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Australia’s unique new stem cell robot gets working on preventing blindness and restoring sight

Dr Alex Hewitt, Hon Ian Macfarlane, Peter Clemenger and Dr Alice Pebay

L-R: Dr Alex Hewitt, Hon Ian Macfarlane, Peter Clemenger and Dr Alice Pebay

The Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) today opened the Automated Stem Cell Facility and brought Australia’s unique new stem cell robot to life.

The Federal Minister for Industry, the Honorable Ian Macfarlane MP, joined Peter Clemenger AM, and members of CERA’s Vision Regeneration program, Principal Investigator Neuroregeneration, Dr Alice Pébay, and Principal Investigator Clinical Genetics, Dr Alex Hewitt, to switch on the robot.

CERA purchased the automated system after a generous donation from Peter and Joan Clemenger who are passionate in their support for eye research.

Mr Macfarlane said the robot is the first of its kind in Australia and a significant new asset for Australia’s research community to build on our nation’s knowledge base of eye research.

Using adult stem cells, sourced from the skin cells of patients, CERA researchers produce eye cells for disease modelling which allow for new drug therapies to be developed.

The automated system can tirelessly maintain the stem cells required for the study of macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other eye diseases leading to vision loss.

A display of the stem cell robot in operation at CERA

Dr Alex Hewitt explains how the stem cell robot works to the Hon Ian Macfarlane

Dr Hewitt said that with the push of a button the Automated Stem Cell Facility is now a powerful ally in the fight against eye disease.

“Thanks to the generous donation from Mr and Mrs Clemenger, we can now get working on producing patient-specific, individualised stem cells from a larger number of people, which will certainly expedite our research and shorten the time required for clinical translation,” Dr Hewitt said.

“We can make a real impact as we work toward our goal of preventing blindness and restoring sight.”

Dr Pébay said that her team of researchers is excited about the prospect of working with the samples delivered by this new approach.

“It’s very difficult to get tissue samples from within the eye so the stem cells obtained by reprogramming skin samples in larger quantities will give us more to study than ever before,” Dr Pébay said.

The stem cell robot

The stem cell robot

Mr Clemenger, who pressed the button that set the robot in motion, said he was proud to be involved with CERA and wished researchers the best of luck with their new automated research assistant.

“Hopefully this will make real progress to eliminating eye disease and blindness in my lifetime, as well as encouraging other researchers from around the world to collaborate with CERA here in Melbourne using this world class facility,” Mr Clemenger said.