Glaucoma is a major eye disease characterized by a progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Biomechanical forces as a result of hydrostatic pressure and strain play a role in this disease. Decreasing intraocular pressure is the only available therapy so far, but is not always effective and does not prevent blindness in many cases. There is a need for drugs that protect RGCs from dying in glaucoma; to develop these, we need valid glaucoma and drug screening models. Since in vivo models are unsuitable for screening purposes, we focus on in vitro and ex vivo models in this review. Many groups have studied pressure and strain model systems to mimic glaucoma, to investigate the molecular and cellular events leading to mechanically induced RGC death. Therefore, the focus of this review is on the different mechanical model systems used to mimic the biomechanical forces in glaucoma. Most models use either cell or tissue strain, or fluid- or gas-controlled hydrostatic pressure application and apply it to the relevant cell types such as trabecular meshwork cells, optic nerve head astrocytes, and RGCs, but also to entire eyes. New model systems are warranted to study concepts and test experimental compounds for the development of new drugs to protect vision in glaucoma patients. Impact Statement The outcome of currently developed models to investigate mechanically induced retinal ganglion cell death by applying different mechanical strains varies widely. This suggests that a robust glaucoma model has not been developed yet. However, a comprehensive overview of current developments is not available. In this review, we have therefore assessed what has been done before and summarized the available knowledge in the field, which can be used to develop improved models for glaucoma research.
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