Investigating Optic Nerve Head Remodeling in Glaucoma
MentorChristopher Ross Ethier, PhD
We aim to evaluate the optic nerve head (ONH) biomechanics and develop a hydrogel construct for studying ONH mechanobiological remodeling due to mechanical loading in glaucomatous optic neuropathy. In specific aim 1, we will evaluate the viscoelastic properties of the ONH using mechanical testing, modeling, and structural imaging. In specific aim 2, to study ONH mechanobiology, we will create a three-dimensional (3D) hydrogel system with tunable mechanical properties based on a combination of collagen and hyaluronic acid (HA) that matches the dynamic mechanical properties of the ONH. We will test cell-seeded Collagen/HA hydrogels using different constituent concentrations to identify a gel composition with mechanical properties matching the ONH.
This project will be the first to characterize the dynamic biomechanical behavior of the ONH, critical to understanding the response of the ONH to the dynamic IOP changes at different timescales. Further, the in vitro system to be developed in this project has the potential to become a novel high-throughput drug discovery platform for screening new glaucoma treatment options. This project will provide an improved understanding of ONH biomechanics. It will lay the groundwork for studies of lamina cribrosa (LC) cell mechanobiology and its role in glaucoma, and for ex vivo studies of candidate drugs for modulating LC cell phenotype in glaucomatous optic neuropathy.