At this year’s analytica trade fair in Munich, three Fraunhofer Institutes will be presenting a project from pre-competitive research. Biologists, computer scientists and laser experts have developed a process to analyze and select cells and then examine their protein production. In pharmac ... more
Retina-on-a-chip provides powerful tool for studying eye disease
Impact statement: New technology that recreates some of the complexity of the human retina may help scientists study eye disease and screen for drug side effects that harm the eye.
The development of a retina-on-a-chip, which combines living human cells with an artificial tissue-like system, has been described in the open-access journal eLife.
This cutting-edge tool may provide a useful alternative to existing models for studying eye disease and allow scientists to test the effects of drugs on the retina more efficiently.
Many diseases that cause blindness harm the retina, a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that helps collect light and relay visual information to the brain. The retina is also vulnerable to harmful side effects of drugs used to treat other diseases such as cancer. Currently, scientists often rely on animals or retina organoids, tiny retina-like structures grown from human stem cells, to study eye diseases and drug side effects. But results from studies in both models often fail to describe disease and drug effects in people accurately. As a result, a team of scientists have tried to recreate a retina for testing purposes using engineering techniques.
“It is extremely challenging, if not almost impossible, to recapitulate the complex tissue architecture of the human retina solely using engineering approaches,” explains Christopher Probst, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology in Stuttgart, Germany, and co-lead author of the current study.
To overcome these challenges, the scientists coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to develop into several different types of retina cells on artificial tissue. This tissue recreates the environment that cells would experience in the body and delivers nutrients and drugs to the cells through a system that mimics human blood vessels.
“This combination of approaches enabled us to successfully create a complex multi-layer structure that includes all cell types and layers present in retinal organoids, connected to a retinal pigment epithelium layer,” says co-lead author Kevin Achberger, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Neuroanatomy & Developmental Biology at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany. “It is the first demonstration of a 3D retinal model that recreates many of the structural characteristics of the human retina and behaves in a similar way.”
The team treated their retina-on-the-chip with the anti-malaria drug chloroquine and the antibiotic gentamicin, which are toxic to the retina. They found that the drugs had a toxic effect on the retinal cells in the model, suggesting that it could be a useful tool for testing for harmful drug effects.
“One advantage of this tiny model is that it could be used as part of an automated system to test hundreds of drugs for harmful effects on the retina very quickly,” Achberger says. “Also, it may enable scientists to take stem cells from a specific patient and study both the disease and potential treatments in that individual’s own cells.”
“This new approach combines two promising technologies – organoids and organ-on-a-chip – and has the potential to revolutionise drug development and usher in a new era of personalised medicine,” concludes senior author Peter Loskill, Assistant Professor for Experimental Regenerative Medicine at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, and head of the Fraunhofer Attract group Organ-on-a-Chip at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology. His laboratory, which spans the two institutes, is already developing similar organ-on-a-chip technology for the heart, fat, pancreas and more.
- eye disease
Sun rays damage unprotected skin. Substances in medications or lotions applied to the skin can be chemically modified by sun rays to have a toxic effect on the body. An accredited in-vitro test method at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart measures the phototoxic potential of substances or cosmetic ... more
At present, bacteria, fungi or viruses can generally only be detected with certainty by way of elaborate laboratory tests or animal experiments. The food and pharmaceutical industries would like to have faster tests to check their products. Fraunhofer researchers are therefore developing a ... more
Entangled photons can be used to improve imaging and measurement techniques. A team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena has developed a quantum imaging solution that can facilitate highly detailed insights into tissue samples ... more
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been utilizing electron-beam technology for decades in the development of cleaning, sterilization, and surface-modification processes and systems. Fraunhofer researchers from the Medical and Biotec ... more
Proving criminal machinations can be difficult – for instance when those involved covertly discharge hazardous wastewater into sewers. A new sensor system developed by Fraunhofer researchers and their partners could soon help safety agencies establish wrongdoing: placed in a sewage canal, i ... more
Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Tübingen have taken a high-resolution look at the structure and function of cell-to-cell connections in filamentous, multicellular cyanobacteria. This enables them to explain how these microorganisms regulate the transport of various substan ... more
Scientists at the University of Tübingen head a new international project to develop an electrochemical sensor to detect and analyze nanoparticles in commercial products. They are found in cosmetics and paints, and even help keep fruit fresh – nanoparticles, with their antimicrobial qualiti ... more
- 1A new, highly sensitive chemical sensor uses protein nanowires
- 2New COVID-19 test quickly and accurately detects viral RNA
- 3Researcher Develops One Minute Coronavirus Test
- 4Diagnostic biosensor quickly detects SARS-CoV-2 from nasopharyngeal swabs
- 5The Higgs boson and superconductivity
- 6A new biosensor for the COVID-19 virus
- 7A Glimpse into Real-Time Methanol Synthesis
- 8Single-cell RNA seq method developed to accurately quantify cell-specific drug effects in pancreatic islets
- 9How cells recognize uninvited guests
- 10Real-time observation of enzymatic processes on DNA
- Microbes on microscope eyepieces: could mean one in the eye for users!
- Gene editing: Taming CRISPR’s collateral damage
- Start-up Raises 16.3 million Euros to Prepare Market Launch of its SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Testing System
- Alexandra Knauer awarded as a female entrepreneur role model
- The Higgs boson and superconductivity