Retinal Therapies

In the Retinal Therapies theme, we investigate the processes that lead to diseases of nerve cells at the back of the eye, particularly the light-sensitive retina and the optic nerve.

These diseases include the common blinding conditions of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD): diseases for which there are currently no cures. Using advanced experimental techniques, including specialist imaging and electrophysiology, we aim to unravel the complex steps that lead to the death of these critical nerve cells in order to develop and target effective protective therapies. We are currently investigating a number of promising “neuroprotective” strategies including enhanced antioxidant compounds and unique silk extracts. Ultimately, we aim to slow down or even stop the degeneration of vital nerve cells and reduce the loss of vision currently associated with retinal disease.

Towards an effective treatment for glaucoma: Dynamic detection of retinal oxidative status and the effect of antioxidants

A natural biological process known as oxidative stress has been linked to the cause of glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease accounting for 12% of worldwide blindness. This project utilizes novel research tools and new antioxidant compounds to investigate directly the mechanisms of oxidative stress in the eye. The findings should aid the development of new treatments for glaucoma, and even translate to conditions beyond eye diseases.

Using silk to protect the retina from degeneration

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the two leading causes of irreversible blindness. Current treatments are unable to prevent the progressive vision loss that is due to retinal cell degeneration. This is an investigation into whether extracts from silk can be used to prevent retinal cells from dying in degenerative diseases like glaucoma and AMD. Using cultures of retinal cells and other models of retinal disease, we are studying the activity of silk extracts to determine how they may protect the retina from the underlying causes of cell death, e.g. oxidative stress

Retinal ganglion cell culture and in vitro stimulation of the ICON pathology of the optic nerve

In the treatment of the investigation-negative corticosteroid-responsive (ICON) neuropathy, the existence of a model will open new avenues to the management of this condition. In the project, we explore a model based on optic nerve fibres that are grown in vitro on silk fibroin membranes. On this model, new drugs that may benefit the patients could be tested.

Glial-neuronal-vascular interactions in a novel transgenic model of Müller cell dysfunction

Müller cells are specialised glial cells with essential roles in the retinal homeostasis. Their role in the pathogenesis of retinal diseases is poorly understood. In collaboration with Prof Mark Gillies (University of Sydney) we will determine the neural and vascular changes associated with Müller cell loss using a transgenic mouse model of Müller cell ablation. The knowledge gained will lead to improved approaches to the prevention and treatment of conditions that count for a large proportion of visual impairment and blindness in our community.