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LIMR Genetics: Investigating the molecular basis of optic nerve degeneration in glaucoma to develop a personalized medicine strategy for treatment


Key facts

Type of research degree
4 year PhD
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (outside UK)
Dr Manir Ali
School of Medicine
Research groups/institutes
Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James's
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

The optic nerve is a special sensory nerve that transmits visual impulses from the retina to the brain. Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG) is a chronic, progressive optic neuropathy of multifactorial origin that affects 1 in 10 elderly individuals. The condition is characterised by an elevated intraocular pressure in the eye that causes irreversible damage to the retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve and can remain undiagnosed for many years, only affecting vision when the damage is quite advanced. An early diagnosis before significant vision loss is essential for treating this preventable condition. Glaucoma shows familial aggregation with its prevalence varying among different ethnic groups indicating that genetic factors play a major role in pathogenesis. Mendelian mutations in myocilin, optineurin and WD-repeat-36 of large effect, and at least 20 genetic loci in different genes contributing small effects, only account for at most 5% of cases suggesting that the underlying genetic cause for the majority of cases remains to be discovered.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>The primary aim of this project will be to identify POAG patients with defined genetic subtypes enriching for patients with a strong family history. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) and whole exome sequencing (WES) of the familial cases will identify coding and non-coding variants both in the known POAG genes, myocilin, optineurin and WD-repeat-36, and in novel genes. These variants will be further studied on neurological tissue or cells to provide functional validation of the genetic findings but specific experiments will be determined by the initial findings. In each case the better understanding of the disease mechanisms in light of the molecular diagnosis will initiate re-examination of the patients, histories compared and best treatment practise for each subgroup inferred. If successful, this approach may also support the development of new therapies for this complex condition.</p> <p>The techniques used in this PhD will include PCR, Sanger sequencing, bioinformatics, analyzing WES and WGS data, functional validation of variants may include expression profiling, spicing mini- and midi-gene assays, protein structural modelling, RNA sequencing, creating knock-out cell models of putative pathogenic variants by CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing and the study of animal models where available.</p> <p><strong>In line with the bespoke nature of our International PhD Academy a modified PhD project can be proposed dependent on students interests and background.</strong></p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Please note these are not standalone projects and applicants must apply to the PhD academy directly.</p> <p>Applications can be made at any time. You should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and attach the following documentation to support your application.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>a full academic CV</li> <li>degree certificate and transcripts of marks (or marks so far if still studying)</li> <li>Evidence that you meet the programme&rsquo;s minimum English language requirements (if applicable, see requirement below)</li> <li>Evidence of funding to support your studies</li> </ul> <p>To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;</p> <ul> <li>Select PhD in Medicine, Health &amp; Human Disease as your planned programme of study</li> <li>Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

A degree in biological sciences, dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, psychology or a good honours degree in a subject relevant to the research topic. A Masters degree in a relevant subject may also be required in some areas of the Faculty. For entry requirements for all other research degrees we offer, please contact us.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The minimum requirements for this programme in IELTS and TOEFL tests are: &bull; British Council IELTS - score of 7.0 overall, with no element less than 6.5 &bull; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 100 with the listening and reading element no less than 22, writing element no less than 23 and the speaking element no less than 24.

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>Informal enquires about regarding the bespoke taught first year of the PhD programme and research projects can be made by contacting</p> <p>Enquiries regarding the application process should be directed to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Graduate School e: <a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>