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Modelling subretinal injections to improve delivery of treatment for age-related eye diseases


Project Description

Training: The University of Liverpool has set up a Doctoral Training 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. All students will undertake a specific training programme in conjunction with their research project and have the support of a cohort structure.

Research Programme: Subretinal injections are a rapidly developing delivery technique for a variety of innovative advanced ocular therapies used to treat a range of blinding retinal diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, the most prevalent cause of untreatable blindness in the developed world. Several studies have investigated preferred surgical approaches and injection parameters. However, one widely recognised problem that has received little attention is that the direction and area covered by the enlarging bleb are variable and seemingly unpredictable relative to the injection point. This is important as the delivered therapies are typically targeted at specific sites under the retina and, if delivered in the wrong location, will not be effective. There is, therefore, an unmet clinical need to identify the optimum subretinal injection target zone required to deliver the therapy to the desired location.

The retina is known to exhibit complex age-dependent, anisotropic, hyperelastic and viscoelastic biomechanical properties. This studentship will investigate the influence of retinal biomechanics on bleb propagation using computational modelling and clinical data to help optimise subretinal injection parameters. The project would be suited to a candidate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in an engineering discipline (aerospace, biomedical, civil, mechanical or structural), and experience of finite element modelling. Knowledge of soft tissue biomechanics and basics of the coding process, especially for MATLAB, are desirable but not essential.

The student will be supervised by Dr Victoria Kearns, Senior Lecturer in Ocular Biomaterials, with a focus on the development of novel treatments for retinal diseases and models in which to test them, Dr Brendan Geraghty, Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering with expertise in experimental and computational biomechanics, and medical device development, and Dr Ahmed Abass, Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering with expertise in mathematical modelling and medical instrumentation. They will provide training and support in all relevant laboratory and analysis techniques. In addition, clinical input will be provided by Professor David Steel, a consultant ophthalmologist at Sunderland Eye Infirmary.

The project will be hosted in the Department of Eye and Vision Science in the Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences (ILCMS), and the School of Engineering at the University of Liverpool. The University of Liverpool has invested significantly in the area of ophthalmic bioengineering. It provides excellent support to encourage cross-disciplinary research, including access to high specification equipment and extensive experience in collaborating across the interface between physical and biological sciences, and exploitation of this knowledge to drive clinical impact. It has a research eye bank, giving access to human tissue, and has strong links with the medical device and pharmaceutical industries. Research is translational and includes strong links between clinical and non-clinical scientists across the university.

The successful applicant will gain experience in dissemination of scientific knowledge by preparing articles for publication in high impact journals through presenting findings at research conferences. They will also engage with the public and patients in a range of events. Since the project will use anonymised clinical data, the student will also obtain knowledge of ethics and the regulatory framework for using human data in research. As an engineer based within ILCMS, regular access to journal clubs and weekly meetings will provide valuable exposure to working within a multidisciplinary environment. Broader research training will also be provided through the university’s PGR training programme and doctoral training college.

The ILCMS 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.

Enquiries to: Dr Brendan Geraghty () or Dr Victoria Kearns ()
To apply: please send your CV and a covering letter to Luine McRae () with a copy to

Expected interview date/week: in July either in person or virtually if necessary under the current conditions

Funding Notes

This studentship covers:
• University fees for 3 years at UK or EU postgraduate student rates (NOT Overseas), £4,407 for 2020 - 21
• Student stipend for 3.5 years at the recommended UKRI rate, £15,285 for 2020 – 21
• A total of £3500 research costs to cover the whole 3.5 year period of the study

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