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NHMRC grant awarded for research into age-related blindness

A cure for one of the leading causes of age-related blindness is a step closer thanks to a Bond University-led research team being awarded a prestigious government grant of almost $700,000.

The funding of $683,062 from the federal government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), was allocated to Associate Professor Nigel Barnett, from Bond University’s Clem Jones Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Bond University Professor Helen O’Neill, and Professor Steven Bottle from Queensland University of Technology, for their work on retinal stem cell therapy in the immunoprivileged eye.

Dr Barnett said as part of age-related macular degeneration, retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the eye become damaged and die, meaning they’re no longer able to support the eye’s photoreceptor cells which capture light, leading to those cells also dying. 

“What this project aims to do is to use stem cells to create new RPE cells which we’ll then implant into the eye, so the new healthy RPE cells will support the photoreceptors before they die”, Dr Barnett said.

He said the group was thrilled to receive the funding, allocated over three years, which would allow them to further their research and provide salaries for a post-doctoral fellow and a research assistant.

While there were other groups around the world working towards a similar goal, Dr Barnett said the technique his group was using was distinctive. 

“Our advantage is that our RPE cell production procedure is highly efficient and can be scaled up to produce large quantities of clinical grade cells.”

The group has also developed novel drugs which will help the new RPE cells survive within the damaged eye.  

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