3D cell co-culture model of age-related macular degeneration

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Project Overview

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. It affects more than 17 million people in the U.S., which is more than all cancers combined. Neovascularization is the defining feature of late-stage, or ‘wet’, AMD, which represents 90% of AMD cases that lead to blindness. These abnormal vessels leak fluid or blood that damage the retina and cause acute vision loss. Unfortunately, existing treatments for wet AMD are accompanied by serious risks, and over 50% of patients still experience vision loss; the development of more effective therapies has been hampered by limited insight into the molecular mechanisms that promote angiogenesis in the retina.

The goal of this project is to design an in vitro 3D co-culture platform that mimics key components of the retinal milieu, specifically the sclera, choroid, Bruch’s membrane, and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Development of this platform will require a combination of tissue engineering and microfluidic construction techniques. Ultimately, it is hoped that this 3D system may be used to investigate causes of wet AMD and to identify novel treatments and serve as a drug testing platform.

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Team members from left to right: Joshua Bensen, Joanna Mohr, Nate Bressler, Leona Liu

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