We are currently advertising DTP and CASE studentships for October 2019 start. The deadline for applications is the 26th November 2018.

27 / 09 / 2018

Developmental Systems Biology of the Eye – The Origins of Retinal Self-Organisation (GROCOTT_U19DTP)

how to apply

There is much interest in the possibility of growing human organs from patient stem cells in vitro (a.k.a. ‘organoids’). In addition to regenerative therapies, this could furnish new disease models and facilitate drug development. By learning how tissues and organs develop in the embryo we can rationally design strategies for developing organoids in vitro. Our research uses the chick embryo to investigate the development of our primary sense organ, the eye.

It is known that stem cell cultures can spontaneously self-organise to form retinas in vitro, but it is not know how they do this. This PhD project aims to investigate a Pax6 gene network that may drive self-organisation of the early retina. Pax6 was named a ‘master control gene’ for eye development, and we recently identified a network of Pax6-interacting genes with the potential to spontaneously self-organise the early retina, either in the embryo or in vitro. The project will directly test this possibility by measuring the biophysical properties of key gene products and comparing them with values predicted by computer simulations of early retinal development.

The project will develop your transferable ‘wet lab’ skills in molecular, cell, and developmental biology, and advanced imaging. You will receive rigorous training in quantitative analytical approaches, with an added opportunity to gain new skills in computational biology (computer programming, mathematical modelling; previous experience not required).


Ali RR, Sowden JC. Regenerative medicine: DIY eye. Nature 472, 42-43 (2011)

Eiraku, M. et al. Self-organizing optic-cup morphogenesis in three-dimensional culture. Nature 472, 51-56 (2011)

Gehring, WJ. The master control gene for morphogenesis and evolution of the eye. Genes Cells 1, 11-15 (1996)