Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed the first 3D research model of the human retina to study age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that causes loss of central vision. The new model is already unlocking new understanding of the disease and could speed the development of therapies – including personalized treatments.
This “retina in a dish” was developed by faculty members Ruchira Singh, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, and Danielle Benoit, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering. The model combines stem cell-derived retinal tissue and vascular networks from human patients with bioengineered synthetic materials in a 3D matrix.
This is the first human model that incorporates both areas of the human eye that are affected by AMD – and it is already helping the researchers understand how those areas impact one another and how each contributes to AMD. Singh believes this revolutionary model can also help researchers resolve the long-standing debate of what causes AMD: defects in the retina itself or other systemic issues, for example, in the blood.
But most exciting is this model’s potential to test new drugs for a disease that has no cure.