Characterising functional remodelling in retinal degenerations
Please click for our latest projects for Vision Science Honours, MOptom research projects and undergraduate vacation projects. Note some of these projects involve collaboration with the research group at the Centre for Eye Health and research groups at the University of Melbourne and University of Auckland.
For more information on PhD or other types of projects, please contact us.
Understanding retinal remodelling in retinal degenerations
Glutamate and glutamate receptors are the major path of neurotransmission in the mammalian retina. However, in retinal degenerations such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, remodelling occurs and we see aberrant expression of glutamate receptors on neurons of the inner retina. Functional remodelling occurs prior to cell death in many ocular diseases suggesting it is an underlying mechanism of the disease process and a potential point for early therapeutic intervention. Current projects on this area are investigating functional remodelling of glutamate receptors using animal models for retinal degeneration. Understanding changes in retinal circuitry is essential for developing successful therapeutics and implants such as the bionic eye which rely on normal retinal circuitry to function.
Understanding retinal changes in ischaemic disease
Retinal ischaemia is a pathological process involved in a range of retinal conditions including vascular occullsions and acute angle closure glaucoma (glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide). Retinal ischaemia results from restriction of blood to the retina and leads to oxygen and glucose deprivation. However, even after blood flow is restored, cell death occurs and patients experience progressive vision loss. We are able to generate transient ischaemia in rats by elevating intraocular pressure (IOP). Current projects are using this model to characterising changes which occur short and long term in neurons and glial cells in this animal model.
The effects of drugs in treating and accelerating retinal disease
Many retinal diseases do not have effective treatments. In turn, many systemic drugs have indirect effects on the retina. We have recently showed that sildenafil – found in drugs like Viagra can inhibit cGMP-specific phosphodiesterases present in photoreceptors and cause retinal dysfunction and activation of cell death pathways. On the other hand, other compounds such as the natural herbal supplement vinpocetine, act on cGMP phosphodiseterases and glutamate receptors but are neuroprotective for the retina against insult and injury. We are interested in understanding the effects of a range of drugs on the retina as potential treatments or accelerants of degeneration and current projects are assess the actions of these drugs in various animal models of retinal disease.