Dr Kevin Achberger

Biography

Dr. Kevin Achberger is a postdoctoral fellow and group leader at the Institute of Neuroanatomy and Developmental Biology (INDB) at the Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Germany.

He graduated from the Ulm University in 2013 with a Master of Science in Molecular Medicine. In 2019, he completed his PhD in neurosciences at the University of Tübingen with his research work entitled Human retinal organoids- Exploration of a human induced pluripotent stem cell- derived in vitro model on Retinitis Pigmentosa. Since then his research projects have focused on the use of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal organoid technology as a disease model and drug screening platform.

Since 2016, he is collaborating with Jun. Prof. Peter Loskill at the Fraunhofer Institute IGB in Stuttgart, Germany, to develop a novel device to study human retina by combining the organ-on-a-chip technology with the retinal organoid model.

During his PhD thesis, Dr. Achberger has filed a patent on a hair root cell-sampling device for iPS cell generation as well a novel organ-on-a-chip type. His work on retinal organoids has been published in Cells and eLife.

Abstract

Human Retina-on-a-Chip- A novel organ-on-a-chip platform mimicking the retina complexity in vitro

Diseases affecting the retina such as age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa are the leading cause for blindness in human. Still, most of these diseases are incurable and require the development of new treatment strategies. Up to date, ophthalmologic drug development and retinal disease modelling largely relies on animal models, which often do not provide results that are translatable to human patients. Hence, the establishment of advanced human tissue-based in vitro models is of upmost importance. The discovery of self-forming retinal organoids (ROs) derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) or human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) is a promising approach to model the complex stratified retinal tissue. Yet, ROs lack vascularization and cannot recapitulate the important physiological interactions of matured photoreceptors and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The Organ-on-a-chip (OoC) technology has the potential to address those limitations by enabling a physiological interaction of tissues and cell types in a microfluidic environment. Here, we present the retina-on-a-chip (RoC), a novel microphysiological OoC- model of the human retina, providing a vasculature-like perfusion and enabling, for the first time, the recapitulation of the interaction of mature photoreceptor segments with RPE in vitro. We show that this interaction enhances the formation of outer segment-like structures and the establishment of in vivo-like physiological processes such as outer segment phagocytosis and calcium dynamics. In addition, we demonstrate the applicability of the RoC for drug testing, by reproducing the retinopathic side-effects of the anti-malaria drug chloroquine and the antibiotic gentamicin. The Retina-on-a-chip has the potential to provide a platform technology for promoting drug development, toxicity screenings and for gaining new insights into the underlying pathology of retinal diseases.   

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