Rutar laboratory: Ocular Neuroimmunology

Research Overview

View Dr Rutar's latest publications listing here

Our laboratory focus lies in exploring the immunological landscape of the nervous system, with an emphasis on the eye as a model system for driving exciting insights into the role of the innate immunity and macrophage biology in health and disease. According to the World Health Organization, is has been estimated that over 730 million people are visually impaired, and over 150 million people afflicted by blindness. In Australia, Age related macular degeneration (AMD) accounts for ~50% of all cases of irreversible vision loss, costs the economy just over $5 billion annually, and has little in the way of effective treatments. The unique immune landscape of the nervous system is implicated across a spectrum of ocular diseases, although the molecular pathways which drive across are poorly understood, such as those at play in AMD.

The goal of our work is to explore new avenues into the fundamental biology of the neuroimmune interface that could simultaneously lead to improved treatments for patients suffering from sight-threatening disorders. We employ a multidisciplinary toolkit which leverages sophisticated single-cell molecular profiling approaches, imaging platforms, stem cells, and animal models. These have pertained mainly to the exploration of AMD, though our lab has an emerging interest in experimental models to understand the inflammatory mechanisms of uveitis. Current projects available fall under the following broad categories:

  • Investigation of innate immune pathways that underscore AMD and uveitis, particularly the complement system.
  • Molecular profiling using single-cell RNAseq to uncover gene networks in myeloid subsets that direct ocular immune responses and homeostasis.
  • Modelling microglia-neuron immune interactions in vitro using stem cells.

Outstanding PhD, Masters, and Honours students are continuously sought for recruitment to our lab.


Dr Matt Rutar, Head of Laboratory

Joel Mason, Research Assistant


A/Professor Trent Woodruff, University of Queensland

A/Professor Michelle Madigan, University of New South Wales

Professor Robyn Guymer, Centre for Eye Research Australia

Professor Steven Petrou, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health

Dr Riccardo Natoli, The Australia National University

Professor Christine Wells, University of Melbourne

Professor Alice Pebay, University of Melbourne

Professor Erica Fletcher, University of Melbourne


2019-2022 NHMRC Standard Project Grant. Macrophages as novel targets for ameliorating deleterious complement activation in retinal degeneration

2017-2019 NHMRC New Investigator Project Grant. The use of microRNA as novel therapeutic targets for reducing retinal inflammation and degeneration

2016 Retina Australia. The role of complement activation in retinal degeneration 

2013 Gordon and Gretel Bootes Foundation. The role of chemokines in a model of dry AMD

2013 The Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia. Delaying the progress of AMD

Research Projects

This Research Group doesn't currently have any projects

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology, Neuroscience

School Research Themes

Infection & Immunity, Biomedical Neuroscience

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Head of Laboratory Dr Matt Rutar

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Neuroscience

Unit / Centre

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