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Life science PhD Research Project - UK - February 2012

Huntington’s disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder resulting in progressive movement, cognitive, and behavioural impairments over 20 years. It results from dysfunction and death of medium spiny neurons in the striatum and consequential basal ganglia circuitry disruption. There are limited symptomatic treatments for HD and no disease modifying treatments, although potential treatment strategies are starting to emerge. For clinical trials to be really successful in HD, more objective outcome measures are required.

Eye movement abnormalities are an early and inevitable facet of the phenotype, but are poorly measured in standard neurological tests. There is a literature on the use of eye movement abnormalities to follow disease progression in asymptomatic /early HD, but much less work on the characterisation in moderate stage disease (when most drug trials are undertaken). Furthermore, several debilitating symptoms of HD, such as postural instability, are known to depend, at least in part, on visual input, but the contribution of vision to these symptoms has not been investigated and a better understanding could lead to new treatment strategies.

The aims of this project are to define eye movement abnormalities in HD for the purposes of (i) understanding whether eye movement abnormalities may contribute to symptoms such as postural instability, gait abnormalities and apraxia, and (ii) to identify key eye movement abnormalities that could provide objective outcome measures for emerging clinical interventions. Individuals with HD will be recruited from the South Wales HD clinic and the eye movement analysis will utilise infrastructure and expertise provided by Dr J Erichsen (Optom). Our long-term strategy is to develop a comparative analysis in HD transgenic mice alongside the human studies (in collaboration with Prof S Dunnett), and the student will have the opportunity to engage in the animal studies also, according to interest, background and time.

Funding Notes:

To be eligible to have fees paid for and receive a stipend, applicants need to be from the UK or from the EU and have lived in the UK for the last three years. EU students would only have fees paid for and no stipend. The stipend for the first year is expected to be £13, 590.

To apply you must also have achieved at least a 2:1 (or equivalent) in a degree relevant to the project. If English is not your first language you need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS or equivalent.


28 February 2012