Doctor Michael O'Connor

Doctor Michael O'Connor

Research Senior Lecturer,
School Of Medicine


Michael is interested in using human stem cells to better understand normal human development and disease progression. His current research activity makes use of human pluripotent stem cells (i.e. cells that can produce any cell type of the body) to learn more about cataract, a variety of conditions that involve degradation of the ocular lens leading to blindness. Michael obtained his PhD from the University of Sydney in 2005, creating an animal-based culture system that can regenerate functional ocular lenses in the laboratory. Upon completing his PhD Michael undertook postdoctoral studies in Vancouver (Canada), where he identified new genes and mechanisms that help maintain the developmental potential of human pluripotent stem cells. Michael has received numerous awards for his work in both the lens and human pluripotent stem cell fields, and together these diverse areas of expertise provide a unique opportunity to understand lens and cataract development using human cells. Throughout his career, Michael has also maintained an interest in translating academic research findings into biotechnology or clinical applications, through interactions with both Australian and Canadian biotechnology companies.

Awards and Recognition

  • Elected Secretary, Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research, 2010-2012
  • Elected Vice-President, Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research, 2013-2014
  • Canadian Stem Cell Network Travel Award, 2009
  • International Consortium of Stem Cell Networks Travel Award, 2009
  • Invited Finalist, 10th Annual Royan Institute Award, 2009
  • Invited Finalist, STEM CELLS Journal, 3rd Annual Young Investigator Award, 2008
  • International Society for Cellular Therapy Special Travel Award, 2005
  • Santos Travel Grant, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Conference, 2004
  • 1st Prize, 6th International Conference on Cellular Engineering, 2003
  • John Irvine Hunter Research Prize, University of Sydney, Australia, 2003


  • Canadian Stem Cell Network Policy Development Committee Inaugural Member, 2006-2008
  • Organizing Committee, Human embryonic stem cell workshop, International Consortium of Stem Cell Networks, Cairns, Australia, 2007
  • Member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2005-ongoing

This information has been contributed by Doctor O'Connor.


  • PhD University of Sydney
  • BSc University of Melbourne


  • Cataract
  • Lens Development
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Regenerative Medicine

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • School Of Medicine


Phone: (02) 4620 3902
Location: 30.2.18

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Chapters in Books

  • Murphy, P. and O'Connor, M. (2014), 'Stem cells and the ocular lens : implications for cataract research and therapy', Regenerative Biology of the Eye, Springer 9781493907861.
  • O'Connor, M., Kardel, M. and Eaves, C. (2011), 'Functional assays for human embryonic stem cell pluripotency', Methods in Molecular Biology: Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy for Osteodegenerative Diseases, Humana Press/Springer 9781607619611.

Journal Articles

  • Kabir, M. and O'Connor, M. (2019), 'Stems cells, big data and compendium-based analyses for identifying cell types, signalling pathways and gene regulatory networks', Biophysical Reviews, vol 11, no 1 , pp 41 - 50.
  • Murphy, P., Kabir, M., Srivastava, T., Mason, M., Umala Dewi, C., Lim, S., Yang, A., Djordjevic, D., Killingsworth, M., Ho, J., Harman, D. and O'Connor, M. (2018), 'Light-focusing human micro-lenses generated from pluripotent stem cells model lens development and drug-induced cataract in vitro', Development (Cambridge), vol 145, no 1 .
  • Kabir, M., Patrick, R., Ho, J. and O'Connor, M. (2018), 'Identification of active signaling pathways by integrating gene expression and protein interaction data', BMC Systems Biology, vol 12, no Supplement 9 .
  • Bobba, S., Di Girolamo, N., Munsie, M., Chen, F., Pebay, A., Harkin, D., Hewitt, A., O'Connor, M., McLenachan, S., Shadforth, A. and Watson, S. (2018), 'The current state of stem cell therapy for ocular disease', Experimental Eye Research, vol 177 , pp 65 - 75.
  • Kabir, M., Djordjevic, D., O'Connor, M. and Ho, J. (2018), 'C3 : an R package for cross-species compendium-based cell-type identification', Computational Biology and Chemistry, vol 77 , pp 187 - 192.
  • Zhou, J., O'Connor, M. and Ho, V. (2017), 'The potential for gut organoid derived interstitial cells of Cajal in replacement therapy', International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol 18, no 10 .
  • Balez, R., Steiner, N., Engel, M., Munoz, S., Lum, J., Wu, Y., Wang, D., Vallotton, P., Sachdev, P., O'Connor, M., Sidhu, K., Muench, G. and Ooi, L. (2016), 'Neuroprotective effects of apigenin against inflammation, neuronal excitability and apoptosis in an induced pluripotent stem cell model of Alzheimer's disease', Scientific Reports, vol 6 .
  • Thevarajah, J., O'Connor, M., Castignolles, P. and Gaborieau, M. (2016), 'Capillary electrophoresis to monitor peptide grafting onto chitosan films in real time', Journal of Visualized Experiments, vol 116 .
  • Taylor, D., Thevarajah, J., Narayan, D., Murphy, P., Mangala, M., Lim, S., Wuhrer, R., Lefay, C., O'Connor, M., Gaborieau, M. and Castignolles, P. (2015), 'Real-time monitoring of peptide grafting onto chitosan films using capillary electrophoresis', Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, vol 407, no 9 , pp 2543 - 2555.
  • Meng, W., Zhou, J., Elliott, R., Murphy, P., Ho, V. and O'Connor, M. (2015), 'Is there a role for human pluripotent stem cells in modelling interstitial cells of cajal and gut motility disorders?', Current Stem Cell Research & Therapy, vol 10, no 3 , pp 251 - 257.
  • Main, H., Munsie, M. and O'Connor, M. (2014), 'Managing the potential and pitfalls during clinical translation of emerging stem cell therapies', Clinical and Translational Medicine, vol 3, no 10 .
  • Ooi, L., Sidhu, K., Poljak, A., Sutherland, G., O'Connor, M., Sachdev, P. and Muench, G. (2013), 'Induced pluripotent stem cells as tools for disease modelling and drug discovery in Alzheimer's disease', Journal of Neural Transmission, vol 120, no 1 , pp 103 - 111.
  • O'Connor, M. (2013), 'The 3R principle : advancing clinical application of human pluripotent stem cells', Stem Cell Research and Therapy, vol 4, no 2 .
  • Caron, N., Gage, B., O'Connor, M., Eaves, C., Kieffer, T. and Piret, J. (2013), 'A human embryonic stem cell line adapted for high throughput screening', Biotechnology and Bioengineering, vol 110, no 10 , pp 2706 - 2716.
  • O'Connor, M., Wederell, E., Robertson, G., Delaney, A., Morozova, O., Poon, S., Yap, D., Fee, J., Zhao, Y., McDonald, H., Zeng, T., Hirst, M., Marra, M., Aparicio, S. and Eaves, C. (2011), 'Retinoblastoma-binding proteins 4 and 9 are important for human pluripotent stem cell maintenance', Experimental Hematology, vol 39, no 8 , pp 866 - 8790.
  • Lu, M., Kardel, M., O'Connor, M. and Eaves, C. (2009), 'Enhanced generation of hematopoietic cells from human hepatocarcinoma-cell stimulated human embryonic stem cells', Experimental Hematology, vol 37, no 8 , pp 924 - 936.
  • O'Connor, M., Kardel, M., Iosfina, M., Youssef, D., Lu, M., Li, M., Vercauteren, S., Nagy, A. and Eaves, C. (2008), 'Alkaline phosphatase-positive colony formation is a sensitive, specific and quantitative indicator of undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells', Stem Cells, vol 26 , pp 1109 - 1116.
  • Morin, R., O'Connor, M., Griffith, M., Kuchenbauer, F., Delaney, A., Prabhu, A., Zhao, Y., McDonald, H., Zeng, T., Hirst, M., Eaves, C. and Marra, M. (2008), 'Application of massively parallel sequencing to microRNA profiling and discovery in human embryonic stem cells', Genome Research, vol 18, no 4 , pp 610 - 621.
  • Banuelos, C., Banath, J., MacPhail, S., Zhao, J., O'Connor, M., Eaves, C., Lansdorp, P. and Olive, P. (2008), 'Mouse but not human embryonic stem cells are deficient in rejoining of ionizing radiation-induced DNA double-strand breaks', DNA Repair, vol 7, no 9 , pp 1471 - 1483.
  • O'Connor, M., Wederell, E., De Longh, R., Lovicu, F. and McAvoy, J. (2008), 'Generation of transparency and cellular organization in lens explants', Experimental Eye Research, vol 86, no 5 , pp 734 - 745.
  • Hirst, M., Delanley, A., Rogers, S., Schnerch, A., Persaud, D., O'Connor, M., Zeng, T., Moksa, M., Fichter, K., Mah, D., Go, A., Morin, R., Baross, A., Zhao, A., Khattra, J., Prabhu, A., Pandoh, P., McDonald, H., Asano, J. and Marra, M. (2007), 'LongSAGE profiling of nine human embryonic stem cell lines', Genome Biology, vol 8, no 6 , pp 113 - 113.
  • Ungrin, M., O'Connor, M., Eaves, C. and Zandstra, P. (2007), 'Phenotypic analysis of human embryonic stem cells', Current Protocols in Stem Cells, .
  • O'Connor, M. and McAvoy, J. (2007), 'In vitro generation of functional lens-like structures with relevance to age-related nuclear cataract', Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, vol 48, no 3 , pp 1245 - 1252.
  • Wederell, E., Brown, H., O'Connor, M., Chamberlain, C., McAvoy, J. and De Longh, R. (2005), 'Laminin-binding integrins in rat lens morphogenesis and their regulation during fibre differentiation.', Experimental Eye Research, vol 81, no 3 , pp 326 - 329.

Conference Papers

  • O'Connor, M., Yap, D., Fee, J., Zhao, Y., McDonald, H., Zeng, T., Hirst, M., Marra, M., Aparicio, S. and Eaves, C. (2009), 'High-throughput siRNA screening of human embryonal carcinoma cells reveals novel genes required for maintenance of the stem cell state of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells', International Consortium of Stem Cell Networks Postdoctoral Symposium, Canada.
  • O'Connor, M., Wederell, E., Yap, D., Fee, F., Zhao, Y., McDonald, H., Zeng, T., Hirst, M., Marra, M., Aparicio, S. and Eaves, C. (2009), 'Concurrent bioinformatic and biological investigations of gene expression datasets reveals novel genes that maintain human pluripotent stem cells', Stem Cells and Bioinformatics, Scotland.
  • O'Connor, M., Li, M., Iosfina, I., Zhao, Y., McDonald, H., Zeng, T., Hirst, M., Marra, M. and Eaves, C. (2008), 'High resolution mRNA expression profiling of undifferentiated and early differentiating human embryonic stem cells using Illumina massively parallel sequencing', International Society for Stem Cell Research, Deerfield, Illinois, USA.
  • O'Connor, M., Iosfina, I., Kardel, M., Youssef, D., Lu, M. and Eaves, C. (2007), 'Development, validation and specificity of a quantitative colony-forming cell assay for undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells', International Society for Stem Cell Research, Deerfield, Illinois, USA.
  • O'Connor, M. and McAvoy, J. (2005), 'Reconstruction of the mammalian lens', International Society for Cellular Therapy, Vancouver, Canada.
  • O'Connor, M., Schnerch, A., Khattra, J., Asano, J., Chan, S., Thomson, J., Marra, M. and Eaves, C. (2005), 'Gene expression profiling of human embryonic stem cells', International Society for Stem Cell Research, Deerfield, Illinois, USA.
  • O'Connor, M. and McAvoy, J. (2003), 'Reconstruction of the mammalian lens', 6th International Conference on Cellular Engineering, .

Current Projects

Title: Developing new treatments for presbyopia and cataract using stem cell-derived lens cells [via UMelb]
  • Australian Research Council (ACRG)
  • University of Western Sydney
Western Researchers: Michael O'Connor
Years: 2018-07-01 - 2019-12-31
ID: P00024996

Previous Projects

Title: Defining the molecular pathways regulated by endogenous BEST1 in Best disease
  • The International Retinal Research Foundation, Inc.
Western Researchers: Michael O'Connor, Morven Cameron, John Morley and Jens Coorssen
Years: 2016-01-01 - 2018-08-01
ID: P00023002
Title: Establishment of animal product-free differentiation conditions for generating in vitro human lens epithelial cells from human pluripotent stem cells
  • The MAWA Trust
Western Researchers: Michael O'Connor
Years: 2010-09-01 - 2011-08-31
ID: P00019196
Title: Chitosan conjugation for bioadhesives and stem cell culture
  • University of Western Sydney
Western Researchers: Marion Gaborieau, Antonio Lauto and Michael O'Connor
Years: 2011-11-09 - 2012-11-08
ID: P00020495
Title: Use of human pluripotent stem cells to investigate eye diseases
  • Rebecca L Cooper Medical Research Foundation Ltd
Western Researchers: Michael O'Connor
Years: 2011-01-01 - 2011-08-19
ID: P00020307

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