The Natoli Group - Clear Vision Research Lab

If you were asked, what was the one sense that you couldn't live without, most of you would have immediately thought of your sight. That is because our vision plays an integral role in how we perceive the world around us. Without research into the prevention of vision loss from retinal degenerations, it is guaranteed that 1 in 7 people will lose the sense of sight.

Research led by Dr Riccardo Natoli and his research team focuses on what causes the retina, the part of the eye responsible for converting light to an electrical signal that our brain can understand, to degenerate with age. This degeneration can lead to irreparable loss of retinal cells causing permanent blindness.

Our lab studies a number of retinal diseases such as Retinopathy of Prematurity, Retinitis Pigmentosa and Diabetic Retinopathy, but focuses on finding novel diagnostics and treatment options for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The most common cause of blindness in Australia is AMD, costing the Australian economy ~5 billion dollars annually (Deloitte – Eyes on the Future, 2011). Current projections indicate that by 2030, 1.7 million people in Australia will have vision loss resulting from AMD.

Our most recent work has been involved in elucidating the role of miRNA in the degenerating retina, their role in modulating inflammation and there potential use as both therapeutics and diagnostics for the currently untreatable dry AMD.

In 2016 we created the philanthropic Clear Vision Research Initiative to help fund the next generation of vision researchers through both PhD scholarships (K.T. Tan Scholarship) and also supporting PhD student move through the incredibly difficult transition from a student to a bona fide researcher. For more information visit:

We are always looking out for fantastic students to be involved with our group. Projects will focus on aspects of the current projects indicated on this page. We enjoy meeting and discussing projects with potential students to tailor projects to the individual. If you are interested in being involved in our research please don't hesitate to contact me at any time.

Selected Publications

A. Cioanca,C. Wu, R. Natoli, R. Conway, P. McCluskey, M. Jager, E. Sitiwin, S Eamegdool and M. Madigan The role of melanocytes in the human choroidal microenvironment and inflammation: insights from the transcriptome. Pigment Cell and Melanoma 2021

S. Zeng, T. Zhang, M. Madigan, N. Fernando, R. Aggio-Bruce, F. Zhou, M. Pierce, Y. Chen, L. Huang, R.  Natoli, M. Gillies and L. Zhu. Interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP) in retinal health and disease, Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 2020 

R. Aggio-Bruce, J.A. Chu-Tan, Y. Wooff, A.V. Cioanca, U. Schumann, R. Natoli Inhibition of microRNA-155 Protects Retinal Function Through Attenuation of Inflammation in Retinal Degeneration Molecular Neurobiology, 2020

J., Haihan, J. Provis, R. Natoli* and M. Rutar* Ablation of C3 modulates macrophage reactivity in the outer retina during photo-oxidative damage. Molecular Vision, 2020.

Y. Wooff, N. Fernando, J.H. Wong, C. Dietrich, R. Aggio-Bruce, J.A. Chu-Tan, A.A. Robertson, S.L. Doyle, S.M. Man, and R. Natoli, Caspase-1-dependent inflammasomes mediate photoreceptor cell death in photo-oxidative damage-induced retinal degeneration. Scientific reports, 2020. 

Y. Wooff, A.V. Cioanca, J.A. Chu-Tan, R. Aggio-Bruce, U. Schumann, and R. Natoli, Small-medium extracellular vesicles and their miRNA cargo in retinal health and degeneration: mediators of homeostasis, and vehicles for targeted gene therapy. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 2020.

K. Mulfaul, E. Ozaki, N. Fernando, K. Brennan, K.R. Chirco, E. Connolly, C. Greene, A. Maminishkis, R.G. Salomon, M. Linetsky, R. Natoli, R.F. Mullins, M. Campbell, and S.L. Doyle, Toll-like receptor 2 facilitates oxidative damage-induced retinal degeneration. Cell reports, 2020. 

A.L. Kent, M.E. Abdel-Latif, T. Cochrane, M. Broom, J.E. Dahlstrom, R.W. Essex, B. Shadbolt, and R. Natoli, A pilot randomised clinical trial of 670 nm red light for reducing retinopathy of prematurity. Pediatr Res, 2020. 

N.S. Hart, T.D. Lamb, H.R. Patel, A. Chuah, R. Natoli, N.J. Hudson, S.C. Cutmore, W.I. Davies, S.P. Collin, and D.M. Hunt, Visual opsin diversity in sharks and rays. Molecular biology and evolution, 2020. 

N. Fernando, J.H.C. Wong, S. Das, C. Dietrich, R. Aggio-Bruce, A.V. Cioanca, Y. Wooff, J.A. Chu-Tan, U. Schumann, C. Ngo, R.W. Essex, C. Dorian, S.A. Robertson, S.M. Man, J. Provis, and R. Natoli, MicroRNA-223 Regulates Retinal Function and Inflammation in the Healthy and Degenerating Retina. Frontiers in Cell and Development Biology, 2020.  

J.A. Chu-Tan and R. Natoli, The potential for microRNA-based therapeutics in retinal disorders. Annals of Translational Medicine, 2020.

J.A. Chu-Tan, N. Fernando, R. Aggio-Bruce, A.V. Cioanca, K. Valter, N. Andronikou, X.d. du Jeu, M. Rutar, J. Provis, and R. Natoli, A method for gene knockdown in the retina using a lipid-based carrier. Molecular Vision, 2020. 

J.A. Chu-Tan, Z.-P. Feng, Y. Wooff, A.V. Cioanca, U. Schumann, R. Aggio-Bruce, H.R. Patel, M. Rutar, K. Hannan, K. Panov, J. Provis, and R. Natoli, Functional microRNA targetome undergoes degeneration-induced shift in the retina. BioRxiv, 2020.

Y. Wooff, S.M. Man, R. Natoli, R. Aggio-Bruce, and N. Fernando, IL-1 Family members mediate cell death, inflammation and angiogenesis in retinal degenerative diseases. Frontiers in immunology, 2019. 

R. Natoli, E. Mason, H. Jiao, A. Chuah, H. Patel, N. Fernando, K. Valter, C.A. Wells, J. Provis, and M. Rutar, Dynamic interplay of innate and adaptive immunity during sterile retinal inflammation: Insights from the transcriptome. Frontiers in immunology, 2018

R. Natoli, N. Fernando, T. Dahlenburg, H. Jiao, R. Aggio-Bruce, N.L. Barnett, J.M. Chao de la Barca, G. Tcherkez, P. Reynier, J. Fang, J.A. Chu-Tan, K. Valter, J. Provis, and M. Rutar, Obesity-induced metabolic disturbance drives oxidative stress and complement activation in the retinal environment. Mol Vis, 2018. 

R. Natoli and N. Fernando, MicroRNA as Therapeutics for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Adv Exp Med Biol, 2018. 

Y.Z. Lu, N. Fernando, R. Natoli, M. Madigan, and K. Valter, 670nm light treatment following retinal injury modulates Muller cell gliosis: Evidence from in vivo and in vitro stress models.Exp Eye Res, 2018. 

H. Jiao, M. Rutar, N. Fernando, T. Yednock, S. Sankaranarayanan, R. Aggio-Bruce, J. Provis, and R. Natoli, Subretinal macrophages produce classical complement activator C1q leading to the progression of focal retinal degeneration. Molecular neurodegeneration, 2018. 

N. Fernando, Y. Wooff, R. Aggio-Bruce, J.A. Chu-Tan, H. Jiao, C. Dietrich, M. Rutar, M. Rooke, D. Menon, J.T. Eells, K. Valter, P.G. Board, J. Provis, and R. Natoli, Photoreceptor Survival Is Regulated by GSTO1-1 in the Degenerating Retina. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2018. 

N. Fernando, R. Natoli, T. Racic, Y. Wooff, J. Provis, and K. Valter, The use of the vaccinia virus complement control protein (VCP) in the rat retina. PLoS One, 2018. 

Chu-Tan, J.A., Rutar, M., Saxena, K., Aggio-Bruce, R., Essex, R.W., Valter, K., Jiao, H., Fernando, N., Wooff, Y., Madigan, M.C., Provis, J., Natoli, R. MicroRNA-124 dysregulation is associated with retinal inflammation and photoreceptor death in the degenerating retina. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci., 2018.

Fernando, N.*, Wooff, Y.*, Aggio-Bruce, R., Chu-Tan, J.A., Jiao, H., Dietrich, C., Rutar, M., Rooke, M., Menon, D., Eells, J.T., Valter, K., Board, P.G., Provis, J., Natoli, R. Photoreceptor survival is regulated by GSTO1-1 in the degenerating retina. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci., 2018. 59(11) p. 4362-4374.

Natoli, R, Fernando, N, Madigan, M et al 2017, 'Microglia-derived IL-1β promotes chemokine expression by Muller cells and RPE in focal retinal degeneration', Molecular Neurodegeneration, vol. 12, pp. 1-11pp.

Natoli, R, Fernando, N, Jiao, H et al 2017, 'Retinal Macrophages Synthesize C3 and Activate Complement in AMD and in Models of Focal Retinal Degeneration', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 58, no. 7, pp. 2977-2990pp.

Lamb, T, Patel, H, Chuah, A et al 2016, 'Evolution of Vertebrate Phototransduction: Cascade Activation', Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 33, no. 8, pp. 2064-2087.

Natoli, R, Jiao, H, Barnett, N et al 2016, 'A model of progressive photo-oxidative degeneration and inflammation in the pigmented C57BL/6J mouse retina', Experimental Eye Research, vol. 147, pp. 114-127.

Chu-Tan, J, Rutar, M, Saxena, K et al 2016, 'Efficacy of 670 nm Light Therapy to Protect against Photoreceptor Cell Death Is Dependent on the Severity of Damage', International Journal of Photoenergy, vol. 2016, pp. 1-13.

Fernando, N, Natoli, R, Valter, K et al 2016, 'The broad-spectrum chemokine inhibitor NR58-3.14.3 modulates macrophage-mediated inflammation in the diseased retina', Journal of Neuroinflammation, vol. 13, pp. -.

Natoli, R, Rutar, M, Lu, Y et al 2016, 'The Role of Pyruvate in Protecting 661W Photoreceptor-Like Cells Against Light-Induced Cell Death', Current Eye Research, vol. Published online: 23 May 2016.

Saxena, K, Rutar, M, Provis, J et al 2015, 'Identification of miRNAs in a model of retinal degenerations', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 1820-1829.

Kent, A, Broom, M, Parr, V et al 2015, 'A safety and feasibility study of the use of 670?nm red light in premature neonates', Journal of Perinatology, vol. 35, no. 493-496.

Jiao, H, Natoli, R, Valter, K et al 2015, 'Spatiotemporal cadence of macrophage polarisation in a model of light-induced retinal degeneration', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 10, no. 12, pp. -.

Rutar, M, Natoli, R, Chia, R et al 2015, 'Chemokine-mediated inflammation in the degenerating retina is coordinated by Müller cells, activated microglia, and retinal pigment epithelium', Journal of Neuroinflammation, vol. 12, no. 8, pp. 1-15.

Giacci, M, Wheeler, L, Lovett, S et al 2014, 'Differential effects of 670 and 830nm red near infrared irradiation therapy: A comparative study of optic nerve injury, retinal degeneration, traumatic brain and spinal cord injury', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 9, no. 8, pp. 1-15.

Barbosa, MS, Natoli, R, Valter, K et al 2014, 'Integral-geometry characterization of photobiomodulation effects on retinal vessel morphology', Biomedical Optics Express, vol. 5, no. 7, pp. 2317-2332.

Rutar, M, Valter, K, Natoli, R et al 2014, 'Synthesis and propagation of complement C3 by microglia/monocytes in the aging retina', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 1-10.

Valter, K, Albarracin, R, Natoli, R et al 2014, '670nm - A stop sign for retinal degenerations?', 2014 WALT Biennial Congress and NAALT Annual Conference, ed. Laakso E.-L., Conference Organising Committee, TBC, pp. 33-38.

Fitzgerald, M, Hodgetts, S, Van Den Heuvel, C et al 2013, 'Red/near-infrared irradiation therapy for treatment of central nervous system injuries and disorders', Reviews in the Neurosciences, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 205-226.

Albarracin, R, Natoli, R, Rutar, M et al 2013, '670 nm light mitigates oxygen-induced degeneration in C57BL/6J mouse retina', BMC Neuroscience, vol. 14, pp. -.

Natoli, R, Valter, K, Barbosa, MS et al 2013, '670nm Photobiomodulation as a Novel Protection against Retinopathy of Prematurity: Evidence from Oxygen Induced Retinopathy Models', PLOS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, pp. e72135.

Munoz-Erazo, L, Natoli, R, Provis, J et al 2012, 'Microarray analysis of gene expression in West Nile virus-infected human retinal pigment epithelium', Molecular Vision, vol. 18, pp. 730-743.

Rutar, M, Natoli, R & Provis, J 2012, 'Small interfering RNA-mediated suppression of Ccl2 in Müller cells attenuates microglial recruitment and photoreceptor death following retinal degeneration', Journal of Neuroinflammation, vol. 9.

Natoli, R, Provis, J, Valter, K et al 2012, '670 NM Red Light: Protection Against Retinopathy of Prematurity', 43rd Annual Scientific Congress - Sharing the Vision, Wiley Online Library , Brisbane / online, p. 87.

Natoli, R, Valter, K, Soares Barbosa, M et al 2015, '591: Can 670Nm Red Light Protect Against Retinopathy of Prematurity and Reduce Lung Injury in a Neonatal Animal Model?', European Academy of Paediatric Societies (EAPS 2012), BMJ Publishing Group, United Kingdom.

Rutar, M, Natoli, R, Albarracin, R et al 2012, '670-nm light treatment reduces complement propagation following retinal degeneration', Journal of Neuroinflammation, vol. 9, no. 257, pp. -.

Rutar, M, Natoli, R, Provis, J et al 2012, 'Complement activation in retinal degeneration', in Matthew M. LaVail, John D. Ash Robert E. Anderson, Joe G. Hollyfi eld Christia (ed.), Retinal Degenerative Diseases, Springer, United States, pp. 31-36.

Rutar, M, Natoli, R, Kozulin, P et al 2011, 'Analysis of complement expression in light-induced retinal degeneration: Synthesis and deposition of C3 by microglia/macrophages is associated with focal photoreceptor degeneration', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 52, no. 8, pp. 5347-5358.

Rutar, M, Natoli, R, Valter, K et al 2011, 'Early focal expression of the chemokine Ccl2 by Muller cells during exposure to damage-inducing bright continuous light', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 52, no. 5, pp. 2379-2388.

Ebeling, W, Natoli, R & Hemmi, J 2010, 'Diversity of Color Vision: Not All Australian Marsupials Are Trichromatic', PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 5, no. 12, pp. e14231.

Kozulin, P, Natoli, R, Bumsted O'Brien, K et al 2010, 'The cellular expression of anti-angiogenic factors in fetal primate retina', Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, vol. 51, no. 8, pp. 4298-4306.

Natoli, R, Valter, K, Chrysostomou, V et al 2010, 'Morphological, functional and gene expression analysis of the hyperoxic mouse retina', Experimental Eye Research, vol. 92, pp. 306-314.

Natoli, R, Zhu, Y, Valter, K et al 2010, 'Gene and noncoding RNA regulation underlying photoreceptor protection: microarray study of dietary antioxidant saffron and photobiomodulation in rat retina', Molecular Vision, vol. 16, pp. 1801-1822.

Zhu, Y, Natoli, R, Valter, K et al 2010, 'Differential gene expression in mouse retina related to regional differences in vulnerability to hyperoxia', Molecular Vision, vol. 16, pp. 740-755.

Zhu, Y, Natoli, R, Valter, K et al 2010, 'Microarray Analysis of Hyperoxia Stressed Mouse Retina: Differential Gene Expression in the Inferior and Superior Region', in Robert E Anderson, Joe G Hollyfield & Matthew M LaVail (ed.), Retinal Degenerative Diseases: Laboratory and Therapeutic Investigations, Landes Bioscience/Springer Science+Business Media, Berlin, pp. 217-222.

Kozulin, P, Natoli, R, Madigan, M et al 2009, 'Gradients of Eph-A6 expression in primate retina suggest roles in both vascular and axon guidance', Molecular Vision, vol. 15, pp. 2649-2662.

Shelley, E, Madigan, M, Penfold, P et al 2009, 'Cone Degeneration in Aging and Age-Related Macular Degeneration', Archives of Ophthalmology, vol. 127, no. 4, pp. 483-492.

Kozulin, P, Natoli, R, Bumsted O'Brien, K et al 2009, 'Differential expression of anti-angiogenic factors and guidance genes in the developing macula', Molecular Vision, vol. 15, pp. 45-59.

Hendrickson, A, Bumsted O'Brien, K, Natoli, R et al 2008, 'Rod photoreceptor differentiation in fetal and infant human retina', Experimental Eye Research, vol. 87, pp. 415-426.

Natoli, R, Provis, J, Valter, K et al 2008, 'Expression and role of the early-response gene Oxr1 in the hyperoxia-challenged mouse retina', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 49, no. 10, pp. 4561-4567.

Natoli, R, Provis, J, Valter, K et al 2008, 'Gene regulation induced in the C57BL/6J mouse retina by hyperoxia: a temporal microarray study', Molecular Vision, vol. 14, pp. 1983-1994.

Kozulin, P, Natoli, R & Provis, J 2006, 'Expression of EPH receptors and ephrins in developing primate retina', International Congress of Eye Research 2006, Conference Organising Committee, na, p. 1.

Kozulin, P, Ohms, S, Natoli, R et al 2006, 'Microarray analysis of gene expression in the developing Fovea', Australasian Ophthalmic & Viual Sciences Meeting 2006, ed. Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia, Conference Organising Committee, ANU Canberra, p. 1.

Natoli, R, Provis, J & Stone, J 2006, 'OXR-1 in the Hyperoxic C57BL/6J Mouse Retina', Australasian Ophthalmic & Viual Sciences Meeting 2006, ed. Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia, Conference Organising Committee, ANU Canberra, p. 40.

Cornish, E, Madigan, M, Natoli, R et al 2005, 'Gradients of cone differentiation and FGF expression during development of the foveal depression in macaque retina', Visual Neuroscience, vol. 22, pp. 447-459.

Cornish, E, Natoli, R, Hendrickson, A et al 2004, 'Differential distribution of fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) on foveal cones: FGFR-4 is an early marker of cone photoreceptors', Molecular Vision, vol. 10, pp. 1-14.