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Study & Careers

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Neuroprotective electrical stimulation in retinal and optic nerve disease

Research Area: Neuroprotection, Macular Research Unit
Supervisors: A/Prof Chi Luu and Dr Carla Abbott
Tel: +613 9929 8172 / (03) 9929 8380
Email: cluu@unimelb.edu.au / c.abbott@unimelb.edu.au

Suitable for: Masters/PhD

Glaucoma is an eye condition associated with a progressive loss of the retinal ganglion cells and their axons (optic nerve fibres) at the back of the eye. Current treatments for glaucoma are not fully effective in preventing ongoing vision loss in many patients, so new or adjunct therapies are required. Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetically inherited disease, causing loss of the photoreceptors (cells that detect light) in the retina. Currently, there are no treatment options available.

There is increasing evidence that chronic stimulation of the retina with a low level electrical current can protect against the retinal neurons from dying (so-called neuroprotective stimulation). This neuroprotective effect is thought to be through mechanisms of electrical stimulation induced activation of the survival system, which triggers a cascade of events including upregulation of several endogenous neurotrophic factors and anti-apoptotic genes, and downregulation of pro-apoptotic genes and inflammatory cytokines.

The project aim is to investigate whether chronic electrical stimulation prevents loss of retinal neurons in preclinical models of glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa. Skills acquired from this project include microsurgery, electrophysiology, retinal imaging, neural stimulation, retinal histology, immunohistochemistry, statistical analysis and writing scientific papers.

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