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Artificial cornea grown on chip

Scientists have created a cornea-on-a-chip that helps determine how much medication is reaching the eye.

Currently, the most common way to test this is to use rabbit eyes. However, the Texas Tech researchers hope their new chip will reduce the use of animal testing for eye medication.

“Nobody knows how much eye medicine is really released into the eye because of certain barriers – the cornea itself is made up of five layers of cells,” Associate Professor Jungkyu Kim said.

“Companies usually use rabbit eyes because of structural similarity with slow blinking speed. However, the outcome of a drug test won’t be the same with that of human cornea. To estimate pharmacokinetics of ocular drugs precisely, we try to replicate the human cornea structures instead of extracting eyes from animals.”


Kim’s cornea-on-a-chip is unique, insofar as it provides the required tear flow associated with blinking patterns of an eye, a vital component missing from previous chips.

“There are some previously developed tools, but their problem is they just use a static well. What people who test these medications do is dissect the cornea, put it on a slide, drop the drug on top and let it sit for a while to see how much medication was released through the layers,” Kim explained.

“The problem is, when you drop medicine in your eyes, tears form. If tears get in, a drug will dilute at certain levels. Tears get in because a facial muscle is pressurised on the lacrimal gland which causes us to blink. So, we incorporated the blinking speed to see how much drug is diluted and how much drug is really available on the top and bottom layers of the cornea.”

Aside from reducing the use of animal testing for eye medication, eliminating a step in the development of a drug could also mean major cost savings.


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