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Prof Omar Mahroo
Prof Omar Mahroo profile picture
  • Professor of Retinal Neuroscience
  • Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Faculty of Brain Sciences

I am Professor of Retinal Neuroscience at UCL, and a consultant ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at Moorfields Eye Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital. I am lead for the Retina-Uveitis-Oncology Module for the UCL MSc in Ophthalmology and Clinical Lead for the Moorfields Electrophysiology Service (working closely with the Head of Electrophysiology, Dr Anthony Robson). I have been an invited speaker and session moderator at national and international meetings and courses, and an invited expert in scientific advisory panels for NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence). I supervise research students and post-doctoral scientists at UCL/KCL, and registrars and post-CCT fellows in retinal clinics.

I completed my medical degree and PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2004 (achieving a First Class in each of the three pre-clinical years 1997-1999, before commencing the MB/PhD programme), and undertook post-doctoral work at Cambridge and the Australian National University in Canberra. My PhD and post-doctoral work were under the supervision of Trevor Lamb FRS, investigating light and dark adaptation of human rod and cone photoreceptors, and rod-driven bipolar cells, using in vivo electrophysiology, and modelling photopigment regeneration kinetics (Paupoo et al., J Physiol. 2000; Mahroo & Lamb, J Physiol. 2004; Kenkre et al. J Physiol 2005; Cameron, Mahroo, Lamb, J Physiol. 2006).

I worked in medical and surgical specialties in Cambridge, Huntingdon and the West Suffolk Hospital, and then commenced ophthalmology specialist training in the London Deanery in 2007, becoming Fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in 2012. I was appointed Academic Clinical Lecturer in Ophthalmology at King's College London, joining the team of Professor Chris Hammond, in 2011, and established an electroretinography research laboratory at St Thomas' Hospital. At KCL, I supervised five KCL Masters' research projects (all students obtaining distinctions) and several undergraduate research projects at the University of Cambridge. As part of the Vision 2020 link between St Thomas' Hospital and the Muhimbili University Hospital in Tanzania, we investigated retinal imaging findings in Tanzanian optic neuropathy (published in Brain in 2013). I undertook a Medical Retina fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2014 and completed my ophthalmology specialist training in 2015.

I have been awarded research funding from the Wellcome Trust, Fight for Sight, the Birdshot Uveitis Society, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Moorfields Eye Charity and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. I received the “Rising Star of the Year” award from the Macular Society in 2019, and awards for teaching excellence (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) and for Public and Patient Engagement (NIHR BRC and Moorfields and the Institute of Ophthalmology) in 2020.

Research Summary

Chief Investigator for the CRN Portfolio Non-Commercial Study “Recording Retinal Responses in Health and Disease”: current recruitment sites are Moorfields Eye Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital.

My lab investigates human retinal function in health and disease, using in vivo electrophysiology (recording the electrical responses produced by retinal neurons in response to light) and complementary approaches including retinal imaging, genetic investigation and machine learning. The retina works by generating electrical signals in response to light; these signals are processed and eventually transmitted to the brain allowing us to see. Analysing these responses can shed light on normal visual function and mechanisms of disease, particularly inherited retinal disease. Myopia (short-sightedness) appears to be driven by retinal signals: understanding retinal electrophysiology may help us understand mechanisms of myopia development. Also, retinal signalling has similarities with processes occurring in the brain, and alterations in retinal responses could yield insight the changes occurring in some neurological diseases. 

Research informed by these investigations has been published in a number of high impact journals including Nature Genetics, Ophthalmology and Progress in Retinal and Eye Research. In a research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, we recorded retinal electrical responses following smartphone viewing, showing that the “blindness” reported by some patients was consistent with normal retinal adaptation (the letter received widespread media coverage and was number 23 of the 100 most discussed articles of 2016 https://www.altmetric.com/top100/2016/). Major sources of current funding include a £1.1 million 5-year fellowship award from the Wellcome Trust and grants from Moorfields Eye Charity.

Key collaborators include Andrew Webster (UCL), Michel Michaelides (UCL), Gavin Arno (UCL), Pearse Keane (UCL), Chris Hammond (KCL), Pirro Hysi (KCL), Anthony Robson (Moorfields), Tony Moore (UCSF), Trevor Lamb (Australian National University), John Robson (University of Houston, University of Cambridge), Samantha De Silva (University of Oxford), Katie Williams (KCL), Moin Mohamed (St Thomas’ Hospital).

Current Lab Members

Research Scientists

Mr Mark Simcoe – investigating genetic epidemiology of eye diseases (co-supervisor: Dr Pirro Hysi).

Dr Jim Bellingham – genetic investigation of inherited retinal diseases (co-supervisor: Dr Gavin Arno).

Dr Sophie Glinton – applying machine learning methods to clinical electroretinography datasets (co-supervisor: Dr Anthony Robson).

PhD Students

Miss Xiaofan Jiang – developing new electroretinogram protocols to monitor retinal adaptation. (Awarded distinction for MSc project exploring isolated rod and cone system responses).

Miss Zihe Xu (based at KCL, primary supervisor: Dr Pirro Hysi) – associations between myopia-associated genetic loci and electrophysiology parameters. (Awarded distinction for MSc project on retinal light adaptation).

Research Students

Miss Megan Margetts (Cambridge University) - electroretinogram responses in Vitamin A deficiency (received the Dodt Award at the Annual Symposium of the International Society for Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision in 2020).

Mr Remi Rufus-Toye (Cambridge University) – investigating human cone photoreceptor light-sensitive current at early times following onset of intense backgrounds (received a Rob Clarke abstract award at the Future Physiology meeting organised by the Physiological Society in 2020).

Teaching Summary

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy since 2013

Module Lead for Retina-Uveitis-Oncology Module (UCL MSc in Ophthalmology)

Lecturer, Examiner and Dissertation Supervisor for UCL MSc in Ophthalmology

Lecturer on short courses (Moorfields Macular Course and Moorfields Electrophysiology Course) since 2018

Research project supervisor (students based at UCL, KCL, University of Cambridge)

Co-chair of weekly case discussions for retinal specialists (now online with an international audience)

01-OCT-2021 Chair of Retinal Neuroscience Institute of Ophthalmology University College London, United Kingdom
01-OCT-2018 – 30-SEP-2021 Associate Professor Institute of Ophthalmology University College London, United Kingdom
16-OCT-2017 Honorary Consultant Ophthalmologist Medical Retina Moorfields Eye Hospital, United Kingdom
01-FEB-2017 Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer Ophthalmology King's College London, United Kingdom
03-AUG-2016 – 16-OCT-2016 Locum Consultant Opthalmologist Medical Retina Moorfields Eye Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital, United Kingdom
05-AUG-2015 – 02-AUG-2016 Post-CCT Fellow Medical Retina Moorfields Eye Hospital, United Kingdom
03-AUG-2011 – 04-AUG-2014 Academic Clinical Lecturer Ophthalmology; Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology King's College London, United Kingdom
01-AUG-2007 – 04-AUG-2015 Specialist Trainee in Ophthalmology   London Deanery, United Kingdom
01-FEB-2005 Research Affiliate Physiology, Development and Neuroscience University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2012   Fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Royal College of Ophthalmologists
2004   Doctor of Philosophy University of Cambridge
2004   Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of Surgery University of Cambridge
2003   MA Cantab University of Cambridge
1999   Bachelor of Arts (Honours) University of Cambridge
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