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Engineers create blinking digital eye to aid dry eye disease treatment

Engineers create blinking digital eye to aid dry eye disease treatment

Friday 09 August 2019

A blinking “eye on a chip” has been created by a team at Pennsylvania State University to fill a void in the medical industry that lacks treatments for dry eye disease.

People who spend eight or more hours a day looking at a digital screen might begin to notice their eyes becoming dry or tired. If the severity of the symptoms increase they could develop dry eye disease. There are currently very few options for treating the disease, mainly due to the difficulties involved in replicating the complexity of the human eye in model form.

The eye on a chip has been designed to help scientists and drug developers increase their understanding of the disease. The device features a blinking eyelid and a 3D printed porous scaffold which is used to grow human eye cells.

Artificial tears are secreted by the mechanical tear duct and spread across the cells by a motor controlled gelatinous artificial eyelid. The “eyelid” moves by default at the same speed as an average human blink and creates a “tear film” that hydrates.

Dry eye disease occurs when the natural version of the film evaporates, caused by blinking less, which usually happens when performing an activity such as using the computer.

During lab tests, when dry eye disease was induced by reducing the rate of blinking, the eye cells reacted negatively in a similar way to the human eye. A new lubricating drug was tested on the device which successfully reduced the symptoms – showing that this device could be useful in testing new dry eye treatments.

Graduate student Jeongyun Seo said, “Although we have just demonstrated proof-of-concept, I hope our eye-on-a-chip platform is further advanced and used for a variety of applications besides drug screening, such as testing of contact lenses and eye surgeries in the future.”


  1. Blinking eye-on-a-chip used for disease modeling and drug testing.

  2. Eye-on-a-chip drug-testing device blinks like the real thing.


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