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Archdiocese offers $100,000 grant for adult stem cell research

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The Sydney Archdiocese’s $100,000 Adult Stem Cell Research Grant has made a real world difference in advancing helpful treatments. PHOTO: Drew Hays

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is offering a $100,000 Adult Stem Cell Research Grant to Australian-based scientists undertaking research into the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells.

The Catholic Church encourages research into the therapeutic use of adult stem cells because it is respectful of human life, as opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells, which involves the destruction of human embryos.

The very first recipient of the grant, Prof Alan Mackay-Sim, was last year named Australian of the Year for his pioneering work, which contributed in 2014 to the successful restoration of mobility in a quadriplegic man.

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Associate Professor Nick di Girolamo, Director of Ocular Disease research in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW. PHOTO: Supplied

In 2015 Associate Professor Nick di Girolamo, Director of Ocular Disease research in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of NSW, was awarded the Grant to assist with his potentially ground-breaking research into transplanting adult stem cells into the cornea of the eye, as a way of treating diseases of the cornea.

His research could lead to preventing blindness in people with eye diseases.

“In ophthalmology, as in other medical disciplines, there are many questions for which there are no answers,” Prof di Girolamo recently told The Catholic Weekly.

“And because these questions cannot be addressed in man (either because of ethical or other reasons), we, like many other medical researchers, have sought help from the humble mouse.”

“With the help of the Adult Stem Cell Grant from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, we designed a transgenic mouse that will aid resolving some of the mysteries that continue to plague our field.”

“For the first time we will be able to build an accurate road-map of the whereabouts of the stem cells, how many there are, how they behave under normal circumstances, and how long they remain viable after transplantation,” Prof di Girolamo said.

Prof di Girolamo’s team produced an image of the transgenic mouse’s multicoloured cornea, called “Confetti Mouse”, which has already won several competitions around the world. Applications for the 2017 Adult Stem Cell Research Grant are now being accepted and must be submitted by the end of October 2017.

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