Retina in a dish: Cell cultures, retinal explants and animal models for common diseases of the retina


For many retinal diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy (DR), the exact pathogenesis is still unclear. Moreover, the currently available therapeutic options are often unsatisfactory. Research designed to remedy this situation heavily relies on experimental animals. However, animal models often do not faithfully reproduce human disease and, currently, there is strong pressure from society to reduce animal research. Overall, this creates a need for improved disease models to understand pathologies and develop treatment options that, at the same time, require fewer or no experimental animals. Here, we review recent advances in the field of in vitro and ex vivo models for AMD, glaucoma, and DR. We highlight the difficulties associated with studies on complex diseases, in which both the initial trigger and the ensuing pathomechanisms are unclear, and then delineate which model systems are optimal for disease modelling. To this end, we present a variety of model systems, ranging from primary cell cultures, over organotypic cultures and whole eye cultures, to animal models. Specific advantages and disadvantages of such models are discussed, with a special focus on their relevance to putative in vivo disease mechanisms. In many cases, a replacement of in vivo research will mean that several different in vitro models are used in conjunction, for instance to analyze and validate causative molecular pathways. Finally, we argue that the analytical decomposition into appropriate cell and tissue model systems will allow making significant progress in our understanding of complex retinal diseases and may furthermore advance the treatment testing. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Authors Schnichels S, Paquet-Durand F, Löscher M, Tsai T, Hurst J, Joachim SC, Klettner A
Journal Progress in retinal and eye research
Publication Date 2021 Mar;81:100880
PubMed 32721458
DOI 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2020.100880

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