Dr Riccardo Natoli

Research & Body Donation Coordinator
Year 2 Student Coordinator in 2017
Researcher - Neurosciences & vision
Organisational unit member - Acton Campus
JCSMR, 131 Garran Road, Acton ACT 2601
 02 6125 8559



I am an Early Career Researcher teaching Genetics at the ANU Medical School and conducting research at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. My primary research interest is in the study of factors causing blindness, predominantly photoreceptor degeneration, and in devising therapies for protecting against vision loss. Our lab studies diseases such as Retinopathy of Prematurity, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Diabetic Retinopathy and 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. The risk factors for AMD are well known, as is the association with underlying inflammatory dysregulation.

My most recent work has been involved in elucidating the role of miRNA in the degenerating retina, there role in modulating inflammation and there potential use as therapeutics. In my PhD studies (completed 2009) I used molecular approaches to investigate the effects of novel ‘anti-oxidant’ therapeutics, including 670nm light and saffron, in a retinal degeneration model (Natoli et al., 2010). This work revealed that a large number of non-coding RNA are regulated in the degenerating retina. This has lead me to investigate miRNA in retinal degeneration, and to verify in my most recent publication (Saxena, etal…Natoli., 2015 – In Press, IOVS) the modulation of 37 known miRNA in the rat model of retinal degeneration and inflammation. 

My work also showed that 670nm red light changes the mRNA expression profile of the retina, and led me to investigate the use of red light in management of retinopathy of prematurity in mouse and rat models (Natoli et al., 2013 PLoS One). Those findings resulted in a clinical collaboration at the Canberra Hospital and has enabled a Phase 1 clinical trial which is underway (March, 2015), to investigate the efficacy of 670nm light for protection against retinopathy of prematurity in premature infants.  A safety and feasibility study into using 670nm therapy in premature neonates has recently been published (Kent, etal…. Natoli, 2015).


Research interests

Role of miRNA in retinal degenerations

The use of miRNA as potential therapeutic targets in diseases causing retinal degenerations

670nm Red Light as a treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (Phase 1 Clinical Trial)

Optimising the dose of 670nm light therapy for treatment of retinal degenerations

The role of oxidative stress in the progression of retinal degenerations





  • Publications the last 3 years only (2014-2016)
  • *Indicates co-first author

    1 Natoli R*, Jiao H*, Barnett NL, Fernando N, Valter K, Provis JM, Rutar M. A model of progressive photo-oxidative degeneration and inflammation in the pigmented C57BL/6J mouse retina. Exp Eye Res. 2016 Jun;147:114-27. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2016.04.015

  1. T.D. Lamb, H. Patel, A. Chua, R.C. Natoli, W.I.L. Davies, N.S. Hart, S.P. Collin, D.M. Hunt Evolution of vertebrate phototransduction activation steps (accepted, Molecular Biology and Evolution, May 2016)
  2. Fernando N*, Natoli R*, Valter K, Provis J and Rutar M. The broad spectrum chemokine inhibitor NR58-3.14.3 modulates macrophage-mediated inflammation in the diseased retina (Accepted Journal of Neuroinflammation, Feb 2016)
  3. *Chu-Tan J, *Rutar M, Saxena K, Wu Yunlu, Howitt L, Valter K, Provis J and Natoli R Efficacy of 670 nm light therapy to protect against photoreceptor cell death is dependent on the severity of damage Article (2016) ID 2734139, http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2016/2734139
  4. Natoli R, Rutar M, Chen, Y, Chu-Tan, J, Yen-Zhen, L, Valter, K and Provis J. The role of pyruvate in protection against photoreceptor light induced cell death (Accepted, CER Jan 2016)
  5. *Natoli R, *Jiao, H, Valter, K, Provis J and Rutar M. (2015) Spatiotemporal Cadence of Macrophage Polarisation in a Model of Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration. PlosOne, DOI: 10.1371 /journal.pone.0143952
  6. Kent A, Broom M, Parr V, Essex R., Abdel-Latif M, Dahlstrom J, Valter-Kocsi K, Provis J, and Natoli R. (2015) A safety and feasibility study of the use of 670nm red light in premature neonates [Paper #14-1157-R] Journal of Perinatology (In Press, 2015)
  7. Saxena, K, Rutar M, Provis J and Natoli R. (2015) Identification of miRNAs in a Model of Retinal Degenerations (IOVS Feb, 2015)
  8. Rutar M, Natoli R, Chia RX, Valter K, Provis JM. (2015) Chemokine-mediated inflammation in the degenerating retina is coordinated by Müller cells, activated microglia, and RPE, J Neuroinflammation (Accepted Dec, 2014 Journal of Neuroinflammation).
  9. Giacci M,  Wheeler L, Lovett S, Dishington E, Majda B,  Bartlett C,  Thornton E,  Harford-Wright E, Leonard A, Vink R, Harvey A, Provis J, Dunlop S, *Hart N, *Hodgetts S,  *Natoli R, * Van Den Heuvel C and Fitzgerald M (2014) Differential effects of 670 and 830nm red near infrared irradiation therapy: a multi-centre study of optic nerve injury, retinal degeneration, traumatic brain and spinal cord injury Plos One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104565
  10. Barbosa M, Natoli R,  Valter, K, Provis J. and Maddess T. (2014) Integral-geometry characterization of photobiomodulation effects on retinal vessel morphology Biomedical Optics Express Vol. 5, Iss. 7, pp. 2317–2332
  11. Rutar M, Valter K, Natoli R, Provis JM. Synthesis and propagation of complement C3 by microglia/monocytes in the aging retina. PloS One, 2014 Apr 4;9 (4):e93343


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