Translation of eye research into other diseases

KU Leuven
March 23 2017
Position Type
Full Time
Organization Type

For the Research Groups, Ophthalmology (Neuroscience Department, Group BMW) and Neural Circuit Development and Regeneration (Biology Department, Group W&T), we are looking for a motivated PhD fellow who wants to join us in the research topic: The PhD will be performed under supervision of Prof. dr. Ingeborg Stalmans (UZ Leuven, Group BMW, Ophthalmology Research Group, KU Leuven) and Prof. dr. Lieve Moons (Neural Circuit & Regeneration Research Group, Group W&T, KU Leuven) and will run within the Vision Core Leuven (

The eye offers a unique window to the brain and its circulation. Changes in the retinal structure and function have been linked to several cerebral and cardiovascular diseases, even in a pre-clinical stage. As novel, non-invasive imaging techniques that allow the evaluation of these parameters are emerging, the question on whether and how they might be incorporated into clinical practice remains largely unanswered. The proposed PhD research aims to investigate two promising applications that could, in an automated and non-invasive way, identify a biomarker in cardio- vascular and neurological diseases. The first step would be to apply these techniques in a controlled environment with animal models, and later translate the knowledge into clinical practice by trying to identify the same biomarker in patients.

Project 1. Flicker-induced retinal vasodilation as a parameter for systemic cardiovascular health

When subjected to flickering light stimulation, healthy retinal blood vessels show a marked vasodilation. This process is largely endothelium dependent and hence is severely impaired with endothelium dysfunction. Flicker-induced retinal vasodilation has shown to be significantly reduced in patients with diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, etc., and looks promising both as a diagnostic tool and to assess the response of treatment on CV health in individual patients. The proposed project consists of developing and testing a novel technique to perform standardized, automated measurements of the retinal vascular endothelial function based on Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)-angiography, without the need for intravenous contrast administration or pupil dilation.

Project 2. Retinal amyloid detection using a hyperspectral snapshot image sensor.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the major cause of dementia worldwide and characterized by accumulation of amyloid-protein in the cerebral cortex. Being an extension of the brain, the retina is also affected by amyloid deposition. Spectroscopic quantification of amyloid in the retina seems a promising non-invasive biomarker for AD that could be used in animal research as well as to detect patients in a pre-clinical stadium. Unlike all the techniques that have been used to demonstrate retinal amyloid plaques previously, the proposed technique would allow to acquire a hyperspectral signature of the retina in a cheap, fast and non-invasive method by using a hyperspectral snapshot image sensor.

This job comes from a partnership with Science Magazine and Euraxess