Project Aim

The main focus of our work is to examine whether there are factors that exacerbate photoreceptor death during retinal degeneration so that novel treatments can be developed. Over the last few years we have been exploring the role that ATP plays in modulating photoreceptor death. This molecule is well known for its functions in energy metabolism. However, when ATP is found outside cells, it can act as a mediator for neuronal communication.

The aim of this study was to investigate whether ATP causes photoreceptor death and whether blocking the actions of ATP slows photoreceptor death in animal models of retinal degeneration.

Project Results and Impact

Overall, our study found that photoreceptors have receptors that bind to ATP, an energy molecule. Injecting ATP or similar compounds into rats caused the death of photoreceptors, leading to vision loss. Blocking the ATP-binding receptors with a drug prevented some of the photoreceptor death. We also discovered that ATP acts directly on photoreceptors themselves, and blocking ATP binding slowed down photoreceptor degeneration in mice with retinal degeneration. These findings provide insights into the mechanisms of photoreceptor death and potential strategies to slow down the progression of retinal degenerative diseases.

Chief investigator:
Associate Professor Erica Fletcher
University of Melbourne

Grant awarded:
$40,000 (2009)

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