Join us to hear Dr Michael O'Connor (PhD) Head of the Regenerative Medicine laboratory at Western Sydney University present “Defining disease mechanisms and new treatment possibilities for macular degeneration and cataract”
Abstract: Macular degeneration and cataract cost the Australian economy billions of dollars annually. We have used human pluripotent stem cells and a range of techniques including cell separation, transcriptomics, proteomics and electrophysiology to investigate the molecular causes of these diseases and to gain insights into new treatment possibilities. These approaches have shown that stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelial cells containing the F305S BEST1 mutation (responsible for a congenital form of macular degeneration) have reduced Cl- and Ca2+ conductance and impaired volume regulation. Continuing investigations are aimed at linking these molecular defects to key disease symptoms such as lipofuscin and fluid accumulation - symptoms also seen with age-related macular degeneration. Additionally we have developed a method for purification and proliferation of lens cells from pluripotent cells. Characterisation of these lens cells has demonstrated them to be similar to embryonic lens epithelial cells, and capable of differentiation towards lens fibre cells. Ongoing research is aimed at identifying effective anti-cataract drugs, and at investigating lens cell transplantation for lens regeneration as an alternate cataract therapy.
Bio: Dr O’Connor heads the Regenerative Medicine laboratory at Western Sydney University, using human pluripotent cells to model eye diseases. He received his PhD from the University of Sydney in 2005, regenerating and characterising functional ocular lenses in vitro. During postdoctoral studies in Vancouver, Canada, he identified genes related to pluripotency and co-led commercial development of mTeSR1 and TeSR2. Through various roles for the Australasian Society for Stem Cell research he has led development of a touring stem cell art exhibition, seen by over 1 million people, that stimulates public discussion on emerging stem cell therapies.