Dr Julie Albon

Dr Julie Albon

Senior Lecturer, Optic Nerve Head Group Leader, Person designate, Cathays Park HTA satellite licence

School of Optometry and Vision Sciences

Email:
albonj@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 29208 75427
Fax:
+44 (0)29 2087 4859

Mae'r cynnwys hwn ar gael yn Saesneg yn unig.

Research Overview

My research focuses on investigating the human optic nerve head, in particular the lamina cribrosa and its insertion region into the sclera, with an overall aim to i) understand how ONH structure and connective tissue micro- and nano-organisation influences a) its biomechanics and b) its susceptibility to the development of glaucomatous optic neuropathy. In the Optic Nerve Head Group, we use a number in ex vivo and in vivo techniques to analyse the cells and connective tissue (collagen, elastin and proteoglycans) and overall architecture of the 3D optic nerve head (non-linear microscopy, xray microtomography, OCT) alters in ageing and glaucoma. In addition, we are investigating the regional micro- and nano-organisation of connective tissue fibres, collagen and elastin (SAXS, SALS, second harmonic imaging, two photon excited fluorescence) in the ONH, and how they influence the biomechanical behaviour of the human ONH.

PhD position

A funded PhD position, is available in my lab. Please click the link below for more information

Optic nerve microstructure: a significant indicator of disease severity

Teaching Overview

  • Module leader for OP1205 Cells to System for first year undergraduates in the BSc Optometry and Vision Sciences
  • Lecturer for OP1205 (lectures, laboratory practical sessions and tutorials)
  • Lecturer in Working safely in Cardiff University course to OPTOM postgraduates
  • Lecturer in COSHH course to OPTOM postgraduates
  • Lecturer in postgraduate MSc Clinical Optometry.
  • Supervisor of third year BSc research project students
  • Supervisor of Erasmus postgraduate students
  • MSc/research projects for University of Riga, Latvia.

Educational and Professional Qualifications

  • 1990-1995 PhD Investigation into the age-related changes in the extracellular matrix of the human lamina  cribrosa. Bristol University.
  • 1989 BSc Applied Biological Sciences, Bristol Polytechnic.

School and University Roles

  • Person designated for School of Optometry and Vision Science (OPTOM), as per Cardiff University Human Tissue Act (HTA) licence
  • OPTOM Biological Safety Officer
  • OPTOM Erasmus co-ordinator
  • Deputy Chair of Teaching and Learning
  • Histology Lead for VSBL
  • Optic Nerve Head Group Leader

Innovation and Engagement

  • Registered STEMnet ambassador
  • Cardiff University Brain Games 2013, National Museum, Cardiff.
  • Monmouth Science Initiation: The Front & Back of the Eye, Mar and Nov 2013
  • Monmouth Science Initiation: The Front & Back of the Eye, Mar 2014
  • Monmouth Science Initiation: In the Blink of an Eye,$acirc; 2010 and 2011
  • Visual Neuroscience Research Institute neuroscience activities, Techniquest, 2009.

Professional memberships

  • Member of the Association for Research and Vision Sciences and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
  • Member of the British Society of Matrix Biology
  • Member of the UK and Eire Glaucoma Society
  • Member of European Biomechanics Society

Academic positions

  • 1999 - 2000 Post-doctoral research associate, Cardiff University
  • 1995 - 1999 Senior Clinical Scientist, Eye Bank, Manchester Healthcare Trust
  • Honorary Lecturer, Department of Ophthalmology, Manchester University

Speaking engagements

  • The optic nerve in 3D: Connective tissue in the young and old; ARVO 2013 symposium: Architecture of the Eye
  • Moderator of Biomechanics paper session, ARVO 2013

Committees and reviewing

School university membership
  • Director of School Research Audit Ethics Committee
  • Cardiff University Genetic Modification Safety Committee
  • University Human Tissue Act working group
  • Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair Research Committee (2010-2013)
School committee membership
  • Safety committee
  • Research Ethics Audit committee
  • Teaching and Learning committee
  • Research committee
  • Postgraduate research sub-committee
  • BSc Board of studies
  • MSc Board of Studies
  • Vision Science Bioimaging Laboratories committee

Throughout my research history I have studied the ageing of ocular tissues using a range of cell biology, biochemical and microscopy techniques. My research to date has focussed on the two opposites ends of the eye: the optic nerve head and the cornea! My PhD, at Bristol University, investigated how the different components (collagen, elastin, proteoglycans) of the human lamina cribrosa extracellular matrix altered with age, and their effect on its biomechanical behaviour. Following my time as a senior clinical scientist working in the Manchester Healthcare NHS Trust Corneal Transplant Service Eye Bank, an interest in the cornea developed. This led to research into the cells and extracellular matrix in corneal wound healing, the potential of organ culture stored corneal donor material for use in epithelial stem cell transplants, and factors involved in epithelial stem cell homeostasis (including Notch signalling!). This works continues to date.

My current research continues into the human optic nerve head, in particular the lamina cribrosa and its insertion region into the sclera, with an overall aim to understand how ONH structure and connective tissue micro- and nano-organisation influences a) its biomechanics and b) its susceptibility to the development of glaucomatous optic neuropathy. In the Optic Nerve Head Research Group, we use a number in ex vivo and in vivo techniques to analyse the cells and connective tissue (collagen, elastin and proteoglycans), and overall architecture of the 3D optic nerve head (non-linear microscopy, xray microtomography, OCT) in ageing and glaucoma. In addition, we are investigating the regional micro- and nano-organisation of connective tissue fibres, collagen and elastin (SAXS, SALS, second harmonic imaging, two photon excited fluorescence) in the ONH, and how they influence the biomechanical behaviour of the human ONH.

We use optical coherence tomography techniques (1050nm, enhanced depth imaging, commercial) to create 3D volumetric datasets of the normal and glaucomatous optic nerve head in vivo in order to characterise ONH parameters, especially those in the lamina cribrosa, that have the potential to stage and/or predict glaucomatous optic neuropathy in ONHs at risk. We are examining the chronicity/relationship of events that take place in the ONH in comparison to those in the retina.

The overall aim of my research is to identify changes in the ONH and/or retinal structure that can be used to predict and/or stage the development of open angle glaucoma i.e. to evaluate biomarkers as indicators of disease. This is in conjunction with a long term aim to develop therapies that can be applied at critical times before onset or at early onset of disease in order to prevent retinal ganglion cell axon degeneration and vision loss.

This research is underpinned by a multidisciplinary team of investigators within the College of Life Sciences and Biomedical Sciences (Professors Rachel North, James Morgan, Bruce Caterson, Vic Duance, Keith Meek, Phil Stephens, Dr Craig Boote). Nick White and James Fergusson of the Vision Science Bioimaging Laboratories (VSBL) are instrumental in this work, as are our external collaborators (see below).

Funding

Albon J, North RV, Morgan JE. £52,688, The use of 1050nm OCT to identify changes of optic nerve head pathophysiology in glaucoma, College of Optometrists, 2011-2014.

Albon J, North RV. £1400, Retinal layer analysis as an indicator of early glaucomatous damage, CUROP, 2013.

Albon J, Duance VC, £5000, 3D reconstruction of  the Human Optic Nerve Head, Thermofisher Inspire Award, 2013.

Albon J, Boote J, Meek K, £39035, Connective tissue in the human optic nerve heads: how does spatial distribution influence its ability to support nerve fibres that pass through it and susceptibility to develop glaucoma. STFC.

Albon J, Boote J, Meek K. £39035, Connective tissue in the human optic nerve head: does regional variation influence its ability to support nerve fibres that pass through it and susceptibility to develop glaucoma? STFC 2012.

Albon J, Boote J, Meek K, £43489, Nanostructure of connective tissue in the human optic nerve head. STFC, 2011.

Albon J, Boote C, Meek K, £43489, How does connective tissue in the human optic nerve head influence its ability to support nerve fibres that pass through it and susceptibility to develop glaucoma? STFC, 2010.

Albon J, Meek K, Boote C, White N. What age-related parameters make an optic nerve head more susceptible to axonal loss and potential blindness? BBSRC DTG studentship, 2009-2013.

Quantock AJ and co-applicants including Albon J, £212,040 BBSRC Doctoral Training Grant, 2009-16.

Albon J, North RV, Drexler W, Morgan JE, £15,000, Optic nerve head changes in the progression of glaucomatous optic neuropathy using 1mm OCT, Hirsch and Fight for Sight Award, 2010-11.

North R, Albon J, Drexler W, £20,000. Three dimensional imaging of the ageing and glaucomatous optic nerve head: risk factors for the development of open-angle glaucoma. UK&Eire Glaucoma Society and International Glaucoma Association, 2008-09.

Morgan JE, Tudor D, Albon J, £49,918, Perineuronal net (PNN) digestion as a therapy for the restoration of retinal ganglion cell structure in glaucoma. National Eye Research Centre, 2010-11.

Morgan JE, Albon J, £49,911, Characterisation of the perineuronal net (PNN) in the glaucomatous human retina: the identification of targets for PNN digestion as a potential therapy for the restoration of retinal ganglion cell structure in glaucoma, International Glaucoma Association, 2010-11.

Albon J, Boote J, Meek K. Connective tissue in the human optic nerve head, STFC funds for 8 days SAXS beamtime at Diamond synchatron, Aug 2013, Mar 2012, Aug 2011, Dec 2010.

Wride MA, Morgan JE, Albon J, £49,918, The role of inhibitors of apoptosis (IAPs) and caspases in retinal ganglion cell death and dendrite remodelling. National Eye Research Centre, 2007-10.

Albon J, Wride MA, Boulton ME, £49,800, Identification of candidate genes critical to epithelial cell patterning and differentiation during corneal development, National Eye Research Centre. 2005-08.

Research Team

  • Dr Katharine Mortlock, BrightFocus Foundation (previously American Health Assistance Foundation), 2011-13
  • Miss Hannah Jones, Thermofischer Inspire Award, 2013
  • Mrs Beth Flynn, College of Optometrists, 2011-2014.

Research Collaborators

  • Dr Graham Davies, Institute of Dentistry (School of Medicine and Dentistry),  QMUL, London
  • Professor Wolfgang Drexler, Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University  Vienna
  • Professor C. Ross Ethier, Wallace H. Coulter, Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology & Emory University School of Medicine London & Georgia Institute of Technology, US
  • Mike Fautsch, Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, Rochester, US
  • Dr Michael Girard, Department of Biomedical Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  • Professor Tim Wess, Charles Sturt University, Australia.

Current Postgraduate Student
(with degree and anticipated completion year):

Hannah Jones PhD 2014
Beth Flynn PhD 2015
Camilla Eaton PhD 2016
Daniella Nosch PhD 2014
Stefan Bandlitz PhD 2014

Past Postgraduate Student
(with degree and year submitted):

Lilian Kississwa 2010 PhD

The role of inhibitors of apoptosis (IAPs) and caspases in retinalganglion cell death and dendrite remodelling

Paulina Samsel2010 PhD Retinal plasticity in glaucoma
Magdalena Nowak 2009 PhD

Evaluation of cellular processes and identification of candidate genes critical to corneal epithelial development

Bablin Molik 2007 PhD The role of matrix metalloproteinases on uveoscleral outflow
Andreas Ballis 2006 PhD

Gene expression profile of cells in successive stages of the corneal stem cell lineage

Aihua Ma 2006 PhD

Notch signalling and its role in corneal epithelial cell survival andDifferentiation

Jila Soltaninia 2005 PhD

Regulation of epithelial homeostasis in human and porcine corneas

Sarah Farrant 2005 PhD

The pathophysiology of retinal ganglion cell death in glaucoma