News – Award-winning spectacle lens tackles myopia

Australian researchers have been lauded for an innovative new spectacle lens that may help address the explosion in myopia numbers worldwide. Developed by the Vision Cooperative Research Centre(Vision CRC) based in Sydney, the spectacles are the first to demonstrate an ability to slow the progression of myopia in children. The spectacle design, released in 2010 as the MyovisionTM lens by industry leader Carl Zeiss Vision, won the 2011 Excellence in Innovation Award announced last night at the Cooperative Research Centres Association Annual Conference in Brisbane.

There are an estimated 1.45 billion myopes worldwide (3.5 million Australians) and research indicates that the prevalence is growing rapidly. Myopia causes difficulty in seeing distant objects clearly and is commonly first detected amongst school children aged six to seven. If undetected and uncorrected, myopia can severely impact a child’s education and social development. High myopia (over -6.0D) significantly increases the risk of cataract, glaucoma, and retinal detachment, all potentially blinding conditions.

Professor Brien Holden, CEO of Vision CRC, said it was a great honour to receive the award from the CRC association and paid tribute to the Myopia Program team which included partners from around the world. “The Vision CRC is greatly honoured to receive this type of recognition from the CRC Association. The association does a fantastic job in supporting the CRC organisations in their efforts to focus on delivering innovations,” he said.

“The commercial release of the MyovisionTM lenses, offering treatment to myopic children, is, I believe, a vindication of the importance of the CRC Program to promoting Australian innovations. Without the program it is unlikely that this technology would have been developed.”

Professor Holden said that a discovery about the causes of the growth of myopia was critical to the development of the novel lens technology. “For hundreds of years focusing defects of the eye have been corrected by simply moving the visual image backwards and forwards with spectacle lenses,” he said.

“Professor Earl Smith from the University of Houston College of Optometry, a participant in the Myopia Program, has demonstrated that if we move the central image onto the retina but leave the peripheral image behind the retina, the peripheral image can drive the eye to elongate, causing myopia to increase.”

“The beauty of this new technology is that it addresses this problem by bringing the peripheral image forward, onto or even in front of the retina, and at the same time independently positioning the central image on the retina giving clear vision.

The most widely used method for correcting myopia is traditional spectacle lenses. Traditional minus lenses correct a child's vision by placing the image on the retina, allowing the child to see clearly, but do not control or slow the progression of a child's myopia. The spectacle demonstrated an ability to slow the rate of progression of myopia by 30% in children (aged 6 to 12) who had a history of parental myopia. The delay of myopia progression, if sustained over a number of years, means that a child who would normally have a prescription of -6.00D by the time he or she reached the age of 18, would now only have a prescription of -4.00D.

Feasibility trials in the Vision CRC Myopia Program have also demonstrated that contact lenses are also effective in slowing the progress of myopia and that children as young as eight years can successfully wear and manage contact lenses. The Myopia Program aims to develop a new generation of optical products that control or arrest the progression of myopia in children and will also serve to consolidate Australia’s position as a global research and development centre for understanding and providing products for the control of myopia.

Vision CRC is comprised of Australian and international researchers engaged in cutting edge projects, working with a range of leading industry organisations. The organisation was born from the Australian Government’s CRC program, which was established to advance Australia’s capacity for innovation.