Food BioSystems DTP Investigation of the capacity of a diet rich in lutein/zeaxanthin to increase macular pigment density, thereby potentially reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration

We want to find out whether consuming a diet rich in protective macular pigments can be a lifestyle strategy that has the potential to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries.  Macular pigment is concentrated in the inner and central layers of the macula and is believed to protect against AMD.  It is mainly composed of the xanthophylls, lutein and zeaxanthin, the richest source of which is bell peppers.  In a randomized trial, volunteers with a family history of AMD will be allocated to two groups, one of which will eat a diet rich in bell peppers and the other will take a supplement of a lutein/zeaxanthin.  After six months, we will see if the group eating the diet rich in bell peppers has had as good an increase in macular pigment as the supplement group.  This would lead to lifestyle advice for those at high risk of the condition.

Start date
1 October 2019
Duration
4 years
Application deadline
Funding information

This project is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants. Due to restrictions on the funding, this studentship is only open to UK students and EU students who have lived in the UK for the past three years.

The FoodBioSystems DTP is a collaboration between the University of Reading, Cranfield University, Queen’s University Belfast, Aberystwyth University, Surrey University and Brunel University London. Our vision is to develop the next generation of highly skilled UK Agri-Food bioscientists with expertise spanning the entire food value chain. We have over 60 Associate and Affiliate partners. To find out more about us and the training programme we offer all our postgraduate researchers please visit https://research.reading.ac.uk/foodbiosystems/

About

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries.  In early AMD, waste material, known as drusen, builds up under the retina, the light-detecting layer in the eye.  Increasing size and number of drusen is associated with development of the late forms of AMD: geographic atrophy (GA) where there is gradual death of light-detecting cells and neovascular AMD (nAMD) where fragile blood vessels grow below and into the retina, causing bleeding.  Both types lead to permanent vision loss and can occur together.  Currently, the only effective treatment for nAMD is eye injections that help reduce vision loss.  There are no known treatments to prevent the development of GA1.   

The macula is a specialised part of the retina, mediating central vision, providing the sharpest visual acuity and facilitating the best colour discrimination.  Macular pigment, as measured by macular pigment optical density (MPOD), is concentrated in the inner and central layers and is believed to protect against AMD.  It is mainly composed of the xanthophylls, lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin (synthesised in situ from lutein).  The concentration of these xanthophylls in the macula is 1000-fold greater than in the blood, demonstrating high selectivity.  This suggests a pivotal role for the xanthophylls which are believed to play a major role in protecting the retina and retinal pigment epithelium from light-initiated oxidative damage by scavenging reactive oxygen species and filtering blue light.  The xanthophylls are transported on HDL and polymorphisms in HDL-related loci have been associated with AMD and plasma lutein/zeaxanthin.

Data from epidemiological studies suggests that dietary lutein and zeaxanthin intake are inversely associated with the risk of AMD.  The AREDS2 randomised trial, carried out in the US, supplemented patients with early AMD with an antioxidant supplement that included lutein (10 mg) and zeaxanthin (2 mg).  In a secondary analysis of that study, supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin was protective against progression to late AMD in individuals with low lutein/zeaxanthin intake.  A meta-analysis of 19 studies showed that supplementation with lutein and/or zeaxanthin and/or meso-zeaxanthin improved MPOD both in AMD patients and healthy subjects, with a dose-response relationship.  However, not all studies have shown an effect of lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation on MPOD.  The proposed research will address that uncertainty.

Supervisors

Surrey: Prof Margaret Rayman 

Dr Jonathan Brown 

Queen’s Belfast: Prof Jayne Woodside 

Dr Ruth Hogg 

Related links
Apply for a FoodBioSystems PhD

Eligibility criteria

This project is suitable for a student with a degree in medicine, nutrition, chemistry, agriculture, food science or a closely related science who has an interest in diet and health.  He/she should have laboratory skills, be able to write well and already have, or expect to obtain, a 1st class honours degree.  The student will be based at the University of Surrey but will need to spend up to one year in total at QUB.

This project is part of the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP); it will be funded subject to a competition to identify the strongest applicants.  The student will receive a full research-council studentship.

Due to restrictions on funding, this studentship is only open to UK students and EU students who have lived in the UK for the past three years.

Applicants should have fluent written and spoken English.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the Surrey-based FoodBioSystems DTP Studentship, you will need to submit two applications to be considered for funding under the FoodBioSystems BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) between the University of Surrey and the University of Reading.

Please follow the process below to help you prepare and submit your application.

Apply for a place on the PhD course

Two separate applications will need to be submitted:

Please make sure you indicate on your application to the University of Surrey that you are applying for the Surrey-based FoodBioSystems DTP Studentship scheme. You are also advised to ensure that you include your degree transcripts and references in the application – not providing these documents can slow the process down.

University of Reading Application:

Complete the Reading FoodBioSystems DTP PhD Application Form and email the application form to foodbiosystems@reading.ac.uk. More information can be found on the Reading website.

University of Surrey Application:

Students will also need to apply through the Surrey Biosciences and Medicine PhD course pages. Applicants do not need to prepare a separate research proposal, however, should submit their Reading application form in its place. Please make it clear on your application that you are applying for funding through the FoodBioSystem DTP.

Deadline: Your studentship application both at Surrey and Reading, must be submitted by 5:00pm GMT 6 March 2020.


Application deadline

Contact details

Margaret Rayman
18 AY 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686447
E-mail: M.Rayman@surrey.ac.uk
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • The University of Surrey
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Royal Holloway, University of London

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