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  • Writer's pictureRiccardo Natoli

Clear Vision Research and Retina Australia are fighting to prevent blindness.

From Left to Right: Dr Nilisha Fernando (Clear Vision Research), Robin Poke (Retinal Australia, ACT), Dr Riccardo Natoli (Clear Vision Research) and Jan James (Retina Australia, ACT).

The Clear Vision Research Laboratories at The John Curtin School of Medical Research and The ANU Medical School were delighted to host Robin Poke (President) and Jan James (Secretary) from the ACT branch of Retina Australia. Retina Australia is a volunteer philanthropic organisation committed to raising funds for research into the detection, prevention, treatment and cure of retinal degenerations. Dr Riccardo Natoli (Head of Clear Vision Research) and Dr Nilisha Fernando (Post-Doctoral Researcher, Clear Vision Research) had the opportunity to thank members of the local ACT branch of Retina Australia, for supporting their work into the treatment of retinal degenerations.

Work currently performed by this innovative research group involves trying to identify novel treatments for the most common cause of blindness in Australia: Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), specifically the more prevalent and currently incurable ‘dry’ form of AMD.

In age-related neurodegenerative diseases including AMD, dysregulation of inflammatory cells, known as microglia and macrophages, are key in the process of ageing. Determining what factors drive these cells towards states of activation, quiescence or senescence, will enable the discovery of modes of disease control including novel therapeutic interventions for AMD.

The Clear Vision Research Laboratories are using a combination of human AMD tissue and animal models to explore the molecular signature of resident microglia and recruited macrophage populations, with a specific focus on microRNA (miRNA). These small molecules are known to be the ‘master regulators of gene expression’, although their role in neurodegeneration and ageing is largely unknown. The ANU team are exploring if these miRNA can be used to slow down the ageing process in the retina by reprogramming the inflammatory cells. It is hoped their work will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms of inflammatory cell dysfunction in retinal disease, and identify possible therapeutic interventions for many retinal degenerations, including AMD, Retinitis Pigmentosa and Diabetic Retinopathy.

For more information on this research, please visit

A special thank you to the hard work and talent of the ANU Advancement team for making this connection possible, especially the brilliantly talented Kerry-Ann Hugo for arranging the day.

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