This project aims to translate understanding of nature’s exceptionally efficient phototransduction processes in animal retinas to synthetic photo-systems, leading to bio-compatible devices, such as artificial retinas, which do not require external wiring and are capable of restoring lost vision in humans.
Retina cells demonstrate the amazing capability of single-photon detection, pointing at the ability of biological photoreceptors to exhibit quantum mechanical properties at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure, in a rather ‘noisy’ biological environment. In the human retina, photo transduction is an enormously efficient process, involving multi-wavelength photon absorption by rods and cones and signal transfer to ganglion cells towards the optical nerve.
A number of quantum processes have been suggested as possible mechanisms, contributing to the remarkable speed and efficiency of photoisomerization and subsequent signal transduction, including quantum coherence, superposition and tunnelling in retina cells. Mimicking these processes with bio-compatible, synthetic organic molecular systems will provide pathways for a deeper understanding of these processes, as well as paving the way towards both bio-medical vision restoration devices and single-photon bio-detectors operating at room temperature.
The research will use the commercially available retinal molecule as a model photo-sensitive compound, as well as synthetic analogues of different (poly-ene) chain lengths, and polymer nanoparticles, for studies of their photoresponses in simulated bio-environments, and the influence of such environments, through torsional confirmations and nano-confinement, on the shift of peak absorption wavelength of chromophores to match that of human eye rods and cones. The phototransduction effect of human eye retina cell photoresponsive receptor proteins rhodopsins (rods) and iodopsins (cones) bound to retinal will be mimicked by using the photosensitive conjugated molecules in a gel-electrolyte environment, and surface bound to membranes, to induce depolarisation effects to stimulate retina neuron depolarisation. The construction of a full-colour response prosthetic retina ultra-flexible device assembly will be attempted to investigate the feasibility of vision restoration. The study will also suggest strategies for the fabrication of single-photon bio-inspired molecular detectors.
This is a three year project, commencing in October 2020.
BSc/Masters and strong background in either of the disciplines: Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Physics, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Biotechnology, Functional Materials, Condensed Matter, Materials Science, Optical Physics, Organic Chemistry, Experimental Neuroscience, Applied Medical Physics. A deep interest in interdisciplinary research, excellent practical and analytical skills, excellent aptitude for research. IELTS: 6.5 overall, with no lower than 6.0 in each band.
How to apply:
Applications should be sent through the Biosciences and Medicine PhD course page: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/biosciences-and-medicine-phd
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