Blinded by the light: how too much of a good thing can lead to the demise of your retina

When most people try to imagine a life without sight, they close their eyes and reimagine the world around them. However, the realities of vision loss are much more insidious than that. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the western world, affecting ~200 million people globally with an expected prevalence of ~288 million by 2040. Unless treatments are found to slow the progression of these diseases, 1 in 7 of us over the age of 50 will be affected by degeneration of our central vision, leading in many cases to irreparable blindness.

AMD occurs in many individuals as a consequence of both genetic and environmental factors, however the exposure of the retina to a lifetime’s bombardment of light is considered to be a contributing factor. The evolution of specialised structures of the eye, including the central region of the retina called the macula, has enabled humans to experience high clarity colour vision. However, this comes at a cost - as we age we also accumulate a lifetime of toxic molecules which can lead to increased inflammation, photoreceptor cell death and progressive degeneration of the central retina. These mechanisms cause many in our society to become ‘blinded by the light’.

In this lecture Dr. Riccardo Natoli will explore the beauty that is vision and the eloquent structures of the human eye which have evolved allowing us to become a visually guided species. He will also discuss his laboratory’s work on retinal microRNA (miRNA), master regulators of gene transcription, and how by understanding their role in AMD we might develop novel therapeutics and diagnostics for treating this aging disease. 

Dr. Riccardo Natoli is a Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow at The John Curtin School of Medical Research and ANU Medical School. For more information about his research please see: