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Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision Sciences PhD in Visual Neuroscience - Fight for Sight Research Studentship (PhD Studentship)

Reference Number: R1040
Closing Date: Closed for applications
Duration: 3 years
Funding Amount: Fees and stipend
Level of Study: Postgraduate Research
Regions: EU (Non UK), UK
This funding opportunity is now closed for application

Key Award Information

Applications are invited for a Fight for Sight funded PhD studentship in Light therapy for retinal ganglion cell degeneration to start in October 2013.

You will work on this studentship as part of multi-disciplinary group, with an international reputation for studies of genetic eye disease and inherited optic neuropathy, especially the role of the mitochondrial pro-fusion protein, Opa1, in retinal ganglion cell disease and novel therapeutic interventions. At the 2009 Research Assessment Exercise over forty per cent of research outputs at Cardiff University School of Optometry & Vision Sciences were assessed at a quality that is internationally excellent or above. There is a strong culture of basic and clinical research in the School. Graduate students are the life-blood of this ethos and the vision of the School is to stay at the forefront of basic science research in the visual sciences.

The student will acquire a variety of specialist skills in cell and molecular biology and neuroscience techniques, including gene and protein expression, cell culture, retinal flat mounts, Scholl analysis, histology and imaging by confocal microscopy and bio-energetic studies. They will enhance their generic skills and personal development, including presentation skills and writing of scientific papers. It is expected that with the supervisors, and including national and international collaborators, the student will be able to initiate publications in peer review journals and submit abstracts to meetings. The project will benefit a student who wishes to establish a career in Biomedical Science.

Project Description:

We aim to test the effectiveness of red light therapy for retinal ganglion cell disease in a genetic mouse model of dominant optic atrophy, as proof of principle prior to testing this new therapy for mitochondrial optic neuropathy in a human clinical trial. A secondary aim is to explore the mechanism of action of red light therapy.

Autosomal dominant optic atrophy is the commonest inherited optic neuropathy, due to mutations in the mitochondrial pro-fusion OPA1 gene. It leads to blindness in late childhood secondary to retinal ganglion cell loss. We have developed a mouse model in which Opa1 mutant mice manifest visual defects and pruning of retinal ganglion cell dendrites. There are deficits in retinal mitochondrial fusion and morphology, increased production of reactive oxygen species and reduced Complex I and IV activity in the mitochondrial electron transport chain, with reduced generation of ATP. It is hypothesised that absorption of 670nm light by the COX complex results in an increase in COX activity resulting in enhanced electron transport chain and production of ATP. Improvement of mitochondrial function is expected to improve retinal ganglion cell health, preventing degeneration. To test this hypothesis, our Opa1 mutant mice will be exposed to 670nm light. The progress of retinal ganglion cell morbidity will be monitored by immuno-confocal on retinal flat mounts with analysis of RGC dendrites labelled with fluorophores, retinal and optic nerve histology and measurement of activities of Complexes I and IV and the production of ATP.

Supervisors: Professor Marcela Votruba and Dr Malgorzata Rozanowska


This studentship is generously provided by Fight For Sight, and includes provision for UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual stipend of £17,000 in the first year, which may increase in Year 2 and 3.

Number of Awards Available: 1


Academic Criteria: Applicants must have, or expect to gain, a good Honours degree (First or Upper Second Class). This must be in a relevant subject, such as molecular biology, molecular genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, developmental biology, neuroscience.

A postgraduate Masters degree (or equivalent), and previous laboratory-based research experience is desirable.

The successful student will be hghly motivated, hard working and enterprising.

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the English language (IELTS 6.5 or equivalent).

Residency: This award is open to UK/EU students without restrictions.

How to Apply

In the first instance, please send a CV and covering letter to Professor Marcela Votruba by email ( Applicants will then be invited to formally apply for the studentship through our Online Application Service.

When making an application using the online application service, applicants should select the "Postgraduate Research" option for the School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, followed by the "Doctor of Philosophy (Vision Sciences) (October Start)" option.

When filling out the online application from please indicate that you are applying for the Fight for Sight Research Studentship. No research proposal is required in order to make an application.

Application Deadline: April 19th 2013

Further Information

For more information please contact Professor Marcela Votruba via email ( or by telephone (+44(0)29 2087 0134)

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