AUG 30, 2016 08:00 AM PDT

Exploring new avenues for cataract treatment using human pluripotent stem cells

  • Director, Molecular Medicine Research Group, Western Sydney University, Australia, Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Australia Honorary Senior Lecturer, Save S
      Michael uses human pluripotent cells to model macular degeneration and cataract. He received his PhD from the University of Sydney in 2005, regenerating and characterising functional ocular lenses in vitro. During postdoctoral studies in Vancouver, Canada, he identified genes related to pluripotency and played a key role in the commercial development of mTeSR1 and TeSR2 with Stem Cell Technologies. As the current President of the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research he has developed a touring stem cell art exhibition, seen by over 1 million people, that stimulates public discussion on emerging stem cell therapies.

    Cataract, or vision loss due to clouding of the eye’s lens, is a large and costly international problem. Over 80 million people currently have low vision due to cataract. Cataracts can only be treated surgically, and while this restores vision the ability to focus between near and far objects is lost. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed ophthalmic procedure and globally costs tens of billions of dollars annually. Due to population aging the incidence of cataract is increasing, and so are the associated costs. It has been estimated that a 10-year delay in cataract formation could halve the number and costs of cataract surgery. To address this issue Dr O’Connor has developed a world-first method to produce large numbers of human lens cells from pluripotent stem cells. The ability to access unlimited numbers of human lens cells, for defining cataract risk factors and performing anti-cataract drug screening, represents a true paradigm shift in international cataract research.

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