Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Current treatments of glaucoma involve lowering the IOP by means of decreasing aqueous humor production or increasing non-trabecular aqueous humor outflow with the help of IOP-lowering eye drops, nanotechnology enabled glaucoma drainage implants, and trabeculectomy. However, there is currently no effective and permanent cure for this disease. In order to investigate new therapeutic strategies, three dimensional (3D) biomimetic trabecular meshwork (TM) models are in demand. Therefore, we adapted MAX8B, a peptide hydrogel system to bioengineer a 3D trabecular meshwork scaffold. We assessed mechanical and bio-instructive properties of this engineered tissue matrix by using rheological analysis, 3D cell culture and imaging techniques. The scaffold material exhibited shear-thinning ability and biocompatibility for proper hTM growth and proliferation indicating a potential utilization as an injectable implant. Additionally, by using a perfusion system, MAX8B scaffold was tested as an in vitro platform for investigating the effect of Dexamethasone (Dex) on trabecular meshwork outflow facility. The physiological response of hTM cells within the scaffold to Dex treatment clearly supported the effectiveness of this 3D model as a drug-testing platform, which can accelerate discovery of new therapeutic targets for glaucoma. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Artificial 3D-TM (3-dimentional Trabecular Meshwork) developed here with hTM (human TM) cells seeded on peptide-hydrogel scaffolds exhibits the mechanical strength and physiological properties mimicking the native TM tissue. Besides serving a novel and effective 3D-TM model, the MAX8B hydrogel could potentially function as an injectable trabecular meshwork implant.
Ingenuity Lab, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, T6G 2V4, Edmonton, AB, Canada.