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 in 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. 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

  • Heterozygous rd1 mouse

  • rd10 mouse

  • P23H (line 3) rat

  • Transient retinal ischaemia rat

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 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

Current projects under the Retinal Network Labs

Understanding the influence of retinal degeneration on the efficacy bionic eye implants

We are currently running several collaborative research projects with the Bionic Eye Group at the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering on the role of retinal remodelling in retinal prosthesis development.

Retinal prostheses aims to restore vision to those blinded by photoreceptor dystrophies. The level of vision provided by present devices is poor. We are using an interdisciplinary approach incorporating electrophysiology, computational modelling and detailed immunohistochemistry to understand the factors that influence the efficacy of a retinal prosthesis from biological and bioengineering viewpoints. We aim to develop new stimulation strategies to improve vision quality.

These projects intend to provide blind retinal implant recipients with improved artificial vision which will significantly improve their quality of life.

We are currently considering:

  1. PhD projects

  2. MPhil projects

  3. Honours projects

  4. Independent learning projects (medicine)

  5. Final year optometry student projects

If you would like to discuss specific projects relating to this collaboration, please contact Dr Lisa Nivison-Smith or Dr Mohit Shivdasani

Our researchers

NHMRC Research Fellow / Scientia Senior Lecturer Lisa Nivison-Smith
NHMRC Research Fellow / Scientia Senior Lecturer

Our partners

We currently collaborate with: 

  • Dr Mohit Shivdasani, University of New South Wales 

  • Professor Erica Fletcher, University of Melbourne, Australia 

  • Dr Monica Acosta, University of Auckland, New Zealand 

  • Professor Bryan Jones, University of Utah, USA