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Sophia Masterton

PhD Student

Email: masterts@tcd.ie
Twitter: @SophiaMasterton


Biography

Sophia joined the Ahearne Lab in September 2016 as a PhD student. She received a B.Sc in Biochemistry from University College Dublin during which she undertook a 3 month studentship examining the effect of rainfall on bathing water with a view to create a real time prediction of model of coastal water quality. Her undergraduate research project looked at of the effect of deleting genes in LPS synthesis on platelet binding and aggregation activity of E.coli. She also gained an M.Sc in Molecular Medicine from Trinity College Dublin during which she researched the role of psychosine in Krabbe’s Disease and the signalling pathways affected. Sophia’s project will examine how different mechanical cues and stimuli affect corneal epithelial cells which will aid in the engineering of corneal tissue suitable for transplantation.

Project: Mechanical regulation of corneal cell behaviour

Corneal blindness is among the most common cause of blindness worldwide, usually requiring a corneal transplant. There is currently a lack of viable donor tissue for corneal transplants which is increasing due to many factors including the use of LASIK surgery and an aging population. In order to develop new therapies for corneal blindness it is important to understand how corneal cells behave in different environments and the factors that regulate their behaviour. Mechanical cues are known to be one factor that can influence cell behaviour but to date their effects on corneal cells are poorly understood. The aim of this project will be to examine how different mechanical cues and stimuli affect corneal epithelial cells. These cells are located on the outermost layer of the cornea and are covered by the tear film which together act as a barrier to protect the eye from bacteria and other pathogens. The influence of substrate stiffness, shear stress and tensile loading on the cells will be examined. Cells will be analyzed using a combination of immunocytochemical staining, RT-PCR and western blotting. The successful outcome of this research will enable us to better understand the role of mechanical regulation on corneal epithelial cells and assist in the engineering of corneal tissue suitable for transplantation.