The Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne is experimenting with the use of skin cells from patients with macular degeneration by turning them into stem cells to create new retinal cells.
The study aims to understand better the common but incurable form of blindness. Macular degeneration, which is age-related, caused by dying retinal cells, affects one in seven older Australians and cost the country's economy $5.15 billion yearly.
The skin cells are compared with the patient's damaged cells to allow the researchers to find more details of what went wrong.
"We know (with macular degeneration) that certain cells in the retina die, and so do the other cells that depend on them, but we need to know how and why," said Kathryn Davidson, a U.S. stem cell expert flown in from Seattle by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, said on Monday at the charity's launch.
The technique was invented by Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon who were awarded in 2012 the Nobel Prize for Medicine.