Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

MyFUN Report Summary

Project ID: 675137
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MyFUN (Myopia: Fundamental understanding needed)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

In many countries of the world, eyes of young people grow too long, developing myopia. Currently, about a third of the world population is myopic but it is expected that half of it will be myopic by 2050. In myopia, distance vision is compromised since the image is focused in front of the retina. Even worse, high degrees of myopia carry a significant risk of blindness for people at the peak of their professional careers which imposes a severe economic burden to the society. There is urgent need to develop preventive strategies for myopia development but many details about its mechanisms are still unknown. Studies have shown that myopia development is tightly linked to tense education and studies, near work and reduced outdoor activity. While studies in animal models have taught us a lot about “the visual control of eye growth”, it remains strikingly unclear how exactly the visual experience looks like that accelerates eye growth in children and adolescents. In particular, there are no answers to questions like “If normal eye growth is so tightly controlled by visual feedback, why does myopia not limit itself?”, or “Why are the effects of new spectacle designs to inhibit myopia so small?”, or “What determines when myopia starts and can we find biological markers to predict myopia in individual cases?” The ETN “MyFUN - Myopia: fundamental understanding needed” tackles such questions, employing 14 young scientists from Spain, Poland, India, Russia, Bangladesh and Greece in laboratories in Spain, Germany, Ireland and Sweden. We expect that new preventive strategies for myopia will emerge from our studies.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Work package 1 focuses on the unknown features of the visual feedback-control loop for eye growth. ESR Dmitry Romashchenko (Stockholm) developed a new Hartmann-Shack sensor-based device to track retinal image defocus, both in the fovea and the periphery in young adults and school-aged children. ESR Andrea Carrillo Aleman (Tübingen) studied effects of accommodation errors on eye growth in the chicken model and found no correlation between the magnitude of accommodation errors and eye growth - a finding that challenges a role of accommodation in human myopia development. ESR Miguel Garcia Garcia (Zeiss Vision Lab) developed a new device to map out defocus over the visual field for various visual indoor environments, making it possible to quantify retinal defocus signals to correlate them with myopia development. ESR Geethika Muralidharan (Madrid) used a custom-built high resolution 3-D Spectral Optical Coherence Tomography and found that lens thickness declines in myopic eyes. ESR Najnin Sharmin (Dublin) studied the question of how the retina might be able to determine the sign of defocus. ESR Manto Chouliara (Murcia) has implemented a binocular dynamic aberrometer for high resolution measurements of the “lag of accommodation” during near work and reading.
Work package 2 focuses on the biological mechanisms of the visually-guided signalling cascades controlling eye growth. ESR Barbara Swiatczak (Tübingen) measured fundal reflectance in living chickens in ultraviolet (UV) and white light. Reflectance increased in UV, based on changes in thickness of the nerve fibre layer. ESR Sandra Gisbert Martinez (Tübingen) found that the ratio of mid wavelength sensitive to long wavelength sensitive cones determines the baseline eye sizes in each animal. M to L cone ratios may serve as predictor for future myopia also in humans. ESR Dibyendu Pusti (Murcia) found that peripheral refractions in mono- and dizygotic twins are inherited. ESR Alessandra Carmichael (Dublin) comparedthe directionality parameter in the Stiles-Crawford effect psychophysically in emmetropic and myopic people.
Work package 3 tackles the questions of visual performance with myopia and whether adaptation of accommodation and contrast adaptation may reduce the effects of myopic refractions. ESR Pablo Sanz Diez (Zeiss Vision Lab) showed that accommodation is affected by the level of contrast adaptation. ESR Neeraj Kumar Singh (Madrid) used the 2-channel Simultaneous Vision simulator to show the subjects preferred the center near configuration of multifocal lenses that have been shown to reduce myopia progression in children. ESR Nikolai Suchkov (Voptica, Spain) expanded the adaptive optical visual simulator to measure also highly myopic subjects. ESR Petros Papadogiannis (Stockholm) tackled a long-standing question as to why myopes are less sensitive to hyperopic than to myopic defocus.
MyFUN provides the ESRs with an extensive training programme and with the opportunity to build networks with other ESRs, PIs and experts in the field at various meetings and training activities, e.g. at the 2 project meetings where ESRs presented the results of their research projects; at 2 summer schools, 3 workshops (Media Training, Complementary Skills, Ophthalmic Imaging ), at the Young Researcher Vision Camp and at international scientific conferences. The ESRs set up a myopia blog (https://myopiainscience.wordpress.com/) and twitter account (https://twitter.com/MyFUN_Official) in order to inform the public on the latest MyFUN news and events. They also engage in public outreach activities such as open University days and teaching of schoolchildren and students.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

MyFUN will provide (1) explanations for some not yet understood observations in myopia research, (2) new strategies to slow development of myopia, (3) new technologies for measuring ocular variables related to myopia. In (1), a new factor is identified to predict the risk of myopia from M and L cone densities in the retina. The role of accommodation in myopia development is clarified and whether refractive state in the periphery is inherited. The question is answered whether the belief is correct that new glasses trigger more myopia development. It is clarified whether changes in the anterior segment of the eye compensate for or contribute to myopia. In (2), an unexpected and novel factor was identified that links myopia to reading. In human subjects, reading black text on white paper overstimulates OFF channels and thins the choroid while the reverse is true for white text on black background. Accordingly, reading white text on black should inhibit myopia which will be verified in future epidemiological studies in children. The new device to map peripheral refractive error signals will help selecting optical corrections with high potential to slow myopia progression (even though no such glasses are developed in MyFUN, existing ones can be analyzed). For (3), new innovative techniques have been developed like automated photoreceptor counting (EKUT), fundal reflectivity measurements (EKUT), device for 3D mapping of focus error signals on the retina (CZV), or a binocular adaptive optics visual stimulator for high refractive errors (VOPTICA).
Generally, new strategies to reduce the incidence and progression of myopia will have a huge socio-economic impact since myopia tends to progress into higher degrees which are associated with increased risks of MMD (“myopic macular degeneration”) already in the mid of the life span. Apart from working towards a solution of the problem of myopia, young scientists are trained at the border of medicine, biology and physics. In previous networks with training in similar areas of expertise, all ESRs rapidly found positions in private sector or academia.
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