Dr Julie Albon
Research Topics and Related Projects:
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.
Figure 1. 3D reconstruction of a human optic nerve head following non-linear microscopy. Left: Fibrillar collagen (SHG: green) and elastin (TPEF:red) in the LC and central retinal vessels in 2D.
Figure 2. Non-linear microscopy in human LC: fibrillar collagen (SHG: green) and elastin (TPEF:red)
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).
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.
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.
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.