6/19/2014 1:47:56 PM
SUNYRFNews: Fake Eyes - Living Filter Offers Better Way to Test New Glaucoma Drugs
When the next generation of glaucoma
medications reaches the market, part of the credit might go to the SUNY
College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in Albany.
with an ophthalmologist at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, three
nanobioscientists at CNSE are creating a model to replicate the workings
of a filter in the eye, called the trabecular meshwork. Researchers may
use this model to test new treatments for glaucoma.
the project—called Fake Eyes for Glaucoma Screening—received a $50,000
Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF) investment from the Research
Foundation. The money will help the research team develop a
commercially-viable prototype of their model.
The idea for the
project grew from some conversations between the CNSE team and John
Danias, professor of ophthalmology and cell biology at Downstate
Medical. Danias asked if his CNSE colleagues could help remove a
roadblock in the quest for more effective glaucoma medications.
to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause
of blindness. People develop this condition when excessive pressure in
the eye damages the optic nerve. The pressure builds when a fluid called
the aqueous humor fails to drain correctly through the trabecular
meshwork and out of the eye.
“For reasons that are not well
understood, the filter gets clogged,” says Susan Sharfstein, associate
professor of nanobiosciences at CNSE and principal investigator on the
Glaucoma drugs on the market today focus on the aqueous
humor itself or on getting that fluid to drain through alternative
pathways. None of them addresses the trabecular meshwork; scientists
lack a practical way to experiment with drugs that might affect that
“There is no good animal model, because the eyes are very
different from species to species,” Sharfstein says. Standard cell
culture models don’t meet the need, since the cells grow on nonporous
surfaces, which cannot be used to measure flow. Eyes from cadavers
might work, but they are hard to obtain. Also, extracting the correct
part of the eye and using it in a system with pressurized liquid demands
an extremely high level of expertise, she says.
To fill the
need, Sharfstein and her colleagues at CNSE—Drs. Yubing Xie and Magnus
Bergkvist—borrowed lithographic techniques from the semiconductor
industry to build a scaffold with pores like those in the eye, about 10
nanometers in size. When they culture cells on top of this base, the
result is a living filter, about a centimeter in diameter. “We have been
able to demonstrate reasonably effectively that this models the
situation that happens in eyes,” Sharfstein says.