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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. Smoking, alcohol consumption, diabetes, dietary factors, adiposity, hypertension, high cholesterol and genetic factors have been associated with certain eye diseases. However, the findings have not been consistent and evidence on the causality is limited.  

The China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study is a large prospective cohort study of environmental and genetic risk factors for chronic diseases in the Chinese population. During 2004-8, over 0.5M adults were recruited from 10 geographically defined regions (5 urban and 5 rural) in China, with extensive data collected through questionnaire survey, physical measurements, blood tests and multi-omics techniques (e.g. genomics, metabolomics). In addition to the routine monitoring for cause-specific mortality through death registries, reliable linkage with health insurance databases for any episodes of hospitalisation has also been established. By  1.1.2014, 7800 cases of cataract, 1140 of glaucoma, 4000 of diabetic retinopathy, and 300 of AMD had been recorded. Similar data on eye diseases will be extracted from the UK Biobank (UKB) study of 0.5M adults recruited in 2006-10.

The aims of this DPhil project include:

  1. Describe the distribution of major eye diseases in the CKB and UKB populations, including sub-types, by age, gender and urban/rural areas.
  2. Examine the relationships of potential risk factors (i.e. smoking, alcohol drinking, adiposity, blood pressure, fish/fresh fruit/meat consumption, and genetic factors) with risk of major eye diseases.
  3. Assess associations of established genetic variants with major eye diseases and interactions of such variants with environmental risk factors.
  4. Piloting an eye disease screening study using advanced technology (i.e. PEEK).

Research Experience, Research Methods and Training

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 project will provide an extensive range of training opportunities through attending specific courses, meetings, seminars and conferences.

Prospective Candidate

A higher degree in Medicine, Epidemiology, Statistics, Public health, or be willing to do the MSc in Global Health Science at Oxford.



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