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Biotechnology and health

A fake eye that sheds fake tears could replace animal testing

Jeongyun Seo and Dongeun Huh at the University of Pennsylvania | YouTubeJeongyun Seo and Dongeun Huh at the University of Pennsylvania | YouTube

Is that supposed to be an eye? Yes, and the researchers who made this biomechanical version (which contains human cells) say it might eventually replace animals for testing.

Engineering feat: Creating an artificial eye isn’t easy; it turns out to be a pretty complex organ. This one has a sheet of real human corneal cells as well as a clear membrane called the conjunctiva.

It blinks? It does. The researchers created an ersatz eyelid that opens and closes, to mimic wear and tear. The eyelid is made of soft hydrogels and is controlled by a tiny electromechanical motor.

Not to worry, though—the gadget can’t see or perceive anything. It merely mimics the surface of the eye, say the bioengineers at the University of Pennsylvania who made it.

Fake tears: The researchers prefer to call them “contrived tears.” Whatever the name, they needed to add lubrication to make their version true to life. They say they used their gadget to test dry-eye drugs. 

You can read more in the report about the device by Dongeun Huh and colleagues in Nature Medicine.

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