Associate Professor Monica Liliana Acosta

BSc/MSc (University of the Republic, Uruguay), PhD (Hokkaido University, Japan)


Dr Acosta completed her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of the Republic in Uruguay in 1996. Then, she obtained a Master degree in Cell Biology and gained invaluable experience in genetics. She graduated with a PhD in 2002 from Hokkaido University, Japan studying the genetics and molecular characteristics of the eye in Drosophila mutants. Love and science took her to The University of Auckland to investigate the neurochemical and biochemical signals associated with retinal degeneration.

Dr Acosta now is guiding and supporting a research group that leads in the discipline of cell and molecular aspects of eye diseases. In particular, she is researching animal models of retinal degeneration and brain pathologies associated with visual problems.


  • 2011-present: Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, The University of Auckland, New Zealand – Senior Lecturer
  • 2008-2011: Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, The University of Auckland, New Zealand – Lecturer
  • 2002-2007: Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, The University of Auckland, New Zealand – Research Fellow
  • 2000-2001: Laboratory of Ecology and Genetics, Graduate School of Environmental Earth Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan – Teaching Assistant
  • 1993-1998: Cell Biology Section, Faculty of Science, University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay – Teaching Assistant (20 hrs per week)
  • 1996-1997: Evolutionary Genetic Section, Faculty of Science, University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay – Research Assistant (20 hrs per week)
  • 1993-1996: Department of Basic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay – Teaching Assistant (20 hrs per week)

Research | Current

Dr Acosta research interest includes the discipline of cell and molecular aspects of eye diseases. Specifically, she is passionate about understanding retinal function and development in the normal and diseased retina. She is characterising cell death pathways and candidate natural drugs to aid the understanding and provision of therapies for blindness as observed in inherited retinal dystrophies and in age-related macular degeneration.

For more information please visit the Cell and Molecular Biology of the Retina lab.

Funded Research activities

Focal electroretinogram for the analysis if animal models of retinal degeneration partially funded by the MPPT equipment grant- Acosta, Green, Rupenthal 

Blocking progression of ARMD partially funded by a Lottery translational research project grant- Green, Acosta, Rupenthal, Squirrel 

Enhancing the impact of animal models in the study of age related macular degeneration. Funded by NZOVRF 

Integrated use of technology in vision research. Partially funded with the support of a Lottery Equipment grant

Postgraduate supervision

Nasir Mat Not is studying the role of cell communication in AMD:Supervisor: Dr Acosta, co-supervisors Dr Ilva Rupenthal, Prof. Colin Green. Nasir is completing his third year of PhD in 2017. 

Swathi Kanduri, is studying Connexin 43 expression in human AMD. Dr Acosta is the co-supervisor who oversees Swathi's laboratory activities due for completion in October 2017. Her main supervisor is Prof Colin Green (Dept of Ophthalmology). 

Lola Rotimi is studying diabetic retinopathy.  Her PhD in Biomedical Sciences is supervised by  Dr Ilva Rupenthal (Dept of Ophthalmology). Her research should be completed by January 2018. My role as co-supervisor includes the supervision of the animal model studies.

Frazer Couthino is doing a PhD in Biomedical Sciences. He is studying ocualr drug delivery. The main supervisor is Dr Ilva Rupenthal (Dept of Ophthalmology). I am his co-supervisor of the animal model planned for the third year of his studies. 


  • Ranked in the category “Exceptionally good reviewer” by IOVS journal in 2015

    Invited speaker at Brain Day symposium, University of Auckland, 2014

    Member of the editorial board, Journal of Ophthalmology (IF 1.435) 

    Invited Researcher- University of Valparaiso, Chile 2012


Areas of expertise

retina neurobiology, retina neurochemical pathways, diseases of the retina, retinal physiology, retinal anatomy

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Kim, Y., Griffin, J. M., Mat Nor, M. N., Zhang, J., Freestone, P. S., Danesh-Meyer, H. V., ... O'Carroll SJ (2017). Tonabersat prevents inflammatory damage in the central nervous system by blocking connexin43 hemichannels. Neurotherapeutics, 14 (4), 1148-1165. 10.1007/s13311-017-0536-9
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Simon OCarroll, Peter Freestone, Helen Danesh-Meyer, Ilva Rupenthal, Louise Nicholson, Colin Green, Jie Zhang
  • Zhang, J., Cole, R. N., Lin, P., Acosta, M. L., Green, C. R., & Danesh-Meyer, H. V. (2017). Transiently raised IOP equivalent to that experienced during ocular surgery causes moderate inflammation but does not affect retinal function or result in retinal ganglion cell loss in an animal model. Journal of Opthalmic Science, 1 (3), 36-50. 10.14302/issn.2470-0436.jos-17-1453
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jie Zhang, Colin Green, Helen Danesh-Meyer
  • Chang, L. Y.-L., Turuwhenua, J., Qu, T. Y., Black, J. M., & Acosta, M. L. (2017). Infrared Video Pupillography Coupled with Smart Phone LED for Measurement of Pupillary Light Reflex. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 1110.3389/fnint.2017.00006
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jason Turuwhenua, Joanna Black
  • Nivison-Smith, L., Khoo, P., Acosta, M. L., & Kalloniatis, M. (2017). Pre-treatment with vinpocetine protects against retinal ischemia. Experimental eye research, 154, 126-138. 10.1016/j.exer.2016.11.018
  • Chang, Y.-L., Acosta Etchebarne, M., & Black, J. (2016). Window to the central nervous system - Retinal examination for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Paper presented at The Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), Seattle, WA, USA. 1 May - 5 May 2016. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Joanna Black
  • Green, C., Kanduri, S., Acosta, M. L., Squirrell, D., Sherwin, T., & McGhee, C. N. J. (2016). Analysis of Human Donor Retinas Suggests a Greater Prevalence of Retinal Disease Than Previously Reported in the New Zealand Population. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the Association-for-Research-in-Vision-and-Ophthalmology (ARVO), Seattle, WA. 1 May - 5 May 2016. INVESTIGATIVE OPHTHALMOLOGY & VISUAL SCIENCE. (pp. 2).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Colin Green, Trevor Sherwin, Charles McGhee
  • Kalloniatis, M., Nivison-Smith, L., Chua, J., Acosta, M. L., & Fletcher, E. L. (2016). Using the rd1 mouse to understand functional and anatomical retinal remodelling and treatment implications in retinitis pigmentosa: A review. Experimental Eye Research, 150, 106-121. 10.1016/j.exer.2015.10.019
  • de Souza, C. F., Nivison-Smith, L., Christie, D. L., Polkinghorne, P., McGhee, C., Kalloniatis, M., & Acosta, M. L. (2016). Macromolecular Markers in Normal Human Retina and Applications to Human Retinal Disease. Experimental Eye Research, 150, 135-148. 10.1016/j.exer.2016.01.002
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Charles McGhee, Clairton Feitosa De Souza


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 502 - Bldg 502
Level 4, Room 401J
New Zealand

Web links