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Translation of eye research into other diseases - Belgium  

KU Leuven (company)


Posted on : 27 March 2017

Project Description

  • The eye offers a unique window to the brain and its circulation. 
  • Changes in the retinal structure and function have been linked to several cerebral and cardiovascular diseases, even in a pre-clinical stage.
  •  As novel, non-invasive imaging techniques that allow the evaluation of these parameters are emerging, the question on whether and how they might be incorporated into clinical practice remains largely unanswered. 
  • The proposed PhD research aims to investigate two promising applications that could, in an automated and non-invasive way, identify a biomarker in cardio- vascular and neurological diseases. 
  • The first step would be to apply these techniques in a controlled environment with animal models, and later translate the knowledge into clinical practice by trying to identify the same biomarker in patients. 

Project 1.
  •  Flicker-induced retinal vasodilation as a parameter for systemic cardiovascular health 
  • When subjected to flickering light stimulation, healthy retinal blood vessels show a marked vasodilation. 
  • This process is largely endothelium dependent and hence is severely impaired with endothelium dysfunction.
  •  Flicker-induced retinal vasodilation has shown to be significantly reduced in patients with diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, etc., and looks promising both as a diagnostic tool and to assess the response of treatment on CV health in individual patients. 
  • The proposed project consists of developing and testing a novel technique to perform standardized, automated measurements of the retinal vascular endothelial function based on Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)-angiography, without the need for intravenous contrast administration or pupil dilation. 

Project 2.
  • Retinal amyloid detection using a hyperspectral snapshot image sensor.
  • Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the major cause of dementia worldwide and characterized by accumulation of amyloid-protein in the cerebral cortex. 
  • Being an extension of the brain, the retina is also affected by amyloid deposition.
  • Spectroscopic quantification of amyloid in the retina seems a promising non-invasive biomarker for AD that could be used in animal research as well as to detect patients in a pre-clinical stadium. 
  • Unlike all the techniques that have been used to demonstrate retinal amyloid plaques previously, the proposed technique would allow to acquire a hyperspectral signature of the retina in a cheap, fast and non-invasive method by using a hyperspectral snapshot image sensor.

  • The candidate should hold a Master's degree in Biology, Biochemistry, Bio engineering, Biomedical Sciences or equivalent
  •  The candidate should have a strong interest in neurobiology/ophtalmology 
  •  Good knowledge of the English language, both spoken and written, is required

  • PhD position for 4 years. 
  • The PhD candidate will also need to apply for a scholarship.