Macular degeneration in his sights

Queensland researcher targets blindness caused by macular degeneration

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Turning stem cells into eye cells shows promise in macular degeneration treatment.


A RESEARCHER who turns stem cells into human eye cells believes it may have the potential to cure macular degeneration.

Jason Limnios, from Bond University, has successfully grown retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells in the laboratory and believes the healthy RPE cells can be implanted in the eye to replace damaged RPE cells.

"Now we can make these RPE cells really quickly, at high efficiency under clinical-grade conditions - and that's important when it comes to treating a lot of people," he said.

Mr Limnios, who is working with eye expert Associate Professor Nigel Barnett to take the treatment to animal trials, has already trialled the cells in rats' eyes.

"This gives us promise that the implant works but it was only a short-term test of improvement," he said. "We still have a long way to go."

Mr Limnios works with Associate Professor Barnett at Bond University's Clem Jones Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

Centre director Professor Helen O'Neill said RPE cell replacement for macular degeneration was one of the most promising applications of pluripotent stem cell therapy.

Macular degeneration, which causes progressive loss of central vision, affecting the ability to read, drive and recognise faces, is responsible for half of all cases of blindness in Australia.