‘Establishing a two- and three-dimensional model of inflammatory dry eye disease to test novel therapeutics using primary human conjunctival epithelial cells and limbal stem cells.’ Dr. Emily Grennan

Annual Grant Scheme 2020

Dry eye disease (DED) is an extremely common condition, affecting 5-50% of the worldwide population. For those affected, symptoms can be chronic and progressive ranging from mild irritation, grittiness and stinging to debilitating painful and potentially sight threatening. Furthermore, currently available medications used to treat DED fall short of providing a cure or any long-term relief and are often accompanied with a myriad of side effects. Thus, our research focus has been the identification of the molecular pathways driving the pathogenesis of DED, and subsequently, the provision of targeted treatment strategies to restore homeostasis to the ocular surface.

However, developing safe, effective and patient-acceptable drug products is an expensive and lengthy process with high risk of failure at different stages along the development lifecycle. As such, the creation of robust biopharmaceutical tools replicating disease states to test potential therapeutics is crucial to prevent a stagnation of innovation along the drug development pipeline.

Herein, we propose through collaboration with the Tissue Engineering Research Group in RCSI, to adapt a hyperosmolar model using primary conjunctival epithelial cells, creating a 3-dimensional disease model of DED. In this we hope to better recapitulate an in vivo response to optimise our novel, targeted therapeutic aimed at re-establishing ocular surface homeostasis. Furthermore, the creation of such a facility will enable other researchers to reliably test drug efficacy, model therapeutic mechanisms of action, study off-target activity and resistance and thus improve in vitro-in vivo correlations of drug response, bridging the gap between pre-clinical DED therapeutics and patients care.

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