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Fight for Sight funds development of ‘organ on a chip’

A device the size of a matchbox is being developed to investigate eye pressure

Hand holding matchstick
Fight for Sight is funding the development of a new device that mimics the flow of fluid as it drains from the eye, which will be used to investigate glaucoma.

The eye research charity explained that the device is a matchbox-sized ‘organ on a chip’ made from a gel that contains channels the width of a match, which are surrounded by human eye cells.

It is being developed by Dr Darryl Overby and Dr Sam Au from Imperial College London in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Duke University in North Carolina.

Director of research, policy and innovation at Fight for Sight, Dr Neil Ebenezer, said: “We’re excited to fund the development of a bioengineered ‘organ on a chip,’ which can recreate a whole lab on a device the size of a matchbox.”

“This opens the door to testing aspects of glaucoma and other eye diseases that have previously been difficult to investigate and could offer solutions for this leading cause of sight loss,” he added.
Researchers will use the device to better understand how eye pressure is controlled and will design drugs to target the pressure-controlling mechanisms in the eye.

They will also be able to manipulate specific cells and examine the effects on the flow of aqueous humour from the eye in order to understand how it can lower the increased eye pressure that patients living with glaucoma experience.

Lead researcher, Dr Overby, said: “Organ on chip technologies provide the unique opportunity to probe organ and tissue level functions without using animal models. By applying organ on chip approaches to the trabecular meshwork, which is the primary drainage route from the eye, we can investigate directly how this tissue regulates eye pressure. This will ultimately allow us to develop better drugs that more effectively lower eye pressure and prevent blindness in glaucoma.”

Fight for Sight explained that the technology has the potential to be applied to other eye conditions such as retinal degeneration, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Image credit: Olichel Adamovich from Pixabay