Research Overview

Our laboratory focuses on the study of human pluripotent stem cells for modelling neurodegenerative diseases, aspects of development and regeneration.

The extreme difficulty in obtaining brain or ocular tissue from living people currently represents a major barrier to developing new treatments for neurodegenerative disease. We can now generate stem cells from adult tissue, and these “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPSCs) and those represent a powerful disease modelling tool. Generating iPSCs directly from patients allows cells to be differentiated into specific cells of interest for disease modelling, drug screening, and understanding of fundamental pathogenic mechanisms.

We have the established techniques and methodologies to efficiently differentiate iPSCs into various cell types of the nervous system including of the retina and three dimensional-organoids (cerebral organoids and optic cups in particular). Using retinal cells, we are modelling age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, inherited retinal dystrophies and optic neuropathies, in order to establish the molecular events leading to disease progression. Similarly, we are using cerebral organoids to model aspects of neurodegeneration.

We are using gene editing technology for correction of monogenic diseases of the retina and the optic nerve. The CRISPR system is used by bacteria to counter viral intrusion and has recently been adapted to allow efficient editing of the mammalian nuclear genome. CRISPR-based technology is being heralded as a relatively straightforward technology for in vitro correction of genetic mutations in patient-specific cells and is particularly attractive for treating inherited diseases caused by genes with very specific spatial and stoichiometric expression, such as those found in many of the monogenic diseases we are studying. We are using our unique cohort of patients with distinct monogenic inherited retinal dystrophies and iPSC technology to directly study the utility of genomic editing and correction.

Finally, human pluripotent stem cells provide an invaluable tool to study early developmental processes and the fundamental aspects of cell fate. Their manipulation towards differentiation into chosen cell types provides a powerful in vitro system to investigate the mechanisms involved in pluripotency and differentiation.

The study of lipids, or lipidomics, is an emerging and exciting area of biological science. Our laboratory dissects the roles of specific bioactive lipids in pluripotency and differentiation.


Damian Hernandez, Research fellow

Grace Lidgerwood, Research fellow

Lerna Jurdukian, Research Support Officer

Louise Rooney, Research Assistant

Maciej Daniszewski, PhD student

Alison Conquest, PhD student & Research Assistant

Stephanie Morgan Schlicht, Honours Student



- Prof. Alex Hewitt, University of Tasmania & Centre for Eye Research Australia

- Prof. Robyn Guymer, Centre for Eye Research Australia

- Assoc. Prof. Joseph Powell, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Assoc. Prof. Mirella Dottori, University of Wollongong

-Dr. Max Lim, St Vincent Institute



- Dr. Ruchira Singh, University of Rochester, USA

- Dr. Celeste Karch, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, USA

- Prof. Andrew Morris, University of Kentucky, USA


National Health & Medical Research Council

Australian Research Council

Stem Cells Australia

Macular Disease Foundation of Australia

Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

Dementia Australia

Yulgilbar Alzheimer’s Research Program

Research Outcomes

* Equal last authors

Pluripotent Stem Cells and Disease Modelling

-Daniszewski M*, Senabouth A*, Nguyen QH, Crombie DE, Lukowski SW, Kulkarni T, Sluch VM, Jabbari JS, Chamling X, Zack DJ, Pébay A*, Powell JE* and Hewitt AW* (2018). Single Cell RNA Sequencing of stem cell-derived retinal ganglion cells. Scientific Data. 5:180013

-Karch C, Hernández D, Chyong Wang J, Marsh J, Hewitt AW, Hsu S, Norton J, Levitch D, Donahue T, Sigurdson W, Ghetti B, Farlow M, Chhatwal C, Berman S, Cruchaga C, Morris JC, Bateman R, Pébay A, Goate AM (2018). Human Fibroblast and Stem Cell Resource from the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network. Alzheimer's Research & Therapy 10:69

- Wong RCB, Lim SY, Hung SSH, Jackson S, Khan S, Van Bergen N, De Smit E, Liang HH, Kearns L, Clarke L, Mackey D, Hewitt AW, Trounce IA* and Pébay A* (2017). Mitochondrial replacement in an iPSC model of Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy. Aging-US 9(4):1341-1350.

- McCaughey T, Liang HL, Chen C, Fenwick E, Rees G, Wong RCB, Vickers JC, Summers MJ, MacGregor C, Craig JE, Munsie M, Pébay A*, Hewitt AW* (2016). An Interactive Multimedia Approach to Improving Informed Consent for Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell

-Lim S, Sivakumaran P, Crombie DE, Dusting GJ*, Pébay A*, Dilley R* (2013). Trichostatin-A Enhances Differentiation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells to Cardiogenic Cells for Cardiac Tissue Engineering. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2(9): 715-25.

- Liu J*, Verma PJ*, Evans-Galea M, Delaticky MB, Michalska A, Leung J, Crombie D, Sarsero JP, Williamson R, Dottori M* and Pébay A* (2011). Generation of induced pluripotent stem cell lines from Friedreich Ataxia patients. Stem Cell Reviews and Reports. 7(3), 703-13.


- Lidgerwood GE, Morris A, Conquest A, Daniszewski M, Rooney LA, Lim SY, Hernández D, Liang HH, Allen P, Connell PP, Guymer RH, Hewitt AW and Pébay A (2018).Role of lysophosphatidic acid in the retinal pigment epithelium and photoreceptors. BBA Molecular and Cellular Biology of Lipids 7:750-761.

- Crack PJ, Zhang M, Morganti-Kossmann MC, Morris A, Wojciak JM, Fleming JK, Karve I, Wright D, Sahindranath M, Goldshmit Y, Conquest A, Daglas M, Johnston LA, Medcalf RL, Sabbadini RS and Pébay A (2014). Anti-lysophosphatidic acid antibodies improve traumatic brain injury outcomes. Journal of Neuroinflammation 11(1): 37.

- Frisca F, Crombie DE, Dottori M, Goldshmit Y and Pébay A (2013). The Rho/ROCK pathway is essential to the expansion, differentiation and morphological rearrangements of human neural stem/progenitor cells induced by lysophosphatidic acid. Journal of Lipid Research 54(5): 1192-1206.

- Goldshmit Y, Matteo R, Sztal T, Ellett F, Frisca F, Moreno K, Crombie D, Lieschke GJ, Currie PD, Sabbadini RA and Pébay A (2012). Blockage of lysophosphatidic acid signalling improves spinal cord injury outcomes. American Journal of Pathology 181(3): 978-992.

- Frugier T, Crombie D, Conquest A, Tjhong F, Taylor C, Kulkarni T, McLean C and Pébay A (2011). Modulation of LPA receptor expression in the human brain following neurotrauma. Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. 31:569-577.

CRISPR -gene editing

-McCaughey T*, Budden DM*, Sanfilippo PG*, Gooden GEC, Fan L, Fenwick E, Rees G, MacGregor C,Si L, Chen C, Liang HH, Pébay A*, Baldwin T*, Hewitt AW* (2019). A need for better understanding is the major determinant for public perceptions of human gene editing. Human Gene Therapy 30(1):36-43.

- Galloway C, Dalvi S, Hung SSC, MacDonald L, Latchney L, Wong RCB, Guymer RH, Mackey DA, Williams DS, Chung M, Gamm D, Pébay A, Hewitt AW and Singh R (2017). Drusen in a dish: Novel patient-derived hiPSC model(s) of macular dystrophies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 114(39): E8214-E8223

- McCaughey T*, Sanfilippo PG*, Gooden GEC*, Budden DM, Fan L, Fenwick E, Rees G, MacGregor C, Craig JE, Si L, Chen C, Liang HH, Baldwin T, Pébay A*, Hewitt AW* (2016). A global social media survey of attitudes to human genome editing. Cell Stem Cell. 18 (5).

- Hung SSC, Chrysostomou V, Fan LM, Lim JKH, Wang JH, Powell JE, Tu L, Daniszewski M, Lo C, Wong RCB, Crowston JG, Pébay A, King AE, Bui BV, Liu GS*, Hewitt AW* (2016). AAV-mediated CRISPR/Cas gene editing of retinal cells in vivo. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 57: 3470-3476

Research Publications

* Co-senior authors.

-Daniszewski M*, Nguyen Q*, Chy HS Singh V,CrombieDE, Kulkarni T, LiangHH, SivakumaranP, Lidgerwood GE, Hernández D, Conquest A, Rooney LA, Chevalier S, Andersen SB, Senabouth A, Vickers JC, Mackey DA, Craig JE, Laslett AL, Hewitt AW*, Powell JE*,Pébay A* (2018). Single cell profiling identifies key pathways expressed by iPSCs cultured in different commercial media. iScience 7: 30-39.

- Crombie DE, Curl CL, Raaijmakers AJA, Sivakumaran P, Kulkarni T, Wong RCB, Minami I, Evans-Galiea MV, Lim SY, Delbridge L, Corben LA, Dottori M, Nakatsuji N, Trounce IA, Hewitt AW, Delatycki MB, Pera MF and Pébay A (2017). Friedreich’s ataxia induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes display electrophysiological abnormalities and calcium handling deficiency. Aging-US: 9(5) 1440-52

- Crombie DE*, Daniszewski M*, Liang HH, Kulkarni T, Li F, Lidgerwood GE, Conquest A, Hernandez D, Hung SS, Gill KP, De Smit E, Kearns L, Clarke L, Sluch VM, Chamling X, Zack DJ, Wong RCB, Hewitt AW* andPébay A*(2017). Development of a modular automated system for maintenance and differentiation of adherent human pluripotent stem cells. SLAS Discovery: 22(8): 1016-1025.

- Gill K, Hung S, Sharov A, Lo C, Needham K, Lidgerwood G, Jackson S, Crombie D, Nayagam B, Cook A, Hewitt A, Pébay A*, Wong RCB* (2016). Enriched retinal ganglion cells derived from human embryonic stem cells. Scientific Reports, 6, 30552-63

- Lidgerwood GE, Ali R, Lim SY, Crombie DE, Gill KP, Hernández D, Kie J,Conquest A, Waugh HS, Wong RCB, Liang HH, Hewitt AW*, Davidson KC*,Pébay A* (2016). Defined medium conditions for the induction and expansion of human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium.Stem Cell Reviews and Reports. 12(2): 179-188.

- Crack PJ, Zhang M, Morganti-Kossmann MC, Morris A, Wojciak JM, Fleming JK, Karve I, Wright D, Sahindranath M, Goldshmit Y, Conquest A, Daglas M, Johnston LA, Medcalf RL, Sabbadini RS and Pébay A (2014). Anti-lysophosphatidic acid antibodies improve traumatic brain injury outcomes. Journal of Neuroinflammation 11(1): 37.

Selected reviews

- Lidgerwood GE, Pitson SM, Bonder C, Pébay A. Roles of lysophosphatidic acid and sphingosine-1-phosphate in stem cell biology (2018). Progress in Lipid Research 72: 42-54

- Daniszewski M, Crombie DE, Henderson R, Liang HH, Wong RCB, Hewitt AW andPébay A*.Automated cell culture systems and their applications to human pluripotent stem cell studies. SLAS Technology. 23 (4) 315-25

- Crombie DE, Pera MF, Delatycki MB and Pébay A (2016). Using Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Study Friedreich Ataxia Cardiomyopathy. International Journal of Cardiology 212: 37-43.

- Gill KP, Hewitt AH, Davidson KC, Pébay A and Wong RCB (2014). Methods of retinal ganglion cell differentiation from pluripotent stem cells. Translational Vision Science & Technology 3(4): 1-13.

- Davidson KC, Guymer RH, Pera MF and Pébay A (2014). Human pluripotent stem cell strategies for age-related macular degeneration. Optometry & Vision Science 91(8): 887-93.

Selected edited book

- Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Lipidomics of Stem Cells. Humana Press. Pébay & Wong Editors. March 2017.

- Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Regenerative Biology of the Eye. Humana Press. Pébay & Turksen Editors. May 2014.

Research Projects

For project inquiries, contact our research group head.

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Professor Alice Pébay

Department / Centre

Surgery , Anatomy and Neuroscience

Unit / Centre


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