Retinal Networks Laboratory

Rat retina activated with kainate and incubated with 1-Amino-4-guanidinobutane (AGB)

Welcome to the Retinal Networks Laboratory at the University of New South Wales.

Retinal diseases including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy are major causes of blindness in developed countries. Treatments for these diseases are limited because the underlying mechanisms of these diseases are not well understood. Our primary goal is to better understand how visual information is processed in the vertebrate retina and the changes which occur in these systems during disease.

We investigate the anatomical and functional characteristics of the retina in health and disease. Specifically we are interested on retinal circuitry - how it operates and how it remodels in retinal diseases. Current evidence suggests that diseased tissue expresses aberrant functional receptors which alter signalling retinal neurons. This has significant implications for treatments such as implanted devices (e.g. the bionic eye) or cell transplantation as these interventions rely on the remaining circuitry of the disease tissue remaining intact. Remodelling can create jumbled or lost signals between neurons and prevent treatment success. 

Our animal models

Our research uses animal models for retinal disease and investigates retinal circuitry with regards to neurotransmitter release, neurotransmitter receptor localisation and receptor functionality.  We work with following animal models

  • rd1 mouse

The rd1 mouse is a mouse model for recessive Retinitis Pigmentosa. It possesses a mutation in phophodiesterase 6 which leads to elevated cGMP and rapid degeneration of photoreceptors. 

  • Heterozygous rd1 mouse

The heterozygous +/rd1 mouse is a model for carriers of Retinitis Pigmentosa. These mice have normal visual function and retinal structure but are more susceptible to external metabolic stressors which can lead to retinal degeneration. 

  • rd10 mouse

The rd10 mouse also possesses a mutation in phophodiesterase 6 but degeneration of photoreceptors occurs more slowly than in rd1 mice. These animals mimic human Retinitis Pigmentosa more closely than rd1 mutants. 

  • P23H (line 3) rat

The P23H (line 3) rat contains a copy of the human mutant rhodopsin transgene commonly found in retinitis pigmentosa patients leading to slow photoreceptor degeneration. 

  • Transient retinal ischaemia rat

We also have techniques to develop induce transient retinal ischaemia in rats. This allows us to mimic retinal conditions involving ischaemia such as acute angle closure glaucoma and vascular occlusion diseases. 

All our animal work has been approved by UNSW Animal Care and Ethics Committee (ACEC) and the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) and is conducted in full compliance with the UNSW policies and guidelines concerning ethical care and treatment of lab animals. For further information please see:

Our techniques

  • Excitation mapping
  • Histology
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Light and Fluorescence microscopy
  • Electroretinogram (ERG) measurements
  • ELISAs

Our Researchers

Professor Michael Kalloniatis

Role: Professor

Phone: +61 8115 0710
Office: Centre for Eye Health UNSW, Kensington 2052

Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith

Role: Research Associate

Phone: +61 8115 0791
Office: Centre for Eye Health UNSW, Kensington 2052

We currently have collaborations with

  • Associate Prof Erica Fletcher, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Dr Monica Acosta, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Dr Silke Haverkamp, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt, Germany

Contact Us

For all enquiries please contact:
School of Optometry and Vision Science
The University of New South Wales
Telephone: +61-2-8115 0710
Mailing address:
Retinal Networks Laboratory
School of Optometry and Vision Science
The University of New South Wales