The mission of the hDMT Eye-on-Chip theme group is to promote interdisciplinary development of organ-on-chip models of tissues in the eye that allow us to understand how various tissues and risk factors interact to cause vision loss and blindness and to apply these Organ-on-Chip models in identifying strategies and therapeutic compounds for the treatment and prevention of eye disease for specific patient (sub)groups or even individual patients.

Program coordinators

Chair
Dr. Andries van der Meer
University Twente

Vice-chair
Alex Garanto
Radboud UMC

Upcoming meeting

  • 11 May 2022
  • 16 November 2022

Previous meetings

  • 17 May 2021, online (13-16h)
  • 17 November 2020, online
  • 11 November 2019, Nijmegen (host Radboudumc)
  • 11 June 2019, Enschede (host UTwente)

News

Visual impairment or blindness

Loss of vision has a profound impact on quality of life, and is associated with substantial direct costs for medical treatment, assistive devices and informal care, as well as indirect costs related to productivity loss, change in employment and loss of income. Importantly, the disability is associated with emotional distress and risk of depression due to its profound impact on daily life, with loss of independency and an increased risk of hazards like falling and injury. Vision loss and blindness affect over 3% of the population in Europe and this number is increasing due to an aging population and the rise in diabetes.

Major causes of visual impairment or blindness in Europe are age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Multiple parts and tissues of the eye, including the lens, the cornea, the optic nerve, the outer retina and the inner retina, as well as various risk factors, such as genetics, environmental factors, nutritional, metabolic and immunological factors, are involved in the various disease mechanisms. Given this multifactorial nature of eye disease, there is a strong need for experimental models to understand the mechanism of disease, as well as for drug discovery and development.

Research theme challenges

Development of experimental models of the eye and the associated diseases is a major challenge, because the anatomy of the eye and its tissues, including its vasculature, is intricate and highly structured.

For an experimental model to capture functional aspects of eye disease, it will be necessary to at least capture some of the heterogeneity and tissue complexity of the eye, as well as to allow the controlled integration of specific risk factors and mechanistic factors.

Promising studies have shown that Organ-on-Chip technology can be applied to engineer models with sufficient complexity for specific pathophysiological processes like choroid neovascularization and photoreceptor outer segment phagocytosis to be captured. Such studies center mostly on addressing the engineering challenges, and therefore highlight the need for multidisciplinary development by building project groups with sufficient biomedical, (stem) cell biological and technical expertise and to include direct connections between stakeholders from academia, pharmaceutical industry, hi-tech industry.