Project Aim

This project aimed to investigate how certain immune cells, called microglia and macrophages, respond to diseases that cause damage to the retina. These immune cells have an important role in the body’s response to diseases, so we also aimed to identify how a specific type of molecule called microRNA, plays a crucial role in regulating these immune cells. 

When microglia and macrophages do not function properly, it can contribute to the development of various age-related diseases that affect the brain and nerves. By studying how these cells respond to ageing and stress, we can gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of these diseases. This knowledge can potentially lead to the development of new treatments or strategies to prevent or slow down the progression of these degenerative diseases.

Project Results and Impact 

Funding provided by Retina Australia has allowed us to investigate the role that both microglia and macrophages play in response to retinal degenerations, and identify microRNA (miRNA) as a key player in the regulation of these immune cells. We demonstrated that miRNA dysregulation is a key feature of retinal damage, using a model of photo-oxidative-induced retinal degeneration.

Specifically the funding has enabled us to:

1. Establish a culturing technique for retinal microglia in order to study their changes in response to stress and damage.

2. Establish a reporter strain to allow us to visually identify microglia and macrophages, allowing for further dissection of the miRNA differences between microglia and macrophages, especially those pertaining to inflammatory pathways.

3. Demonstrate that miR-124 provides protection against retinal degenerations and that miR-124 is pivotal in maintaining normal retinal homeostasis.

4. Demonstrate that miR-155 is differentially regulated in microglia and macrophages in response to retinal damage. Reducing the expression of miR-155 can reduce retinal inflammation and degeneration.

Chief investigator:
Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli
Australian National University, Canberra


Professor Jan Provis, Australian National University, Canberra

Dr Matt Rutar, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Tamar Fisher, Australian National University, Canberra

Associate Professor Michelle Madigan, University of NSW, Sydney

Associate Professor Krisztina Volta-Kocsi, Australian National University, Canberra

Dr Anne Buestle, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Perth

Dr Hardip Patel, Australian National University, Canberra

Grant awarded:
$39,951 (2018)

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