PEOPLE - POST DOCS & STUDENTS

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Mr Ahmed Ahmado
Email: a.ahmado@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The London Project to cure blindness

Research Interests: As a clinician I have a special interest in subretinal surgery for retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) disease and the experimental approach to the project. I started my research career looking at various bio-engineered polymers as a substrate for cellular transplantation and continue to do so. I also am interested in RPE and stem cell biology, their differentiation markers as well as transepithelial resistance and impedance. I am also investigating peptide fragments as extracellular matrix substitutes for attachment and differentiation of in vitro RPE/stem cells.

Mr Owen Anderson
Email: o.anderson@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Novel methods of intravitreal drug delivery

Research Interests: Over the last few years there have been significant advances in the treatment of retinal diseases such as age related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Pharmacological treatment of these conditions predominantly involves the administration of drugs via intravitreal injection. This process often needs to be repeated many times. My research interest involves exploring novel molecular based techniques, aimed at increasing the resident time of drugs in the vitreous and retina. The clinical aim of the research is to improve the duration of drug action, with a subsequent reduction in the number of injections required. This aims to not only reduce the risk of developing an injection related complication, but also aims to reduce the burden of treatment for the health service.
Dr. Helen Baker
Email: h.baker@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Can a public health intervention improve awareness and health seeking behaviour for glaucoma?

Research Interests: I am currently collecting data for my PhD investigating current levels of public health knowledge concerning glaucoma. I have a study underway in Ealing, working with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the advertising agency McCann and Erickson assessing a public health campaign. My main interests are improving patient and public awareness about glaucoma using qualitative and social research methods.

Dr Kam Balaggan
Email: kambalaggan@yahoo.co.uk

Title of current project: Gene Therapy for Choroidal Neovascularisation (CNV)

Research Interests: Principal interests: CNV is the leading cause of severe irreversible visual loss in the elderly in developed countries. As established therapies are of limited efficacy and/or require repeated dosing, we are developing molecular therapies to target this process. We have developed novel vectors with improved biosafety and in depth work is also underway to further assess the biosafety of traditional vectors. Using these vectors we have shown substantial angiostatic efficacy of various genes in a model of CNV. We hope that such rational approaches may finally provide sustained control of the angiogenic process in ocular neovascular disorders.

Dr Susie Barker
Email: s.barker@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Development of gene therapy vectors for uveitis

Research Interests: We are looking at the role of both adaptive and innate immune responses in different forms of uveitis, and developing viral vectors to deliver immunomodulatory genes to limit the damage caused by these inappropriate immune responses.

Dr Andrea Benucci
Email: a.benucci@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Population responses in visual cortex

Research Interests: I use electrophysiological and imaging methods to study the dynamics of population of neurons in the primary visual cortex. The questions I have addressed aim at understanding how neurons respond over time to features of the visual stimulus on a millisecond time scale. Traditionally, such questions have been addressed at the single cell level. My approach instead is to simultaneously record the activity of large populations of neurons. Specifically, I have been studying the selectivity of neurons for orientation: oriented stimuli elicit wave-like activity in the visual cortex and I have characterized such responses through a combination of recording methods (multi-array recording, politrodes, voltage sensitive dye imaging, intrinsic imaging) and modeling approaches as well. I am particularly interested in understanding how such activity affects the correlation between responses of neurons and how it interacts with the natural ongoing dynamics of the cortex.

  Vanita Berry
Email: s.barker@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Defining the molecular mechanisms involved in childhood cataracts

Research Interests: Cataract, opacification of the eye lens, is the commonest cause of blindness in the world. During infancy and early childhood it frequently results in visual impairment or blindness. Inherited congenital cataract has been shown to display considerable genotypic and phenotypic heterogeneity. Over the last few years we have made original contributions to the molecular genetics of inherited cataract, for example, in the identification of several novel loci; 17p, 12q13, 11q, 10q, 12q23 and genes: Connexins, Aquaporin0, Alpha-B crystalline and PITX3 for cataract. This has laid the foundations for further work on the identification of new genes and functional studies to understand the underlying disease mechanism.
  Dr Cedric Boucherie
Email: c.boucherie@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Generation of photoreceptors from induced pluripotent stem cells

Research Interests: Photoreceptor cells receive and transmit light signals to bipolar cells, which relay the information to retinal ganglion cells and provide input to multiple areas of the visual cortex. Since damage or lost of the photoreceptors cause irreversible visual impairment, the possibility that lost cells might be replaced and the neural circuitry reconstituted has received much attention. Pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) cells can be differentiated into retinal neurons in vitro and transplantation into damaged or diseased retinas may leads to visual function recovery. Moreover, transgenic expression of Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc in mouse or human somatic cells has been shown to successfully reprogram somatic cells into pluripotent cells. These induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells may also be useful for transplantation therapies, particularly because they offer the potential of avoiding immune rejection of transplanted cells without ethical concerns. Our project aimed at generating photoreceptors from iPS cells for transplantation in model of retina degeneration.

Dr. Prateek Buch
Email: p.buch@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Developing viral gene therapy and characterising novel animal models for inherited retinal degeneration

Research Interests: Following on from my PhD which focussed on investigating neuroprotection for models of retinitis pigmentosa, I am currently using new viral vectors to improve gene delivery to the retina. The aim is to improve the efficiency of gene transfer to photoreceptors, and so achieve long-term improvements in vision. I am also characterising two novel models of cone dystrophy which we have developed, with the aim of understanding disease mechanisms and developing therapeutic strategies.

Thomas Butt
Email: thomas.butt.10@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Assessment of health-related quality of life in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Research Interests: I am interested in the measurement and valuation of health outcomes to inform resource allocation decisions. My PhD project uses health economic methods to assess the effectiveness of low vision treatments with the aim of developing a methodology for measuring quality of life in retinal disease. In particular I am looking at the estimation of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) from clinical measures of low vision and from patient-reported outcomes, the difference between public and patient preferences, and the valuation of ‘patient experience factors’ that occur during health care consumption but fall outside of the construct of health. The project is funded by a UCL Grand Challenges studentship with matching funds from Moorfields Special Trustees.

Dr Amanda-Jayne Carr
Email: a.carr@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Transdifferentiation of human epithelial cell lines towards a photoreceptor phenotype: A potential cell for retinal repair.

Research Interests: We are currently investigating the cues that drive human RPE cell lines towards a neuroretinal/photoreceptor phenotype. Using a variety of tissue culture substrates and factors, we aim to ascertain the conditions required to induce RPE-transdifferentiation, and identify the molecular mechanisms and signalling pathways responsible for this process. These studies will provide prospective strategies for repair in human retinal degenerative diseases e.g. inducing differentiation of host RPE to repair the damaged retina, or creating potential donor cells for retinal transplantation. I am also interested in circadian rhythms, and have previously studied the effect of light and photoperiodism on the circadian system.

Ms Livia dos Santos Carvalho
Email: l.carvalho@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The molecular basis for the UV-sensitivity of vertebrate visual pigments: a study of the role of conformational changes in protein structure on the stabilisation of Schiff base protonation

Research Interests: My research interests include the evolution of colour vision and spectral tuning of visual pigments in vertebrates. In my current project, I am focusing on the molecular mechanisms involved in the tuning of the short-wave sensitive visual pigments between UV and violet, an event that has occurred many times in the evolution of vertebrates, and on the role of Schiff base protonation in this process. More generally, I am interested in the relationships between behaviour, environment and genetics and their impact on different sensory systems, and how each responds to diverse selective pressures.

Dr Christina Chakarova
Email: c.chakarova@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Autosomal Dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa

Research Interests: My research interests involve genetic mapping, positional cloning and functional characterization of novel genes and proteins implicated in retinal degeneration. During my work at the institute I have identified two genes (PRPF3; precursor mRNA-processing factor 3 and TOPORS; topoisomerase I binding, arginine/serine-rich) through a bioinformatics based positional cloning approach that is associated with autosomal-dominant retinitis pigmentosa. An interesting feature of both genes is their ubiquitous expression, yet mutations in the genes only affects the retina. I have also participated in the identification of other genes that are known to cause retinitis pigmentosa - carbonic anhydrase 4 (CA4), PRPF31, retinal degeneration 3 (RD3) and eyes shut (EYS).

  Dr Fred K Chen, MBBS (Hons) FRANZCO
Email: fkchen02@yahoo.com

Title of current project: The London Project to cure blindness
Research Interests: Outcomes of autologous RPE-choroid patch graft in macular dystrophy and dry age-related macular degeneration. Also, the accuracy of using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography and fundus-controlled microperimetry in the investigation of macular diseases.

Dr Michael Crossland
Email: m.crossland@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Improving the detection of early age-related macular disease

Research Interests: My current research uses psychophysical and imaging techniques to detect the earliest signs of visual loss in people with age-related macular disease. Alongside this, I have a research interest in the optimal rehabilitation of people with visual impairment from currently untreatable forms of eye disease. I also hold a clinical appointment in the low vision clinics at Moorfields Eye Hospital. www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~smgxmdc

Barbara Czub
Email: barbara.czub.10@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Why should mutations in a ubiquitously expressed gene, such as TOPORS, cause only retinitis pigmentosa?

Research Interests: Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a hereditary heterogeneous retinal dystrophy, characterised by the loss of photoreceptors and pigment deposits on the fundus of the eye. It affects almost 1 in 3500 people worldwide; being one of the major causes of blindness in people aged 20-64. TOPORS is encoded within the RP 31 region on chromosome 9, which was identified as a novel locus for autosomal dominant RP (adRP). Mutations in this gene are estimated to cause 1-2 % of all adRP cases. TOPORS is a protein of a multifunctional character, and its ubiquitous expression in a variety of human tissues has been demonstrated. Yet, the mutations only result in a retina-specific disease phenotype. The research is aimed at identifying proteins that interact with TOPORS in the retina, and at evaluating the nature of these interactions in order to explain the molecular basis of the phenotype caused by TOPORS mutations.

Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, Dr med PhD FRCOphth FRCS(Ed) DipMedEd
Email: a.dahlmann@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Optic nerve rescue and repair by olfactory ensheathing cells

Research Interests: Optic nerve disease leads to irreversible loss of vision. Many conditions can affect the optic nerve, such as raised pressure inside the eye (glaucoma), inflammation, impaired blood flow and tumours. Current treatments cannot always stop the damage.
The nerve cells for the sense of smell (olfaction) undergo continuous renewal. Olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) guide new cells from the nose to the brain, and they also nurture damaged nerve cells. In animal models of spinal cord injury, OEC help regenerating nerve cells to grow across a lesion.
Our research project tests whether OEC can nurture damaged retinal ganglion cells in glaucoma. OEC transplantation in animals will show us whether this is a potential treatment for human patients in whom all other treatments have failed.
I am also a clinical ophthalmologist with expertise in childhood vision problems and strabismus. Together with clinical colleagues and other scientists I currently run two clinical research projects: the iCare study and the CoSOP study.

Dr Wayne Lee Davies
Email: w.davies13@gmail.com

Title of current project: The molecular evolution of phototransduction in vertebrates.

Research Interests: My main research interests involve the molecular evolution of gene families and the mechanisms that regulate gene expression. Presently, I am investigating the evolution of visual and non-visual detection of light and phototransduction in vertebrates (from lampreys to mammals). Specifically, I am studying the evolution and tuning mechanisms of visual pigments and the molecular differences between photopic (colour-based) and scotopic (dim-light based) vision. Other interests include tissue-specific regulation of ABC transporters, in particular the CFTR gene, novel mechanisms of gene regulation (e.g. post-transcriptional regulation of mRNA stability and translation efficiency, and non-coding RNA networks of gene expression) and the phylogenetics of protein superfamilies (e.g. GPCRs, ABC transporters, ion channels).

Ms. Laura Denti
Email: l.denti@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Axon guidance in the developing visual system.

Research Interests: I am a research technician in Dr. Chrisitana Ruhrberg's laboratory. I investigate signalling pathways that guide the axons of retinal ganglion cell neurons from the retina across the optic chiasm.

Ahmed Nehad Elbediwy
Email: a.elbediwy@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: RhoBTBs, and their role in epithelial polarity and differentiation within Junctions.

Research Interests: Rho GTPases are small proteins that function as molecular switches in a wide range of signaling Pathways. When activated small GTPases are able to bind a variety of effector proteins and initiate downstream signalling. My project is to discover the role of RhoBTBs in the polarity and differentiation of epithelial cells as well as identifying their effectors and interaction partners.

Dr James Steven Ellis, MPharm, MRPharmS, PhD
Email: j.s.ellis@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Inflammatory models of wound healing in the eye

Research Interests: I am currently interested in the role that
pro-inflammatory cytokines and growth factors play in the development of scar tissue on the eye, particularly the retina. I am developing a model of inflammation with the aim of testing candidate drug molecules for both anterior and posterior segment drug delivery. I am also interested in the role of glial cells and RPE in hypoxia induced diseases of the retina.
Mr Daniel Ezra
Email: d.ezra@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Mechanisms of scarring in diseases of the eyelids and orbit


Research Interests: Daniel Ezra is an NIHR Clinical Lecturer specialising in oculoplastic, orbital and lacrimal surgery. Mr. Ezra has been working closely with the Bailly group to develop new functional fibroblast based models for diseases of the eyelids and orbit, providing a context for elucidating the pathophysiology and for developing novel treatments in a variety of conditions such as thyroid eye disease, eyelid laxity disorders, eyelid skin and conjunctival scarring diseases.

Mr Alessandro Fantin
Email: a.fantin@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Cardiovascular development

Research Interests: I am a PhD student in Dr Christiana Ruhrberg's laboratory. I am studying two different aspects of cardiovascular development, the role of macrophages in brain vascularisation and the contribution of neuropilins and their ligands to the patterning of cardiovascular cell types derived from neural crest stem cells.

Dr. Tom Flynn
Email: t.flynn@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The effect of allergic conjunctivitis on the allogeneic response to donor cornea.

Research Interests: Corneal transplant immunology. Allergic conjunctivitis.

Dr Stylianos Georgoulas
Email: s.georgoulas@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in the wound healing process after glaucoma filtration surgery.

Research Interests: Ophthalmological drug formulation and delivery.

Dr Carlos Gias
Email: c.gias@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: : The London Project to cure blindness

Research Interests: I am interested in the quantitative assessment of visual function preservation following stem cell transplantation. Visual deficits as a result of retinal disease and functional preservation can be objectively determined by measuring the physiological responses in the retina and the visual cortex. Electrophysiological and optical imaging methods can be used for this purpose both in animal models and in clinical practice. I am also interested in using new optical imaging techniques to diagnose retinal disease in the early stages.

Dr Li Guo
Email: l.guo@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: A New Window on to Cellular Mechanisms of Neuronal Apoptosis and Vision Loss in Glaucoma

Research Interests:

Imaging retina ganglion cells (RGCs) apoptosing in vivo using DARC (Detection of Apoptosing Retinal Cells) in glaucoma related models

Cellular mechanisms of retinal neuron apoptosis, particularly the association of the loss of the RGCs in glaucoma with Alzheimer's disease

Neuroprotective strategies on retinal neurodegenerative diseases
Anna Harris, MSc
Email: anna.harris@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Characterisation and optimisation of the culture of limbal epithelial stem cells

Research Interests: This project aims to optimise the culture of limbal epithelial stem cells both for therapeutic application and for in vitro research. Currently the optimal methods for culturing these cells involve the use of animal derived-products including bovine serum and often murine 3T3 feeder cells. By defining the culture process we aim to reduce current culture to culture variability and then use the system to better characterise and manipulate limbal epithelial stem cells in vitro.

  Wanzhou Hu
Email: wanzhou.hu.09@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Study of corneal dystrophies using the model organism Xenopus laevis

Research Interests: Human corneal dystrophies is a group of inherited diseases characterised by bilateral opacities of the cornea, which affects the visual acuity. We are interested in developing a Xenopus model of human corneal dystrophies. At the moment I am characterising the structure and developmental process of Xenopus cornea. Based on this knowledge, we are going to study the genes involved in human corneal dystrophies and the disease mechanism.

Hari Jayaram MA MRCSEd MRCOphth
Email:h.jayaram@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Derivation of photoreceptor precursors from human Müller stem cells and their application in experimental photoreceptor replacement

Research Interests: I am a clinician-scientist in training working with adult human Müller stem cells. These versatile cells are potential candidates for transplantation strategies to repair damaged retina, due to their ability to grow easily in culture and to differentiate into all types of retinal neurons. I am interested in working with these cells to develop cell based therapies that can be translated into treatments for patients with retinal disease. In particular I am currently focusing on the optimisation of in vitro conditions required to differentiate these cells into an enriched population of committed photoreceptor precursors that may be potentially suitable for human transplantation.

Daniel Kampik
Email: d.kampik@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Induction of corneal endothelial cell replication using gene therapy

Research Interests: Corneal endothelial cells are important to maintain the clarity of the cornea. Since these cells do not replicate in humans, endothelial cell loss impairs vision and requires corneal transplantation. Our goal is to induce corneal endothelial cell replication by transferring genes or proteins that modify the cell cycle status. We examine the efficacy and safety of new viral vectors delivering plasmid DNA, mRNA, or proteins into human corneas ex vivo and investigate methods for clinical application in donor corneas before transplantation.

Dr. Clemens Lange
Email: c.lange@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Intraocular oxygen and molecular mediators of retinal vascular disease

Research Interests: Retinal oxygenation, NO, HIF, Angiogenesis, OIR-, CNV mouse model, Viral Gene Therapy, siRNA.

Dr Jean Lawrence
Email: jean.lawrence@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The London Project to cure blindness

Research Interests: Barriers to integration of stem cells to form connections in diseased retina. Also, immunological issues when transplanting tissue as a consequence of disease and tissue matching.

Dr Hannah Levis
Email: h.levis@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Real Architecture For 3D Tissues (RAFT)- Corneal Stem Cells

Research Interests: I am currently working on a Technology Strategy Board funded project, which aims to manufacture 3D human corneal tissue using limbal epithelial cells. This project is in collaboration with The Tissue Repair and Engineering Centre at UCL and The Automation Partnership Ltd., Cambridge. Complex 3D tissues can be simply and rapidly produced by creating collagen gels that are then plastic compressed to produce a biomimetic construct with enhanced mechanical properties. This 3D structure, which is easily replicated, hopes to provide limbal epithelial cells with a more natural environment for proliferation and differentiation. The current treatment for some ocular surface disorders involves culture and transplantation of limbal epithelial cells on an amniotic membrane substrate. The collagen constructs produced by RAFT have the potential to replace amniotic membrane as a superior substrate for limbal epithelial transplantation.

Peter Lundh von Leithner
Email: peter.lundh@ucl.ac.uk
URL:http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~smgxgpl/


Title of current project: In vivo retinal imaging

Research Interests: My main interest is to map cellular structures in the living retina using scanning laser based imaging techniques.

Charlotte Maden
Email: c.maden@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Molecular mechanisms in neuronal and vascular co-patterning

Research Interests: Investigating the interaction of blood vessels and neurons and similarities in the molecular mechanisms that control their development


Dr Jenny McKenzie
Email: jenny.mckenzie@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Gene Profiling of Retinal Telangiectasis

Research Interests: I joined the Institute of Opthalmology in August 2005, in order to research a disease called Juxtafoveolar Retinal Telangiectasis. This is a poorly understood ocular disorder that affects men and women in middle age and causes a progressive loss of vision. During the course of the disease, blood vessels of the retina become tortuous, dilated and leaky, and at later stages neovascularisation occurs. I am seeking to determine the underlying molecular basis of these vascular abnormalities by conducting a microarray analysis. I aim to identify specific proteins and signalling pathways that are involved, so that therapies for this disorder can eventually be developed.

Miss Freya Mowat
Email: f.mowat@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Investigation of the molecular basis of ocular angiogenesis and the development of effective novel therapeutic approaches for patients with ocular neovascular diseases.

Research Interests: Angiogenesis, Viral Gene Therapy, SiRNA

Dr Wendy Mustill
Email: w.mustill@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Characterisation of Spacemaker (SPAM), a protein encoded by the gene EYS (RP25) implicated in Autosomal Recessive Retinitis Pigmentosa

Research Interests: Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a progressive disease of the retina leading to incurable blindness. RP is a hereditary disease, and can be passed from parent to child in several different modes of inheritance. The work in our lab is on RP, which is passed on when both the mother and the father of a child are carriers, which is known as autosomal recessive RP, or arRP. arRP is the most common and most severe form of RP and accounts for as much as 50% of all cases.
We identified the gene EYS as being implicated in one form of arRP. Since then, mutations in EYS have been demonstrated in arRP patients in several countries worldwide. This is a very large gene which encodes the protein Spacemaker (SPAM). We know that SPAM is expressed in the outer photoreceptor segment in the pig retina under normal conditions. We are researching role of SPAM in the retina, and what happens when SPAM is mutated.

Ali Nouraeinejad
Email: A.Nouraeinejad@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The Immunomodulatory Effects of Interferon-alpha (IFN-a) in Behcet's Disease

Research Interests: I am an Optometrist graduated from Iran, studying for a PhD at the Institute of Ophthalmology, funded with the help of my parents and brothers. My area of research is in the application of immunotherapy for severe intraocular inflammatory diseases such as posterior and anterior uveitis. We are investigating the use of IFN-a to downregulate activated CD4+ T cells both in vitro and in vivo in a clinical trial for patients with ocular Behcet's disease. We hope this research will give us an insight into whether IFN-a can be used to replace current therapies, with fewer side effects.

Dr Sergey Novoselov
Email: s.novoselov@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The role of a neuronal chaperone protein Hsj1 in neurodegeneration

Research Interests: Intracellular proteinacious inclusions are a central feature and major factor in pathogenesis of many of neurodegenerative diseases. The molecular chaperone network, which is a key mediator of protein folding in cells, has been manipulated to alleviate protein misfolding, inclusion formation and cell death in both in vitro and in vivo models of neurodegeneration. Current research is aimed at investigating the potential involvement of a neurone-specific chaperone Hsj1 in the process of neurodegeneration.

Mr Michael Powner
Email: m.powner@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Molecular Characterisation of the Human Macula



Mr Scott Robbie
Email: s.robbie@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The application of gene therapy as a tool for understanding the pathophysiology of age-related macular degeneration and in the treatment of inherited retinal degeneration.

Research Interests: I am an ophthalmologist with an interest in the use of gene therapy to modify disease processes in the eye. My research is focused on the use of this technology to better understand the complex pro- and anti-angiogenic functions of macrophages in age-related macular degeneration, a disease in which abnormal blood vessel growth is a significant cause of blindness. Viral vectors are used in gene therapy to carry the correct genetic code to defective cells - I am also interested in how pseudotyping (subtly combining a virus’ characteristics with those of another) affects the predilection of lentiviral vectors for cell-types in the eye and how this might be exploited to treat specific ophthalmic conditions. I am also responsible for coordinating clinical assessments and investigations for subjects participating in a clinical trial of gene therapy for early-onset retinal dystrophy, a ground-breaking project run by the Institute of Ophthalmology in partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Mr Zubin Saihan
Email: z.saihan@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: National Collaborative Usher Syndrome Study


Dr Valerie Saw
Email: v.saw@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: New treatment strategies in mucous membrane pemphigoid: relative contributions of inflammation, immune cells and scar cells in conjunctival scarring

Research Interests: My interests are in inflammatory and infectious disease of the external eye. My PhD project links a clinical treatment trial to laboratory studies of the inflammatory and scarring process in ocular mucous membrane pemphigoid. Understanding the scarring process will potentially allow us to select the most appropriate of the new anti-scarring agents, for use in mucous membrane pemphigoid. In this study I am working with: Mr John Dart at Moorfields Eye Hospital, who has a large population of patients with this disease and clinical trials facilities and expertise; Dr Virginia Calder, who has expertise in cellular immunology and chronic inflammatory eye disease; Dr Julie Daniels, who has a track record in fibroblast and wound healing biology. The interplay between inflammation and fibrosis which I am studying is also important in other sight-threatening diseases of the external eye including atopic keratoconjunctivitis, Stevens Johnson syndrome and trachoma.

Nele Schwarz
Email: n.schwarz@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Molecular mechanisms of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa

Research Interests: Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) defines a clinically and genetically diverse group of retinal dystrophies. Mutations in the RP2 gene cause X-linked RP which has a severe progression of photoreceptor cell degeneration. Previous studies have shown that mutations in RP2 lead to disease either by mislocalisation of the protein or because the mutant proteins are recognised as faulty and are degraded. However the normal function of RP2 in human retina is not fully understood. The aim of this project is therefore to understand the molecular basis of RP2 function in the retina and identify possible mechanisms of disease that will provide further insights into the function of the human retina.

Mr Anurag Sharma
Email: anuvasdev@hotmail.com

Title of current project: Assessment of community eye care team approach to glaucoma management

Research Interests: As a community optometrist I am interested in researching the interaction of community optometry with hospital based eye care. In our main project we are collaborating with City University to train 10 community optometrists for employment by Moorfields as part of an expanded community eye care team. My research is investigating cost-effectiveness, safety, and other patient based outcomes.

Mr Stephen Terry
Email: s.terry@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Identifying regulators and effectors of RhoGTPases that regulate cell adhesion and junction formation in human corneal epithelial cells.

Research Interests: I am interested in how cells communicate and respond to their environment and each other via intercellular junctions. In particular, how intercellular junctions are formed and regulated in healthy and disease states and the molecular mechanisms by which cellular junctions regulate intracellular signalling pathways to direct cellular behavior and tissue formation. The purpose of my project is to identify regulators and effectors of RhoGTPases in Human corneal epithelial cells that regulate cell adhesion, junction formation and early differentiation, as well as specific Rho-regulated pathways important for epithelial cell function and gene expression. My work is currently funded by Fight for Sight.
Victoria Tovell PhD
Email: v.tovell@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: Development of a human model of aniridia related keratopathy (ARK)

Research Interests: To develop a human model of ARK by using Real Architecture for 3D Tissue (RAFT) to investigate the role of fibroblasts in the development of ARK and to identify potential cell therapies for the prevention of ARK.
Dr Gay Mary Verdon-Roe PhD
Email: G.M.Verdon-Roe@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: The Moorfields Motion Displacement Test (MDT)

Research Interests: My principle research interests are psychophysics and glaucoma. I have been working on the development of a new computer-based test www.moorfieldsmdt.co.uk for the detection of glaucoma since 1999. The work is being done through collaboration with The Department of Visual Science at The Institute of Ophthalmology, The Glaucoma Research Unit at Moorfields Eye Hospital and The Department of Optometry and Visual Sciences at City University. The test was overall winner of the MRC translational innovation awards at the 2008 Medical Futures competition and offers the potential to make a significant contribution to the prevention of world blindness due to glaucoma.

Dr Susan E. Wilkie
Email: s.wilkie@ucl.ac.uk

Title of current project: A study of the role of KCNV2, a novel potassium channel gene, in retinal physiology and phototransduction.

Research Interests:

1. Functional analysis of proteins linked to retinal eye disease, including several proteins linked to cone and cone-rod dystrophies and splicing factor proteins linked to retinitis pigmentosa. My current focus is on KCNV2, which is linked to a rare disorder with an interesting phenotype (cone dystrophy with supernormal rod response). The gene encodes a potassium channel protein believed to have a regulatory function and to have a major role in setting the resting potential of photoreceptor cells.

2. Structure/function studies of visual pigments with particular interest in spectral tuning of shortwave-sensitive pigments.



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