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Understanding the transcriptional changes that may lead to complications of posterior vitreous detachment in the eye.

Project Description

Cellular changes to the membrane surrounding the vitreous body are observed in patients with detachment of the vitreous body from the retina, which can be a precursor to retinal detachment or tearing. Little is known about changes in gene expression that may underlie or act as a precursor to this condition. This project aims to investigate the biological and molecular basis of this process. The project will involve collection of samples from healthy and pathologically abnormal tissue, isolation of RNA, and comparison of the transcriptome between normal and pathological specimens.

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is common in older individuals, although not an inevitable consequence of aging. However, PVD can be a precursor to more serious conditions, such as retinal detachment and retinal tears. Retinal detachment also occurs at a higher rate and earlier age of onset in patients with Stickler Syndrome, a genetic disorder characterised by defects in collagen. Histological samples show cells in the vitreous body membrane which are present at low density in normal samples, but at higher density in patients who have PVD. In conjunction with an increase in cell density, the vitreous membrane appears to deform. It is not known whether transcriptional changes are associated with this cellular proliferation and/or directly related to the occurrence of PVD and progression to retinal detachment or retinal tearing.

The project involves a genomics approach to analyse samples from normal individuals and patients with age-related PVD or PVD in the presence of Sickler syndrome. The candidate will develop strong skills in genomics including next generation sequencing and analysis of large data sets using computational biology and detailed interrogation of both coding and non-coding gene-expression changes.

This project would particularly suit candidates with some prior experience of both molecular biology and computation and those with an interest in clinical translational research.

Funding Notes

Funding* will cover the student’s stipend at the current Research Council rate and University Fees. The studentship will be funded for three years in the first instance subject to eligibility, with the possibility of additional funding in the fourth year depending on circumstances.

*The studentships are available to students who qualify for Home/EU fees

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