that glaucoma genes are important in early eye development and that disruption to these processes and the anterior eye may predispose to disease progression in later life. To test this hypothesis, it is first essential to establish the precise roles of these genes in normal anterior eye development.

The specific aims are to:

1. Determine the spatial-temporal dynamics of anterior eye structure development.

2. Determine the expression patterns of glaucoma-associated genes in the anterior eye at key developmental stages.

3. Determine the functional importance of glaucoma-associated genes for normal eye development.

The project will provide training for the appointed student at both the University of Aberdeen and The Roslin Institute in a wide range of experimental approaches, including fate-mapping using novel transgenic fluorescent-reporter chicken lines, confocal and live-cell imaging, molecular biology (e.g. PCR, gene cloning, gene editing), analyses of gene and protein expression in situ, and in vivo manipulation of genes and signalling pathways. In addition to training in lab specific skills, extensive training in generic and transferrable skills is offered through the EastBIO Programme and University of Aberdeen Graduate School.

Application Procedure:

Please send your completed EASTBIO application form, along with academic transcripts to Alison McLeod at [Email Address Removed]. Two references should be provided by the deadline using the EASTBIO reference form. Please advise your referees to return the reference form to [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition (limited funding is available to provide international tuition fees). Please refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2:1 UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a relevant subject.


Smith, JN, Walker HM, Thompson H, Collinson JM, Vargesson N and Erskine L. (2018). Lens-regualted retinoic acid signalling controls expansion of the developing eye. Development, 145, dev167171.

Trejo-Reveles V, McTeir L, Summers K and Rainger J (2018). An analysis of anterior segment development in the chicken eye. Mech Dev 150, 42-49.

Davey MG, Balic A, Rainger J, Sang HM, McGrew MJ. Illuminating the chicken model through genetic modification (2018) International Journal of Developmental Biology 62, 85-92

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