Edinburgh Imaging

27 Nov 17. Job - PhD vacancy (DTP5)

Project Details - Exploring the eye as a site for virtual biopsy to detect and track of chronic kidney disease (iCase)

PhD Vacancy – Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) in Precision Medicine


Project title: Exploring the eye as a site for virtual biopsy to detect and track of chronic kidney disease (iCase)

Supervisors: Dr Tom MacGillivray, Dr Neeraj Dhaun, Prof Bal Dhillon & Dr Alan Fleming


Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences


CKD affects 6-11% of the world’s population [1]. Hypertension is an independent risk factor for CKD progression and is a frequent finding in patients with CKD. Around a quarter of the world’s adult population is hypertensive, a number that is projected to rise to nearly 30% by 2025 [2]. Renal microvascular changes are important in the development of CKD. Currently, these can only be assessed reliably through renal biopsy, which is not without risk. However, the kidney and eye are remarkably similar in their developmental, structural and pathogenic pathways [3]. Transparency of the ocular media offers a unique opportunity to directly visualize and image microvasculature within the eye that may be affected in systemic diseases such as hypertension and CKD. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a non-invasive and rapid method for cross- sectional imaging of the retina and choroid. Our preliminary data suggest chorioretinal thinning in CKD and that choroidal thickness associates strongly with measures of kidney injury, systemic and renal inflammation as well as endothelial dysfunction [4]. Retinal imaging metrics may reflect renal (and systemic) injury and could have utility in detection and tracking of kidney disease over time. Our industrial partner, Optos, is a leading medical technology company based in Scotland specialising in the retina and is developing state-of-the-art OCT instrumentation.


Hypothesis: OCT will provide a virtual biopsy to aid in the assessment of patients with CKD.


  1. Segment the chorio retinal layers and map the choroidalvasculature in 3D by developing novel post-processing methodologies for OCT.

  2. Investigate new choroidalvascular metrics relating to abnormalities in patients with CKD and compare to healthy volunteers and patients with a similar degree of hypertension but without CKD.

  3. Explore whether severity of chorioretinal abnormalities correlates with the degree of CKD and endothelial dysfunction as measured by standard clinical biomarkers.

  4. Ascertain whether the retina is a viable site for biomarker discovery of disease activity.

The student will be in a unique position to leverage an exciting and rich dataset that has been acquired over the past 2 years from >200 participants. These include healthy volunteers (~60 subjects), those with hypertension (~50 subjects), those with CKD (~70 subjects) and those with CKD who have received a kidney transplant and therefore, their kidney function has returned to a healthy level (~30 subjects).

If interested, please read here for the full details of the post.

Prospective students can apply here, before the deadline for 18/19 applications is 5pm on Wednesday 10th January 2018.