Projects

Outstanding standing students are currently sought for the following projects.

Clinical Trials Research Unit


  • High-order properties of the retinal vascular structure and risk of cardiovascular diseases:

A PhD student is needed to investigate a potential clinical application of high-order properties of the retinal vascular structure, such as vessel bifurcation/branching angle, vessel tortuosities or fractal dimensions to predict risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as eye diseases, using multiple sets of population-based study data.

  • Novel genetic determinants of the retinal vascular structures:

A PhD student is needed to explore novel genetic determinants of the retinal vessel structures, such as vessel calibres or vessel tortuosities. Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) will provide a large sample data set including genotype data from the study samples.

  • Dynamic retinal vessel assessment and retinal vascular structures:

A PhD student is needed to investigate pathophysiological aspects of retinal blood flow and retinal vascular structure in relation to systemic and ocular conditions, using dynamic retinal vessel assessment.

  • A practice model for screening/prevention of cardiovascular risks and cardiovascular disease using retinal photography:

Recent evidence shows that retinal vessel signs have a strong link to cardiovascular risk factors and events. CTRU is exploring predictive value of retinal vessel signs on cardiovascular risks. A Masters Student is needed to pilot the translation of those research findings into a practice model for screening and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Subsequent to the success of the pilot study, a large scaled clinical trial is anticipated, which can be PhD projects on assessing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of this model.

Drug Delivery Research Unit

The CERA Drug Delivery Research Unit is investigating non-invasive and targeted tools, treatment options and technologies for vision threatening diseases such as endophthalmitis, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

  • Polymer conjugate ocular implants for  bacterial endophthalmitis.

Endophthalmitis (infection within the eye) is a rare, but potentially devastating, intraocular infection involving inflammation of the intraocular cavities with poor visual outcome for patients.  Development of a product that allows an effective dose of antibiotic to be delivered in a small volume implant could provide a clinical solution to a complex treatment problem.  The implant is being developed in collaboration with PolyActiva.

  • Hypotensive drug delivery system for glaucoma treatment.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, affecting an estimated 70 million individuals. There is a real need for alternative products to eye drops that can be administered far less frequently than current therapies and vastly reduces the need for voluntary patient compliance. PolyActiva has already developed a levofloxacin-eluting ocular implant for the treatment of endophthalmitis.  The same technology will be used to produce the latanoprost and timolol-eluting ocular implants for the treatment of glaucoma.

  • Trans-scleral avastin delivery for ocular neovascularisation.

The vast majority of diseases that cause catastrophic loss of vision, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy (DR), retinopathy of prematurity and ocular tumours, do so as a result of pathologic ocular neovascularization. Effective and cost effective treatments for targeting retinal and choroidal angiogenesis are a priority in ophthalmology. We are using a novel ultrasonic trans-scleral delivery system (SonoEye by Seagull Company) and testing if it is equivalent to intravitreal injection of bevacizumab in causing regression of experimentally induced ocular neovascularisation. We are also trying nanotechnology for the non-invasive drug delivery.

Glaucoma Research Unit

  • Age related mitochondrial dysfunction in glaucoma.

  • Map Kinase and neurogeneration of the optic nerve.

  • In-vivo imaging of injured retinal ganglion cells in mouse glaucoma models.

  • Amyloid precursor protein processing in glaucoma

This project will study the impact of neuronal stressors on APP processing and the impact of mitochondrial function in cultured retinal ganglion cells and mouse glaucoma models.

  • In-vivo of sick retinal ganglion cells in the living mouse retina

This study will use nanotechnology and fluorescent probes to identify and quantify neuronal stress in retinal ganglion cells in a mouse glaucoma model.

  • Impact of fluid biomechanics on wound fibrosis

This study in collaboration with the Department of bioengineering will assess the impact of tissue biomechanics on the wound healing response after ocular surgery.

  • Exercise and caloric restriction on optic nerve vulnerability to oxidative stress.

Health Services Research Unit

  • Visual field loss and falls:

The HSRU is interested in investigating the gait-related risk factors and extent of injury resulting from falls in people with glaucoma and visual field loss.

  • The development of a Diabetic Retinopathy-specific quality of life questionnaire

The HSRU is interested in developing and validating a questionnaire which will measure the impact of vision-threatening Diabetic Retinopathy on quality of life in patients with diabetes.

  • Medication adherence in patients with glaucoma: 

The HSRU is currently collecting data to improve its understanding of intentional and non-intentional non adherence to glaucoma medication.  A PhD project will build on these findings to design, implement and evaluate a RCT to improve medication adherence in patients with glaucoma.

  • Blood glucose, blood pressure and lipids in people with Diabetes: 

A PhD student is needed to investigate the barriers to effective management of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipids in people with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.  Another PhD candidate is require to work on a RCT assessing the effectiveness of a novel self-management program on the management of diabetic retinopathy.

Macular Research Unit

  • Genetics of AMD

    • Genetic analysis in age-related macular degeneration: this study uses a database of AMD cases and their families to investigate genetic associations with AMD and its risk of progression to end-stage disease.
    • The influence of genes on treatment outcomes for neovascular AMD and their interaction with lifestyle risk factors.

    • Genetics of uveitis: study to investigate genes associated with various ocular inflammatory diseases such as uveitis and sarcoidosis-related uveitis.
  • Biomarkers of AMD

    • Functional predictive test of AMD: the aim of this project is to develop a suite of visual function tests that look at how the retina functions in early AMD. These tests will be used to assess the risk of progression to the visually devastating complications of AMD and the efficacy of interventions aimed at slowing progression. The end result will be a suite of tests that predict progression of disease and monitor progression, or lack of it. These tests will then be packaged into a device for use in AMD management.
    • Inflammatory biomarkers in AMD: collection of plasma, serum and urine from AMD patients and control participants to identify differences in proteins that might be used to monitor disease progression and efficacy of new interventions.
  • Bionic Eye Project

CERA collaborates with the Bionic Ear Institute, NICTA (National Information Communications Technology Australia) and the Universities of Melbourne and New South Wales in the Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) partnership to develop the first advanced bionic eye prototype ready for the human implantation. The Macular Research Unit conducts clinical, pre-clinical, surgical and stimulation strategy research to ensure bionic eye compatibility.

  • Associations between diet, lifestyle and AMD

Investigation of associations between diet, lifestyle and AMD, through the Health 2000 cohort. Determinants of outcome in treatments of AMD both genetic and inflammatory markers and their role in determining the outcomes to treatments.

Ocular Genetics Unit

A number of basic and clinically related projects are available.  Using a range of cutting edge and high throughput techniques, projects are available investigating the genetic basis of eye disease.  A wide array of collected patient samples including case controls, twins, families and population based are available for these students.

  • Gene environment studies in age related macular degeneration (AMD)

  • Analysis of copy number variants in AMD

  • Clinical outcomes and genetic variants in AMD

  • Role of nutrition/obesity in AMD

  • Biomarker and genetic studies in AMD

  • Identification of disease genes in myopia (short sightedness)

  • Gene function studies in myopia