The Human Myopia Research Laboratory

With prediction of the half the global population becoming myopic (short-sighted) by 2050, myopia presents a significant public health concern. Although myopia poses a lifestyle and economic burden since corrective eyewear is needed to see clearly, it also puts the eye at a significant risk for developing serious sight-threatening conditions.

Our understanding of the mechanism by which myopia develops has historically been grounded in animal models of myopia. In the last decade strategies for controlling myopia have been advocated with promising results, although we are still unable to stop or reverse myopia once it has developed.

Researchers in the Human Myopia lab at Plymouth University are interested in furthering our understanding of the mechanism by which human myopia develops. Through the synergistic use of modern imaging methods such as optical coherent tomography and MRI scanning and coupling this with our understanding of the optics of the eye, we are interested in examining how ocular biomechanics and shape dictate ocular growth. The aim of our work is to develop improved methods of screening individuals at risk of myopia and improving the strategies for controlling it.

Figure 1: 

Normal spectacles and contact lenses provide clear vision by focusing light on the fovea (part of the retina where we see the best). This results in clear central vision but the images in the periphery are focused behind the retina. We now know that these peripheral images behind the retina simulate the eye to grow longer in an attempt to reduce the focusing error. But instead of achieving improved focus the eye inevitably becomes longer and the myopia progresses.

Figure 2: 

To slow down the myopia specialist contact lenses have been developed to bring the peripheral images in front of the retina thus removing the stimulus for excessive eye growth. 

Figure 3 (both images): 

The biomechanical properties of the various layers of the eye are known to be important in the development of myopia. Using optical coherent tomography we have assessed the profile of the human sclera.

Figure 4: 

Measuring the biomechanical strength of the living eye is challenging and our work aims to explored novel ways of assessing this.

Key publications:

Wolffsohn JS, Kollbaum PS, Berntsen DA, Atchison DA, Benavente A, Bradley A, Buckhurst H, Collins M, Fujikado T, Hiraoka T, Hirota M. IMI–Clinical myopia control trials and instrumentation report. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science. 2019 Feb 28;60(3):M132-60.