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Clem Jones Centre for Regenerative Medicine

A History of Research into Macular Degeneration 

Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness. With an ageing population, the number of people living with the disease at end of life will increase. The disease is associated with Loss of the retinal pigment epithelial cells at the back of the eye which support photoreceptor survival and function in the light detection. 

The Clem Jones Centre for Regenerative Medicine was first established in 2011 through funding from the Clem Jones Foundation to support research into a therapy for macular degeneration. Clem Jones AO was the longest serving Lord Mayor of Brisbane and a successful business and philanthropist. Since his death, his Estate and Foundation have funded medical research, notably in the area of macular degeneration, since Clem Jones himself suffered the disease in his later years.

The Clem Jones Foundation continues to partially fund the work of the Centre, but the continuation of research is also dependent on government grant funding and donations from the public.

In dry AMD, or geographic atrophy, drusen deposits at the back of the eye lead to the death of the retinal pigment epithelial cells and subsequently photoreceptor dysfunction and death. Wet AMD or choroidal neovascularisation is associated with abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding in the macula. Current treatments for wet AMD, including anti-VEGF injections, laser surgery and photodynamic therapy, help to control blood vessel growth and bleeding in the macula. However, there is no fully effective treatment available treatment for dry AMD.

AMD is now recognised as a disease highly amenable to stem cell therapy. Transplantation of retinal pigment epithelial cells is used to halt or reverse vision loss by preventing death of photoreceptors. It is considered one of the most viable applications of stem cells in the field of regenerative medicine.

An important long-term translational project has been the application of stem cell therapy to vision improvement in macular degeneration. Associate Professor Nigel Barnett discusses the Centre's research into age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the western world.

About the Clem Jones Centre for Regenerative Medicine

The Centre was established to investigate the therapeutic use of stem cells in tissue repair and disease. The goal is to combine research excellence in stem cell science with clinical translation, and to enhance, induce or transplant stem cells for patient benefit.

The Centre supports studies in the broader field of regenerative medicine and stem cell biology, combining stem cell science, biomaterials, tissue engineering, tissue regeneration, intelligent drug delivery, immunity and inflammation, and advanced surgery.

Research areas of interest include retinal diseases and degeneration, advanced therapies for vision loss, enhancement of hematopoiesis during ageing and disease, and regeneration of spleen from stem cells.

Centre Staff   Research Students & Projects

Research activities in the Centre

Fluorescence angiography
Nigel Barnett in the Vision Physiology Lab
A wholemount of a mouse retina showing CFP-expressing ganglion cell bodies and their axons converging towards the optic nerve head

Research support