Name: Dr Micheal Ward
Position: PhD student (2008-2012) Researcher (2012)
Supervisors: Professor Alan Stitt, Professor Jim Johnston and Dr Derek Brazil
Funding: Department of Education and Learning/Kadmon
Project: During the period of my PhD project, I investigated the pathogenic role of the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) plays during diabetic retinopathy. My studies focused on the RAGE induced activation of two retinal cells types in Microglial and Müller cells in vitro and in vivo. In vivo studies included intravitreal introduction of RAGE ligands followed by section and whole retinal analysis using immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. Though the majority of my project focused upon diabetic induction of animal models both control strains and transgenic RAGE knockout utilizing a number of techniques including those mentioned.
During my period of writing my thesis I carried out a project investigating the anti-angiogenic potential of a compound produced by the pharmaceutical company Kadmon. This project involved the investigation of the compounds effects on the oxygen induced retinopathy (OIR) model in the Blab/c mouse model. Immunodetection allowed for the study of malformed retinal blood vessels within the retina using sectioned and whole retinal analysis.
Current Position: Post-doctoral research officer, Mater Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, QLD, Australia
CVVS as a place to do science: I will look back on my time spent at QUB, more so in the CVVS, as a fantastic time in my career. The help and support demonstrated by most all in the centre facilitated my transition from new to experienced researcher and in turn has provided me with the skills to transition into my first post-doctoral position. I had the benefit of working under Professor Alan Stitt and Dr Derek Brazil during my time in the CVVS. Both of whom I owe a debt of gratitude, for not only aiding in my development, but also for being open and available when time was needed for reflection on my project progression and affording the experience to take on and drive a project from beginning to end. I have witnessed firsthand the development of the centre and have been privy to the future plans to increase the centres development globally, and would strongly recommend to any candidate the CVVS as a fabulous opportunity to not only research, but to thrive in the position.
Name: Dr Ross W Hamilton
CVVS Position: PhD student 2007-2011
CVVS supervisor: Professor Alan Stitt
Funding: Department for Employment and Learning (DEL)
Education: BSc Physiology, PhD Biomedical science
Project at CVVS: To assess the therapeutic effects of an erythropoietin (EPO) mimetic in various models of diabetic retinopathy (DR). This mimetic peptide retains the anti-apoptotic effects of EPO while negating the potentially hazardous erythropoietic complications. While basic in nature, this investigation is relevant to a major sight-threatening disorder and has clear translational potential. The study provides important evidence to support the use of EPO mimetic peptides as a drug-intervention in the early stages of DR.
Current position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Emory University, Atlanta USA. My work here is focusing on the intracellular cleavage fragments of cell adhesion proteins and their role in cell-cell adhesion and homeostasis.
Working at CVVS: CVVS contains a wealth of hard-working and intelligent people that are always willing to troubleshoot project aims or support you in any way possible. My postdoctoral work is far removed from the work I did at CVVS but thanks to the solid support and teaching I received at CVVS, I was well equipped to adapt and flourish in my new, competitive lab environment. The resources available at CVVS are all in place to establish each of its students as fully-competent scientists.
Name: Dr. Hongliang Zong
Position: Postdoctoral Fellow (2008-2010)
Supervisor: Prof. Alan Stitt
Funding: Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF)
Project: To investigate the role of the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) in the pro-inflammatory signalling pathway in diabetic retinopathy including glia and microglia using molecular and cellular methods and RAGE knockout mice
Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY, USA
CVVS as a place to do science: CVVS is a big and nice family, built by lots of dedicated scientists who are devoted to research, and passionate for life. My supervisor, Prof. Alan W. Stitt, is one of the best scientists I've ever met. Not only because that he is very knowledgeable, supportive, instructive and open-minded; but also for his excellent personality. The whole group have very nice collaborations.
Name: Dr. Joanna Kur
Position: PhD student (2006-2010)
Supervisors: Dr Tim Curtis, Prof Graham McGeown, Dr Norman Scholfield
Funding: Fight for Sight, UK
Education: Master degree in Biotechnology
PhD Project: Mechanisms underlying the myogenic response in retinal arterioles
Objectives: Myogenic vasoconstriction is critical to local blood flow regulation in the retina but its underlying mechanisms have not been studied. Ca2+ sparks are highly localised, brief sub-cellular Ca2+ transients that reflect Ca2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum. In arterial smooth muscle cells, Ca2+ sparks have been shown to limit myogenic tone by activation of BK channels. However, previous studies suggest they play a contractile role in retinal microvessels.
This study investigated the mechanisms underlying myogenic tone of retinal arterioles with primary focus on the functional role of Ca2+ sparks. This was extended to investigate the mechanisms of action arachidonic acid, an important retinal vasodilator believed to play a role in neurovascular coupling.
Key Piece of Equipment: Patch-clamp amplifier and pressure myography rig.
Current position: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Newman Laboratory, Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, USA (Dec 2010-present).
Name: Dr. Peter Bankhead
Position: PhD student (2005-2009)
Supervisors: Dr Tim Curtis, Prof Graham McGeown, Dr Norman Scholfield
Funding: European Social Fund
Project: During my PhD, I spent my time developing image analysis algorithms and software for studies on retinal blood flow. This included detecting and measuring blood vessels in fundus photographs and angiograms, as well as finding calcium signals in confocal microscopy images of arteriolar smooth muscle cells.
Current Position: The Nikon Imaging Center at Heidelberg University, Germany
CVVS as a place to do science: I have very happy memories of my time at Queen’s - especially the friendliness, supportiveness and expertise of my supervisors and other CVVS members, which together helped keep me sane throughout all the thesis-writing.
Name: Dr. Margaret Dellett
Position: PhD student (2004-2008)
Supervisors: Dr Tiziana Cogliati and Dr David Simpson
Funding: Department of Education and Learning (DEL)
Project Summary: Retinal progenitor cells go through competence states, defined as their ability to respond to environmental cues to determine diverse cell phenotypes. The combinatorial expression of transcription factors (TF), including members of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family, dictates cell competence. Nhlh1 and Nhlh2 constitute a subfamily of neuronal–specific bHLH TF. They are expressed in postmitotic and differentiated neuronssuggesting a function as late acting differentiation genes and in the maintenance of the differentiated state. Gain–of–function studies in the chicken suggest a role for Nhlh2 in retinogenesis. The purpose of my PhD project was to investigate the retinal phenotype associated with homozygous targeted deletion (knockout) of Nhlh2 in mouse to gain insight into its function.Current Position: I am currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL).
CVVS as a place to do science: I absolutely loved my time as a PhD student in the CVVS. I had amazing supervisors, with a true passion for research, who supported me every step of the way.
Current Position: I am currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL).