Samuel Herberg, PhD
ECM hydrogels for outflow tissue modeling
The research in Dr. Herberg’s laboratory is centered around developing advanced bioengineered models of key tissues involved in outflow homeostasis, namely the trabecular meshwork and its interface with the Schlemm’s canal. We specifically focus on recapitulating the cellular, molecular, and biomechanical properties of the native tissues to investigate the involvement of mechanoregulatory pathways in progressive glaucomatous tissue dysfunction.
We use 3-dimensional bioengineered polymer hydrogels made from extracellular matrix proteins found in the native tissue, and primary human trabecular meshwork and Schlemm’s canal cells. These “tissue-mimetic” hydrogels offer two key advantages compared to most other current in vitro model systems: 1) they better replicate the dynamic nature of the native outflow tissue microenvironment governed by complex cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions, and 2) their composition and mechanical properties can be dynamically tuned to facilitate accurate modeling of cellular and biomechanical behaviors under controlled conditions.
The bioengineered hydrogels developed in our laboratory provide a major advancement in ocular disease modeling. Our research has the potential to fill critical gaps and potentially transform our understanding of trabecular meshwork and Schlemm’s canal cell pathobiology in glaucoma, and will have significant implications for vision health by informing the search for novel therapeutic approaches with focus on biomechanics to permanently restore outflow function.