A versatile organ-on-a-chip approach for in vitro drug testing
Human organs, such as the eye, perform diverse and critical functions governing our health thanks to the assembly of multiple cell types into various tissues. However, this complex anatomy also poses significant challenges to understanding disease mechanisms and evaluating drug pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodynamics (PD). In vitro microfluidic cellular cultures, i.e., organs-on-chips, show great promise to synthesize minimal tissue units and recapitulate organ pathophysiology in a cost-effective and reliable manner compared to animal testing. We propose a versatile approach to develop in vitro models for various parts of the eye, suitable for drug PK and PD testing in a variety of ocular drug delivery routes. Our group is uniquely positioned to develop such technologies: by leveraging our expertise in transport phenomena and microhydrodynamics, we can adapt bulk tissue culturing methods to a microfluidic setting and precisely control the spatiotemporal profile of cell growth and phenotypes; by combining in vitro measurements and quantitative analysis, we can gain detailed knowledge about drug transport across multiple biological barriers compared to existing in vivo and ex vivo methods offering limited outputs. We are currently working with researchers at Mass Eye and Ear to develop this technology, which will fulfill the unmet need for standardized drug testing assays in the fast-growing ocular drug market.