Short-sightedness (myopia) has become increasingly common throughout the world. About half of the UK population are now short-sighted. As well as the inconvenience of needing to wear glasses or contact lenses, short-sighted individuals have an unusually high risk of developing several eye conditions that cause much more serious, permanent sight loss. A review carried out in 2013 ranked short-sightedness as the first to third most frequent causes of untreatable blindness worldwide.

Once patients become short-sighted they cannot be cured. Therefore prevention is widely viewed as the best approach to reduce the number of people going blind as a result of short-sightedness in the future. Unfortunately, current treatments only partly slow myopia progression, whereas an ideal treatment would half its development completely.

This PhD studentship project will exploit recent advances in the field of human genetics.

  • Short-sightedness is more common in people who go into higher or further education, although not all highly-educated people will become short-sighted. We will identify genetic differences that make certain people prone to become short-sighted when they go into higher education, while others are resistant.
  • Other aspects of modern day life such as not spending much time outdoors also make certain people prone to become short-sighted. Again, we will identify the genetic differences that explain such person-to-person differences.
  • The UK government has recently invested millions of pounds to set up a 'Biobank', which is currently the largest anywhere in the world. Over half a million members of the public have taken part in the UK Biobank project, donating a blood sample and undergoing a wide range of clinical tests. By studying the genetic and clinical information about the eyes of these half a million people, while keeping their identify confidential, we will be able to learn much more than ever before about the cases short-sightedness.

These scientific discoveries will allow new and more effective treatments for short-sightedness to be developed, which target the root cause of the condition.