A Bond University stem cell research program is one step closer to restoring sight to patients with macular degeneration, after securing a further $1.2 million in funding from the Clem Jones Foundation.
The Clem Jones Research Centre for Stem Cells and Tissue Regenerative Therapies (CJRC) at Bond University will receive $395,000 per year for the next three years, following a major medical breakthrough in the journey to restoring sight to patients with Acute Macular Degeneration (AMD).
AMD, a form of blindness caused by the loss of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells which form a layer on the Bruch's membrane at the back of the eye, is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60 in the western world.
The Centre has been successful in developing a clinical grade transplantable disc comprising a synthetic mimic of the Bruch's membrane coated with RPE cells, with engraftment at the back of the eye expected to restore retina and photoreceptor function to AMD patients.
The research has been conducted by Dr Qin Liu, Director of Clem Jones Research Centre, alongside fellow researchers Dr Denver Surrao, Mr Stuart Skabo, Mr Ioannis Limnios and Dr Yu-Qian Chau.
The new infusion of funding from the Clem Jones Foundation will allow the researchers at the Centre to progress their research to the testing phase, with a view to commence clinical trials in the future.
Professor Helen Chenery, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine at Bond University, said the funding extension was a major coup for researchers and clinicians involved with the Clem Jones Research Centre.
"The development of the transplantable disc by the Clem Jones Research Centre is considered to be one of the most viable applications of cell therapy in the field of regenerative medicine, and is a major medical breakthrough," she said.
"Currently, there is no treatment for the majority of patients who suffer from AMD, with cell-based tissue engineering therapy regarded as the most promising treatment option.
"The Clem Jones Foundation's decision to extend the funding shows a commitment and belief in the work being conducted by the Centre.
"The funding will allow our team of researchers to advance to the animal testing phase of the study, in collaboration with Professor Erica Fletcher and colleagues at Melbourne University.
"We are extremely grateful to the Clem Jones Foundation for their ongoing support of the Centre's innovative work in creating truly translational outcomes for AMD patients."
Peter Johnstone, Chief Executive Officer of the Clem Jones Foundation, said he was impressed with the progress that had been made by the Clem Jones Research Centre since its foundation in 2010.
"The Clem Jones Foundation is committed to finding a cure for macular degeneration, and the cutting edge research conducted by the Clem Jones Research Centre has taken us one step closer to this goal," he said.
"We are so pleased with the results to date that the Clem Jones Foundation has extended funding of the Centre for a further three years.
"We look forward to continuing our partnership with Bond University and working together to improve the lives of AMD patients worldwide."
The AMD project is just one of several projects involving stem cells and tissue regeneration underway at Bond University's Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, with procedures for stem cell production and design of nanofibre webbings for supporting stem cell growth and transplantation underpinning a number of projects currently underway at the university.