A breakthrough eye treatment in the US, where eye drops are being used to replace reading glasses, is now being tested in New Zealand.
The FDA approved the VuityTM eye drops in late 2021 for prescription-only use for presbyopia, which is age-related decline in near vision.
“The Vuity drops work by constricting the pupil so that you get increased depth of focus and should theoretically be able to read up close without needing your reading glasses,” says Dr Alyssa Lie, a New Zealand trained optometrist and research fellow in physiology at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.
Dr Lie (pictured) is primarily researching whether the eye drops are as effective as claimed, as the US research was conducted by the manufacturer.
If her study confirms the efficacy of Vuity, it could expedite approval for the eye drops being approved for use in New Zealand.
However, as a physiology researcher, Dr Lie is also interested in seeing how the agent in Vuity drops, pilocarpine, affects the eye at a molecular level.
She is recruiting people aged between 40 and 55 years old, which is the age-range approved to use the drug in the US, to participate in the study.
Dr Lie needs to find more male participants, who will receive a $50 petrol voucher, in addition to the results of their eye check and copies of the two brain scans.
The project is not receiving any funding from AbbVie Ltd, the manufacturer of Vuity.
Participants start with a clinical eye exam to assess their natural state, which is then repeated after the drops have been inserted. Two further sessions involve MRI scans with and without the drops, which is how Dr Lie hopes to identify molecular changes.
“Our laboratory here previously looked at the effect of pilocarpine on the lenses of mice and rats, showing it changes the physiology of the lens and therefore has the potential to also enhance its optical properties.”
“So, I thought I’d look into whether this was also the case for the human lens using MRI scans.
“This could offer a biomarker for developing other drugs that are not so reliant on shrinking the pupils down. There are downsides to that, such as cautions on night driving,” she said.
Pilocarpine is already used to treat glaucoma and is Medsafe approved.
Dr Lie expects to have findings by the end of 2023.
Find out more about animal-based research at the University of Auckland.