Visual impairment and blindness are a great threat to the life quality of an estimated 280 million people and a great burden for healthcare all over the world. Besides many retinal diseases, macular diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the main cause of visual impairment in elderly people. Even though millions of people are affected little is known of the underlying disease mechanisms and therefore the treatment provided is not effective and no cure is in reach. To better understand retinal diseases more suitable human in vitro models are needed. The Eye-on-chip team is working towards more physiological novel human cell-based in vitro models of the human retina.
Retina-on-chip with local oxygen sensing
The outer blood-retinal barrier (oBRB) plays a crucial role in maintaining the vision in humans by supplying the neural retina with metabolites and oxygen and recycling waste products of the visual cycle. Diseases e.g. age-related macular degeneration is associated with pathophysiological changes within the oBRB. By merging organ-on-chip and human stem cell technology we developed a human in vitro model of the outer blood-retinal barrier, including a functional vascular bed derived from hiPSC endothelial cells on which hiPSC retinal pigment cells can be cultivated. The integration of advanced optical sensor technology within the device enables the monitoring of the cultivation conditions online. The outer blood-retinal barrier on-chip model is developed to enable the investigation of retinal disease mechanisms and to be used as a drug testing platform for new treatment strategies.
The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 812954.
Personal therapeutic approaches for eye conditions are increasingly being developed. However, the lack of relevant and robust models hampers the progress in understanding the disease mechanisms and designing effective treatments. In this project, we will generate induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived retinal organoids, retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and endothelial (ECs) cells to generate a 3D model combining the fundamental structures of the retina in multiplexed microfluidic organ-on-chip devices. Using patient-derived iPSCs, we expect to obtain an accurate model of various retinal diseases and assess approaches for therapeutics and prevention.
NWO-TTW, SGF, ZonMw, LSH; Health~Holland