Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli

PhD, BSc(Hons)
Associate Professor, ANU Medical School
Head of Clear Vision Research, John Curtin School of Medical Research ANU
ANU College of Health and Medicine

I am interested in developing innovative diagnostic and treatment strategies for neurodegenerative diseases using microRNA (miRNA) and extracellular vesicles (EV). My main research interest is in retinal degenerations, specifically Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The prevalence of AMD is accelerating in our ageing population and is estimated that by 2030 over 300 million people worldwide will lose their vision because of this debilitating disease. My work using miRNA and EV to understand and treat this disease is funded by competitive funding agencies (including multiple NHMRC Ideas and Project Grants), industry partnerships, philanthropic funding and a prestigious ANU Translational Fellowship.

In 2017, I established my research group Clear Vision Research (www.clearvisionresearch.com) at JCSMR and ANUMS to provide pathways for the community to engage in our research and support the next generation of vision researchers. This initiative ensures that lab members participate in driving our research goals, gain direct exposure to the people impacted by AMD, and understand the critical need for science outreach. I consider research-led education to be integral to a researcher's career, and apply this in my lecturing in genetics and cell biology. I developed a school outreach program called the 'Young Visionaries' to promote the importance of science to school children and educate parents and teachers on the importance of eye health.

In 2019 I received a Tall Poppy Award in recognition of my scientific excellence and achievements in the fields of vision sciences. I am currently a section chair of the International Society for Eye Research (ISER) 2022 conference, bringing together over 60 international and national researchers presenting across 12 symposia sessions. I have had repeated invitations to present to Retina Australia and The Blind Society and am actively involved in science public events such as National Science Week, Science in ACTion and National Science Youth Forum. The labs work has been featured in media including on National Nine News, Win Local News, and SBSs The Feed, as well as ABC Radio, Radio National and various print and online media.

Research interests

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 into 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. - Joshua Chu-Tan (3MT Winner, 2016).

Our main research interest is to understand the factors that cause photoreceptors, the light sensing cells of the retina, to die with age and devising novel strategies to prevent degeneration. The main disease we focus on is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) specifically trying to understand the oxidative stress and inflammation facets of the disease.

  • Aggio-Bruce, R, Chu-Tan, J, Wooff, Y et al. 2021, 'Inhibition of microRNA-155 Protects Retinal Function Through Attenuation of Inflammation in Retinal Degeneration', Molecular Neurobiology, vol. 58, pp. 835-854.
  • Cioanca, V, Wu, C, Natoli, R et al. 2021, 'The role of melanocytes in the human choroidal microenvironment and inflammation: Insights from the transcriptome', Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research.
  • Fernando, N, Wong, H, Das, S et al. 2020, 'MicroRNA-223 Regulates Retinal Function and Inflammation in the Healthy and Degenerating Retina', Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, vol. 8, pp. 1-18.
  • Chu-Tan, J, Fernando, N, Aggio-Bruce, R et al. 2020, 'A method for gene knockdown in the retina using a lipid-based carrier', Molecular Vision, vol. 26, pp. 48-63.
  • Wooff, Y, Fernando, N, Wong, H et al. 2020, 'Caspase-1-dependent inflammasomes mediate photoreceptor cell death in photo-oxidative damage-induced retinal degeneration', Scientific Reports, vol. 10.
  • Jiao, H, Provis, J, Natoli, R et al. 2020, 'Ablation of C3 modulates macrophage reactivity in the outer retina during photo-oxidative damage', Molecular Vision, vol. 26, pp. 679-690.
  • Kent, A, Mohamed, A, Cochrane, T et al. 2020, 'A pilot randomised clinical trial of 670 nm red light for reducing retinopathy of prematurity', Pediatric Research, vol. 87, pp. 131-136.
  • Wooff, Y, Cioanca, V, Chu-Tan, J et al. 2020, '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, vol. 14, pp. 1-26.
  • Hart, N, Lamb, T, Patel, H et al. 2020, 'Visual opsin diversity in sharks and rays', Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 811-827.
  • Wooff, Y, Man, S, Aggio-Bruce, R et al. 2019, 'IL-1 Family Members Mediate Cell Death, Inflammation and Angiogenesis in Retinal Degenerative Diseases', Frontiers in Immunology, vol. 10.
  • Chu-Tan, J, Rutar, M, Saxena, K et al. 2018, 'MicroRNA-124 Dysregulation is Associated With Retinal Inflammation and Photoreceptor Death in the Degenerating Retina', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 59, no. 10, pp. 4094-4105.
  • Jiao, H, Rutar, M, Fernando, N et al 2018, 'Subretinal macrophages produce classical complement activator C1q leading to the progression of focal retinal degeneration', Molecular Neurodegeneration, vol. 13, no. 45, pp. 18pp.
  • Fernando, N, Wooff, Y, Aggio-Bruce, R et al 2018, 'Photoreceptor survival is regulated by GSTO1-1 in the degenerating retina', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol. 59, no. 11, pp. 4362-4374pp.
  • Fernando, N, Natoli, R, Racic, T et al 2018, 'The use of the vaccinia virus complement control protein (VCP) in the rat retina', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 1-15pp.
  • Natoli, R, Fernando, N, Dahlenburg, T et al 2018, 'Obesity-induced metabolic disturbance drives oxidative stress and complement activation in the retinal environment', Molecular Vision, vol. 24, pp. 201-217.
  • Lu, Y, Fernando, N, Natoli, R et al. 2018, '670nm light treatment following retinal injury modulates Muller cell gliosis: Evidence from in vivo and in vitro stress models', Experimental Eye Research, vol. 169, pp. 1-12pp.
  • Natoli, R & Fernando, N 2018, 'MicroRNA as Therapeutics for Age-Related Macular Degeneration', in JD Ash, RE Anderson, M LaVail, C Bowes Rickman, JG Hollyfield, C Grimm (ed.), Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Springer Singapore, Singapore, pp. 37-43.
  • Natoli R, Mason E, Jiao H, Chuah A, Patel HR, Fernando N, Valter K, Wells CA, Provis J, Rutar M 2018, 'Dynamic Interplay of Innate and Adaptive Immunity During Sterile Retinal Inflammation: Insights From the Transcriptome', Frontiers in Immunology, vol. 9, no. 1666, pp. 1-17pp.
  • Jiao, H, Natoli, R, Fernando, N et al 2017, 'Retinal monocyte-derived complement, not systemically derived complement contributes to the early onset of focal retinal degeneration', Annual Meeting of the Association-for-Research-in-Vision-and-Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2017, ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, Rockville, Maryland, United States, pp. 1-2.
  • 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.
  • Chao de la Barca, J, Huang, N-T, Jiao, H, Natoli, R, Tcherkez, G et al 2017, 'Retinal metabolic events in preconditioning light stress as revealed by wide-spectrum targeted metabolomics', Metabolomics, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. -.
  • Lu, Y, Natoli, R, Madigan, M et al 2017, 'Photobiomodulation with 670 nm light ameliorates Müller cell-mediated activation of microglia and macrophages in retinal degeneration', Experimental Eye Research, vol. 165, pp. 78-89.
  • Natoli, R, Fernando, N, Madigan, M et al 2017, 'Microglia-derived IL-1ß promotes chemokine expression by Müller cells and RPE in focal retinal degeneration', Molecular Neurodegeneration, vol. 12, no. 31, pp. 1-11pp.
  • 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. 7, pp. 493-496pp.
  • 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 830 nm 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. e104565-e104565.
  • 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, no. 78, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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-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, 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.
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology