A microfluidic model of the human corneal epithelium for estimating drug permeation
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Current corneal drug testing methods are limited based on reliability, ethicality, and applicability due to reliance on traditional culture and animal models. To mitigate these concerns, new biomimetic models need to be created that incorporate the physiology and microenvironment of the in-vivo human eye. Recent advances in microfluidic technologies has enabled the development of such devices, often called an “eye-on-a-chip” or simply “eye chip”. These models enable greater understanding of the in-vivo drug transport mechanisms through ease of use and accurate recapitulation. This work presents a novel eye chip device that focus on recapitulating the corneal epithelium, especially the flow conditions therein. A literature review of past and modern anterior eye models is presented before an in depth look at the cornea chip device is given. The chip utilizes polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microchannels bonded to a polycarbonate (PC) membrane to form the support structure of the organ chip device. The membrane was treated with fibronectin and seeded with 1,3, or 5 layers of immortalized human corneal epithelial cells to investigate the cell layer dependence of the cornea. After allowing the cells to grow to confluence they were exposed to two separate drugs under static, continuous, or simulated blinking flow conditions and the permeation through the cell layers of the drugs was measured. This model shows promise as method for testing eye drops as well as expansion to incorporate more of the corneal structure.