Degenerative diseases of the retina such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa are the most common causes for loss of vision . Existing in vitro or in vivo model systems for the testing of new pharmaceutical compounds as well as for mechanistic research recapitulate the structure and complexity of the human retina only to a very limited extent. New achievements in the field of stem cell biology, in particular the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), enable the generation of complex 3D tissue structures: Stem cell-based retinal organoids (RO) feature multiple layers of a variety of different cell types representing parts of the structure of retinal tissue . However, even ROs are still limited, especially with regard to the interaction of the photoreceptors with the surrounding tissue, their maturation and the vascularization.
Interaction of photoreceptors with the retinal pigment epithelium in vitro
Microphysiological in vitro models or organ-on-a-chip systems (OoC systems) represent a new technology that can revolutionize the development of pharmaceuticals. By integrating physiologically relevant human tissue into a microfluidic environment, OoCs offer many advantages, such as a tissue-like microenvironment and vascularization. The retina-on-a-chip system developed in this project (Fig. 1) integrates human iPSC-based ROs in an OoC to enable a physiological interaction between photoreceptors and the surrounding retinal pigment epithelium (Fig. 2). This interaction is crucial for the functionality of the retina, and has previously not been recapitulated in vitro. The developed retina-on-a-chip has great potential as a physiologically relevant model system for the development and testing of new pharmaceutical agents as well as for the investigation of disease mechanisms.
We would be happy to adapt the system to your requirements and carry out tests on your behalf.