Funded PhD Studentship The role of DNA repair systems in the ageing eye and ocular disease

Faculty of Science

Application Deadline: 20th October 2013. This studentship is available to start 1st January 2014.

Supervisory Team: Dr Michael Wormstone

The Project:

Oxidative stress plays a key role in human ageing. This stress affects many components within our cells and, importantly, this includes the DNA that is present in every cell. Fortunately, all cells possess a number of DNA repair systems that ensure genetic integrity is maintained. However, as we age it is believed that the ability to repair damage to our DNA is reduced and modifications can produce dysfunctional cells. The eye is associated with ageing conditions, such as cataract, glaucoma and age-related macula degeneration; these conditions affect tens of millions of people worldwide. It is therefore important to understand the role of different DNA repair molecules and systems in human ocular cells in response to oxidative stress and understand their role in disease prevention, formation and progression.

In this studentship the main objective is to determine which DNA repair systems are essential in ocular cells and tissue to reduce DNA damage and maintain cell/tissue function. We will therefore test the hypothesis that ‘DNA repair capability decreases with age and the resulting increase in DNA damage contributes to impaired cell performance resulting in disease  formation and progression.’

The proposed project will use human cells and tissue to answer fundamental questions about human wellbeing and disease. It will employ a number of innovative experimental systems developed in the Norwich Eye Group that will enable progressive understanding of the role of DNA repair systems in the ageing eye and the link of such systems with disease. Through a series of inhibition studies (using pharmacological inhibitors and siRNA) we will discern the functional importance of DNA repair systems in cell maintenance. To assess gene expression, real-time PCR/Illumina gene array methods will be employed; the distribution and activity (e.g. phosphorylation levels) of proteins will be determined using Western blot immunocytochemistry and reporter assays. Viability/toxicity and cell death (apoptosis) will be evaluated using biochemical assays. This work will provide information fundamental to the ageing process in humans per se and the eye in particular. Promotion of mechanisms that enhance activity of these key repair systems, for example through modification of the diet, could be developed as strategies to delay the onset of ocular diseases.

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Entry Requirements:

A first or upper second class degree in Biological Sciences.


Due to funding restrictions full funding is available for Home students only, covering fees and a stipend of £15,000.

Making your Application:

Please apply via the University’s online application system.

To discuss the application process please contact the Admissions Office, email:; telephone +44 (0)1603 591709.

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