Researcher

Professor Nick Di Girolamo

My Expertise

Stem Cells, Ophthalmology, Transplantation, Pathology, Inflammation

Field of Research (FoR)

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Biography

Professor Nick Di Girolamo is Director of the Ocular Diseases Research Unit and Head of the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Research, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales. Nick leads an internationally recognised group whose mission is to restore sight in patients blinded from severe corneal disease. His research program integrates basic sciences, revolutionary animal models, and world-first clinical trials using...view more

Professor Nick Di Girolamo is Director of the Ocular Diseases Research Unit and Head of the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Research, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales. Nick leads an internationally recognised group whose mission is to restore sight in patients blinded from severe corneal disease. His research program integrates basic sciences, revolutionary animal models, and world-first clinical trials using adult stem cells; the results of which have demonstrated improved eye health and vision in patients. Nick has received two decades of continuous funding from the NHMRC and other national and international funding agencies and has over 100 peer reviewed published articles.

Broad Research Areas:
Stem Cells, Ophthalmology, Transplantation, Pathology, Inflammation

Qualifications:
BSc, PhD

Society Memberships & Professional Activities:
1. Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARV0),

2. International Ocular Inflammation Society (IOIS),

3. Sydney Tissue Engineering and Matrix group (STEAM),

4. Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR),

5. Member, NHMRC GRP Panels(Autonomic/Peripheral & Sensory Nervous System; Surgery/Dental/Medical & Related Technologies),

6. Member, ORIA Research Advisory Committee,

7. Editorial board Member, Clinical Experimental Ophthalmology, Current Eye Research, Stem Cell Investigation

Specific Research Keywords:
Corneal Stem Cell Biology, Stem Cell Therapy, Ocular Surface Disease, Ultraviolet Radiation, Dry Eye Disease


My Grants

Project Grants for Research (2015- )

2015

UNSW Goldstar Award

Mapping the fate of corneal epithelial stem cells in health and disease

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$40,000 total

 

2015

Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

ORIA/Renensson Bequest Grant

Destiny of limbal epithelial stem cells in the normal cornea

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$50,000 total

 

2015-2016

Kylaco PTY LTD

Spondyathropathies (spas) peptide vaccine

CIA-Marcal, CIB-Wakefiled, CIC-Di Girolamo

$200,000 total

 

2016-2019

NHMRC Project Grant APP1101078

Mapping the dynamics of corneal stem cells during aging and after wounding and transplantation

CIA-Di Girolamo, CIB-Watson, CIC-Wakefield

$548,903 total

 

2016

UNSW Goldstar Award

Methods to mark and graft corneal stem cells to treat blindness

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$40,000 total

 

2016-2017

Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

Improving clinical outcomes for patients receiving corneal stem cell grafts

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$100,000

 

2016-2017

Sao Paolo State Foundation for Research Support

Culturing human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells on Nanoskin scaffolds for ocular surface reconstruction

Schellini, Viveiros, Rainho, da Silva, Ximenes, Padovani, Basmaji, de Olyveira, Di Girolamo

AUD $75,000

 

2017-2018

Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation

Development of a vaccine to treat HLA B27 spondylarthritis (SpA)

CIA-Wakefield, CIB-Di Girolamo, CIC-Tedla

AUD $50,000

 

2018

Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia

ORIA/Ivy May Stephenson Grant

A novel native scaffold for corneal epithelial regeneration

CIA-Di Girolamo N.

$49,500 total

 

2018-2019

Australia Research Council (ARC) Strategic Research Initiative Award

SR1101002 Stem Cell Australia: Transitioning into the future

Consortium of 65 CIs from 9 Australian Stakeholder Institutions and Partner Organizations (actual funds received $124,500)

$3,000,000 total


My Qualifications

1983-1985

BSc University of Sydney (conferred 1986)

 

1995-1997

PhD University of New South Wales (conferred 1998)

Title: Mechanisms of Tissue Destruction in Inflammatory Eye Disease

 


My Awards

 

  1. ABC’s New Inventors (02-06-09) Episode winner and People’s Choice.
  2. Finalist and winner (23-11-09) of “Less is More Award” awarded to an inventor whose invention impacts the community or environment.
  3. Finalist 2010 UNSW Inventor of the Year (Biomedical)
  4. First Prize, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology ARVO-Scientific Image Contest winner. 2016 Migrating Multicolored Corneal Epithelia

My Research Activities

Ultraviolet Radiation and Tumours of the Human Cornea

1. Our research program focuses on understanding how excessive solar ultraviolet radiation and viral infections are potential triggers for diseases that develop on the surface of the human eye including benign pterygia, and invasive neoplasias. We study the role inflammatory mediators including cytokines, growth factors and matrix metalloproteinases in the pathogenesis of these lesions using cell culture models and fresh human tissue specimens.

Corneal Stem Cell Transplantation

2. The second arm of our research program focuses on identifying, isolating and cultivating human corneal epithelial stem cells to help us understand how the ocular surface is replenished and maintained in a healthy transparent state under normal physiological conditions and following trauma. We also hope to identify better culture conditions and robust markers for these rare cells with the ultimate aim of generating better quality stem cell grafts to treat patients with severe corneal diseases that result in blindness. The other area we are interested in pursuing is to develop diagnostic and prognostic in-office tests for patients with limbal stem cell deficiency. Initial proof-of-concept work to be carried out in animal models where our findings will be translated to the clinic

Corneal Wound-Healing

3. The third arm of our research program focuses on understanding the mechanisms of wound-healing in the cornea to devise better therapies to treat patients with persistent corneal epithelial defects. Patients with such conditions do not require a cell or tissue replacement strategy so we are searching for corneal wound-healing factors that can be dispensed to accelerate the healing process to prevent infection and other complications.

Dry Eye Disease

4. The fourth arm of our research program focuses on developing clinically relevant animal models of Dry Eye Disease (DED) understanding how this disease evolves, the ocular surface cell types involved in its pathogenesis and importantly treatments that can be used on patients with this condition.


My Research Supervision


Areas of supervision

Student supervisor

Supervisor for Internships, Independent learning projects (ILP, Medicine), Honours, MSc and PhD

 

Areas of Research Supervision

  1. Corneal epithelial stem cells
  2. Markers for corneal stem cells
  3. Isolation, cultivation and grafting strategies for corneal stem cells
  4. Developing animal models of blinding corneal disease
  5. Developing diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers as clinical tests for patients with blinding corneal disease
  6. Dry Eye Disease; pathogenesis of DED, cells involved in DED, and treatments for DED

Currently supervising

  1. Alex Richardson (PhD; UNSW, 2014 - 2018); Role, Primary Supervisor
  2. Naomi Delic (PhD; USyd, 2013 - current); Role, Associate Supervisor
  3. Richard Zhang (PhD; UNSW, 2016 - current); Role, Primary Supervisor
  4. Hugh Tuck (z5059765; Medical Sciences Honours, 2018) Role, Primary Supervisor
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Location

Wallace Wurth Building (C27)

Contact

+ 61 2 9385 2538
+61 2 9835 1389

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