Understanding the aetiology of glaucoma in diverse populations [MRC PHRU]
Worldwide glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting >80 million adults. It is characterised by progressive optic nerve degeneration, with or without elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). Glaucoma is generally asymptomatic until reaching late stage when vision impairment occurs. In China, angle-closure glaucoma (ACG) dominates, as opposed to open-angle glaucoma (OAG) in Western populations. The aetiology of glaucoma, particularly ACG, is still poorly understood and large prospective studies can help address research needs.
The project will utilise existing and emerging data from China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB); and UK Biobank (UKB), each of 0.5 million adults. In CKB, more than2000 hospitalised glaucoma cases have been recorded, along with ~20,000 cases in UKB. Moreover, data on IOP and optic nerve morphology were also collected among ~25,000 CKB (together with visual acuity and history of glaucoma) and >110,000 UKB participants. These, together with an extensive range of lifestyle and genetic data, will enable comprehensive investigation of aetiology of glaucoma in the Chinese and UK populations.
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE, RESEARCH METHODS AND TRAINING
The specific project will be developed according to student’s interest and aptitude, and may cover some of the following objectives:
- To determine the incidence of glaucoma and levels of IOP and vertical cup-disc ratio (VCDR) by age, gender and socioeconomic status;
- To examine the associations of non-genetic factors (e.g. diet, smoking, adiposity) with risk of glaucoma and its main subtypes, as well as IOP and VCDR;
- To undertake genome-wide association analyses to identify genetic risk factors for glaucoma, IOP and VCDR;
- To assess the causal associations of certain lifestyle factors with risk of glaucoma, IOP and VCDR, using Mendelian randomisation approach;
- To characterise the difference in aetiology of glaucoma between Chinese and UK populations and to explore likely factors underlying such differences.
The student will work within a multi-disciplinary team and have in-house training in epidemiology, statistical programming, genetics, and attendance of relevant courses. By the end of the DPhil, the student will be competent to plan, undertake and interpret analyses of large datasets, and to report research findings in peer-reviewed journals and conferences.
FIELD WORK, SECONDMENTS, INDUSTRY PLACEMENTS AND TRAINING
The project will be based within the CKB group in the Big Data Institute. There are excellent facilities and a world-class community of population health, data science, imaging process, and genomic medicine researchers.
The candidate should have a good first degree and MSc in epidemiology, statistics, or vision sciences, with a strong interest in eye disease epidemiology.