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Globally, 285 million people are visually impaired, with cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) accounting for most of this burden. Several modifiable factors (including smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes, dietary factors, adiposity, hypertension, high cholesterol) and non-modifiable factors (including age, genetic factors, particularly those involved in immune system signaling and lipid metabolism) have been associated with risks of certain eye diseases. However, findings have been inconsistent and evidence on the causal associations is limited, especially from middle- and low-income countries such as China.

The China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study is a large prospective cohort study of over 510,000 adults who were recruited from 10 diverse regions of China during 2004-08. To date, about 7800 cases of cataract, 1140 glaucoma, 4000 diabetic retinopathy, and 500 AMD cases had been recorded. These, together with extensive baseline data collected by questionnaire and physical measurements and genetic data that are being generated will allow for prospective assessment of causal relevance of a range of lifestyle factors and physical characteristics with major eye diseases.

Research Experience, Research Methods and Training

The general aims of this DPhil project will be to:

  1. Describe patterns of eye diseases in the CKB population, including compositions, distributions by age, gender, urban/rural area, etc and associated financial costs;
  2. Investigate the relationship between certain potential risk factors (i.e. smoking, alcohol drinking, adiposity, blood pressure, fish/fresh fruit/meat consumption, and genetic factors) and risks of different eye diseases;
  3. Assess the possible interaction between different environmental factors and between environmental, metabolomic/biochemical and genetic risk factors on the risks of different eye diseases;
  4. Piloting an AMD adjudication study and a screening study using advanced technology (i.e., Foresee PHP) in the next resurvey.

The student will work within a multi-disciplinary team to gain research experience in literature review, study design and planning, epidemiological and statistical methodology, programming, data analysis and scientific writing.

Field Work, Secondments, Industry Placements and Training

The DPhil will be based at CTSU, and there may be opportunities for involvement in field work in China. Specific in-house training and external courses in genetics and statistics programming will be provided. The candidate will be expected to publish 3-4 peer-reviewed papers by the end of DPhil study.

Prospective Candidate

The candidate should have a 2.1 or higher degree in medicine, medical sciences or a related discipline, and an MSc in epidemiology/statistics/genetics/population health would be desirable.