Stem cell research funded $7m to prevent joint deformity, enable cartilage regeneration and improve care

Researchers are on a mission to develop novel cartilage-based stem cell therapies that will change the way we care for people living with painful joint disease, such as osteoarthritis, and facial disfigurement.

Professor Peter Choong

Professor Peter Choong, Associate Dean Innovation and Enterprise.

Announced today by Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, almost $7 million has been awarded through Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to the project, ARISTOCRAT.

Led by University of Melbourne Professor Peter Choong, who is also Associate Dean of Innovation and Enterprise at the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, researchers also hope to simplify processes to bring these treatments into hospitals so that clinicians can treat conditions more quickly, with fewer complications than before.

“Cartilage holds an important role in the body, lining the surface of our joints. Because of this, cartilage loss is far-reaching, leading to pain, deformity and loss of function,” Professor Choong said.

“Osteoarthritis is one of the top 10 contributors to the global burden of disease, affecting more than two million Australians, while Microtia – an absent or poorly formed ear – affects one in 2000 newborns and can lead to hearing loss, speech, and literacy delays.

“Our research will change the way these conditions are treated, using patents’ own stem cells to restore damaged or absent cartilage and minimise the number of operations required, and overall time spent in hospital.”

The research team includes experts from La Trobe University, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, University of Wollongong, University of Sydney, Swinburne University of Technology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Monash University, RMIT and the University of Toronto.

University of Melbourne Dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Professor Jane Gunn, welcomed the announcement as a major boost to Australia’s stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

“This funding will allow researchers to develop new therapies to improve the lives of Australians living with musculoskeletal disorders and facial disfigurement,” Professor Gunn said.

“The ARISTOCRAT project demonstrates the future of healthcare – an innovative approach that brings together clinicians, consumers and scientists to improve treatment. I extend my congratulations to Professor Choong and the broader research team.”

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Holly Watkins

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