The overall aim of this project was to examine whether certain substances released from dying photoreceptors could contribute to the death of neighbouring cells.
The hypothesis was that following neuronal death, large amounts of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, which is a molecule that provides energy for cells to function) could be released from dying photoreceptors, which in turn could lead to excessive activation of neighbouring cells and their death.
This project had three aims:
1. To examine the mechanism by which ATP induces photoreceptor death.
2. To examine the effect of inhibition or loss of P2X receptors on retinal structure during degeneration.
3. To establish that anomalies in purine regulation contribute to retinal degeneration.
Project Results and Impact
The results of our experiments suggest that when ATP is found in high concentrations around photoreceptors this promotes and accelerates their death. Moreover, application of agents that block the action of ATP slow photoreceptor death in an animal model of retinal degeneration. These findings are a first step in the development of a novel class of drug that could be useful in slowing photoreceptor death.
Associate Professor Erica Fletcher
University of Melbourne