An Integrated Microfluidic Model of Subretinal Tissue to Study Age-related Macular Degeneration
My research team and I are building a better model of the back of the eye so we can work towards figuring out why new blood vessels invade the retina and cause blindness during age-related macular degeneration. We will replicate three layers of the outer retina: retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, Bruch’s membrane, and the choroid. The RPEs support the photoreceptors and regulate many normal retinal functions, the choroid is the vascular layer of the eye, and Bruch’s membrane is the thin layer without cells between the RPE and choroid. As a bioengineering lab, our expertise lies in developing materials and methods to replicate these layers. We will investigate new materials to mimic the thinness and biocompatibility of Bruch’s membrane in vivo. We will also develop a microfluidic device that supports choroidal blood vessel growth. By putting these layers together, we expect to have a functioning model of the outer retina that can be manipulated to also mimic changes that contribute to age-related macular degeneration. We will use our results to better understand how choroidal blood vessels form during age-related macular degeneration. Eventually, this model will be a platform for studying others complications leading to age-related macular degeneration and discovering more effective therapies for combating new blood vessel invasion into the retina.