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The future looks bright at CERA with grants awarded to researchers

A group of researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) have been successful in securing several Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA) grants and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Postgraduate Scholarships.

Dr Raymond Wong, Neurogeneration

Dr Raymond Wong, Neurogeneration

Three ORIA grants were given to researchers in the areas of Clinical Genetics, Neurogeneration and Macular Degeneration.

Dr Alex Hewitt and Duncan Crombie, Clinical Genetics and Neurogeneration

Breakthroughs in cellular technology have allowed researchers to generate stem cells from adult tissue samples often taken from the skin. Researchers can now study eye cells without taking tissue samples from a patient’s eye. The ORIA grant will enable Dr Alex Hewitt and Duncan Crombie to use patient stem cells to create eye cells and use genome editing techniques to correct and assess the mutations which cause eye disease, and drive the next generation of gene therapy.

Dr Penny Allen, Dr Chi Luu and Dr Carla Abbott, Macular Research

Many people with genetic eye conditions become blind because their retinal cells die. An electrical current applied from an implant to the retina may possibly extend the life of these cells; however, it is a difficult procedure to place the implant. Dr Carla Abbott and Dr Penny Allen have developed a simple and safe technique for an implant to be placed beneath the retina. The ORIA grant will allow for an investigation of the implant’s impact on cell function and survival to maintain sight.

Dr Abbott also received an Early Career Researcher grant from the University of Melbourne to further study the effect of electrical stimulation in retinal degeneration.

Dr Sandy Hung and Dr Raymond Wong, Neurogeneration

Many untreatable eye diseases, such as glaucoma, occur when a special group of eye cells, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) die, but there are currently no readily accessible human samples of these cells to study. The funding will enable researchers to turn pluripotent stem cells into RGCs to generate a cell line that would be readily available for studies. Upon the completion of the project, the generated RCG cell lines will be made available to researchers and allow for more in depth research of the biology of RGCs.

Managing Director of CERA, Professor Jonathan Crowston, congratulated the group for their hard work making an impact in eye research.

“I want to thank ORIA and the NHMRC for supporting the work being done by our researchers who are continuing the CERA tradition of producing research with real impact that will one day stop eye disease.”