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Neurodegeneration to regeneration (N2R)

We research the mechanisms that underpin neurodegeneration in the retina and optic nerve and use this to discover regenerative and therapeutic strategies.

Our research spans neurodegeneration and ageing, visual and ocular development and stem cells, regeneration and repair, and visual function.

We aim to unravel the genetic, molecular, biochemical, microstructural, and cellular mechanisms underpinning neurodegeneration in the retina and optic nerve.  We characterize the biological indicators (biomarkers) associated with these processes and apply this information towards regenerative and therapeutic strategies.

We are an interdisciplinary group, with research interests ranging from neurodegeneration, immunity, mitochondria, ocular therapeutics, exosomes, optic nerve structure and function/ imaging/ electrophysiology, animal studies, human studies, broadly focusing on the cell and molecular but include clinical techniques. Our techniques include basic science cell and molecular biology: cells/proteins/DNA-RNA/exosomes to tissues to eye in vitro and ex vivo, and to animal models and applications in the clinic in vivo.

Aims

To improve quality of life through the development of new technologies for early detection, improved monitoring and effective treatment of visual problems related to the nervous system.

We also aim to carry out societally impactful molecular neuroscience, ranging from genetics and genomics to connectomics, with a focus on the inner and neural retina and optic nerve, and we span imaging and psychophysics (interactions between systems/scales). For example, micro to macro, retina to brain. Two of our members are practicing clinical ophthalmologists, and one is an optometrist, and we are firmly grounded in translational research.

Our research is enhanced by our strong links with the Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute, Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), and the School of Psychology

Our research covers a number of themes, all fundamentally addressing neurodegeneration in the retina and optic nerve. The themes include glaucoma, mitochondrial dysfunction in the eye, retinal degeneration and regeneration.

Glaucoma

In the field of glaucoma and inherited optic neuropathy, our research investigates novel therapeutic agents, including adult stem cells, as well as their secreted constituents (e.g. exosomes). We test these novel neuro-protective therapeutic strategies in state-of-the-art in vitro and in vivo models, and human embryonic stem cell-derived retinal cultures.

We also combine psychophysical and neuroimaging techniques to investigate the effect of glaucomatous retinal degeneration on function at multiple neural hierarchies, from the retina to the striate and extra-striate visual centres in the brain, in order to better understand the impact of glaucoma on everyday scene perception.

Mitochondria & Vision

The Mitochondria & Vision research theme addresses the role of mitochondrial dysfunction due to mutation in an expanding number of genes, in the pathophysiology of retinal degeneration and inherited optic neuropathy. Our approach has placed an emphasis on generating model systems to study retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss and inner retinal degeneration in order to further elucidate disease mechanisms and pathophysiology.

Primary mitochondrial optic neuropathies, such as Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) and autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA)), are a significant cause of visual impairment (approx. 1 in 10,000 people) with no cure. Mitochondrial optic neuropathies share mitochondrial dysfunction in the optic nerve and selective damage and loss of retinal ganglion cells. There is a clinical unmet need for novel therapeutic interventions.

Our active projects led by our Principal Investigators (PI) in alphabetical order are:

Dr Julie Albon

ProjectFunder
A multidisciplinary approach to early detection and staging disease in glaucomaWellcome Trust
Challenging blindness in Sub-Saharan Africa: the Ghana Glaucoma Study pilotGlobal Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
Optic nerve microstructure: a significant indicator of disease severityHealth Studentship Award, Health and Care Research Wales/ Welsh Government.
Ostracod carapace as a novel transparent materialDefence Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL)

Dr Ben Mead

ProjectFunder
Delivery of exosomes into models of eye diseaseFight for Sight
Therapeutic application of exosomesHorizon2020 Marie Curie

Professor James Morgan

ProjectFunder
The role of immune mechanisms in experimental glaucoma.Fight for Sight Studentship
NAD therapy in glaucomaFight for Sight Studentship
The role of platelet derived BDNF in the management of experimental glaucomaFight for Sight Small Project Grant /Tweadie Bequest
 Development of an audit tool for monitoring intraocular pressure changes in glaucoma following MIGSSanten Inc (unrestricted)

Dr Tony Redmond

ProjectFunder
Challenging blindness in Sub-Saharan Africa: the Ghana Glaucoma Study pilotGlobal Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
Crowding in glaucomaCollege of Optometrists PhD studentship
Spatiotemporal summation in age-related macular diseaseMacular Society PhD studentship
Changes in the visual cortex in glaucoma and their role in visual recovery: an fMRI studyFight for Sight PhD studentship

Dr Malgorzata Rozanowska

ProjectFunder
Pre-clinical testing of near-infrared light therapy in a mouse model of autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA)Wellcome Trust
Sustained release formulations for new drugs in the treatment of mitochondrial optic neuropathiesNational Eye Research Centre
Near-infrared light therapy as a therapeutic regimen for inherited optic neuropathyAcademy of Medical Sciences Newton International Fellowship

Professor Marcela Votruba

ProjectFunder
Sustained release formulations for new drugs in the treatment of mitochondrial optic neuropathiesNational Eye Research Centre Project Grant
Light for Sight – neuroprotection in mitochondrial optic neuropathyWellcome Trust ISSF3 Cross Disciplinary Award
Small molecule therapiesWellcome Trust ISSF3 Consolidator Award
Near-infrared light therapy as a therapeutic regimen for inherited optic neuropathyAcademy of Medical Sciences Newton International Fellowship

Academic staff

Dr Julie Albon

Dr Julie Albon

Senior Lecturer, Deputy Director of Research, Optic Nerve Head Group Leader, HTA Person designate for Cathays Park HTA satellite licence

Email
albonj@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 29208 75427
Dr Ben Mead

Dr Ben Mead

Lecturer

Email
meadb@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0)29 2087 0502
Professor James E Morgan

Professor James E Morgan

Professor in Ophthalmology, Consultant Ophthalmologist

Email
morganje3@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2074 3222
Dr Tony Redmond

Dr Tony Redmond

Senior Lecturer, Director of Postgraduate Research

Email
redmondt1@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0)29 2087 0564
Dr Malgorzata Rozanowska

Dr Malgorzata Rozanowska

Senior Lecturer

Email
rozanowskamb@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 29208 75057
Professor Marcela Votruba

Professor Marcela Votruba

Professor and Hon. Consultant in Ophthalmology

Email
votrubam@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0)29 2087 0117

Postgraduate students

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Gloria Cimaglia

Research student

Email
cimagliag@cardiff.ac.uk
Eirini Kokkali

Eirini Kokkali

Research student

Email
kokkalie@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 6471
Skoczek, Kristian

Kristian Skoczek

Research student

Email
skoczekkp@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0556
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Shanshan Sun

Research student

Email
suns9@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 6471
Mason Wells

Mason Wells

Research student

Email
wellsmt1@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 208 70247
Melissa Wright

Melissa Emily Wright

Research student

Email
wrightme@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 0247
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Ryan Bartlett

Research student

Email
bartlettrl@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 5665

Associated staff

Dr Thomas Freeman

Dr Thomas Freeman

Research Associate

Email
freemant5@cardiff.ac.uk
Dr Surabhi Kandaswamy

Dr Surabhi Kandaswamy

Newton International Post-doctoral Fellow

Email
kandaswamyd@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0)29 2087 5665
Dr Matthieu Trigano

Dr Matthieu Trigano

Research Associate

Email
triganom1@cardiff.ac.uk
Our research delivers advances in knowledge to facilitate detection, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of vision disorders to improve quality of life.