Stem cell event is an eye-opener

RESEARCH: Dr Alex Hewitt collecting a skin biopsy from a volunteer. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

RESEARCH: Dr Alex Hewitt collecting a skin biopsy from a volunteer. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

BENDIGO residents will have the chance to learn more about stem cells and research into vision loss at a free community event next week.

Internationally-acclaimed documentary Stem Cell Revolutions will be the La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre on July 3 at 10am.

Dr Alice Pebay and Dr Alex Hewitt from the Centre for Eye Research Australia and Associate Professor Megan Musie from Stem Cells Australia will also host a panel discussion about stem cells and eye research.

Dr Pebay said the event would debunk some of the myths surrounding stem cells research.

"It's a very good introduction to where medical research is in terms of stem cell research," she said.

"It's great for communities because it gives a good insight into what's real and what's not.

"It's probably very good given that lots of people are now getting treatments around the world without really understanding what is behind stem cell research."

The documentary charts the history and evolution of stem cell science - from the earliest experiments that first revealed stem cells in the body, to leading current scientific and clinical developments, particularly as they relate to vision loss.

"We work at the Centre for Eye Research in Melbourne and my lab uses stem cells that we make from patients," Dr Pebay said.

"There was a recent discovery that allows us to take skin biopsies from people, so a little piece of skin from their arm, and turn back these cells into stem cells.

"Once we have these cells, what we do with them, is we tell these cells to become eye cells.

"And why do we do that?

"We do that to understand why an eye cell of someone with eye disease is affected by something while someone who doesn't have an eye disease isn't affected.

"The major point of doing that is because people who have eye diseases, for the doctors, it's very hard to know what's wrong because you can't go into the eye and take a biopsy."

Bendigo resident Linda Nancarrow decided to organise a screening of Stem Cell Revolutions after attending a similar event in Melbourne at the Centre for Eye Research Australia.

“I found the film both informative and encouraging,” she said. 

“It not only explains the science behind stem cells in easy-to-understand language, it also covers their potential to help treat a range of health problems, particularly eye conditions.”

To RSVP to the event phone 1300 737 757 or email cera-rsvp@unimelb.edu.au

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