Dry eye: the New Zealand impact

 

It’s been full steam ahead for the Ocular Surface Laboratory (OSL) this year in the wake of TFOS DEWS II, ably assisted by Dr Alex Muntz, who joined the team in 2018. Research in the lab has continued to flourish and the OSL has had another productive year, collaborating with researchers around the world and publishing around 20 papers in some of the highest ranked journals in the field.

I am particularly proud of the OSL team’s work exploring the susceptibility of the Asian eye to DED, which, in a systematic review published in Ocular Surface by PhD student Dr Michael Wang, has led to interesting hypotheses regarding the pathophysiological processes that might be involved in the development of the disease globally.

International collaborations

Personally, the opportunity to undertake research and study leave kept me busy over the last 12 months, consolidating collaborations with a number of world-renowned experts in the dry eye field. Beginning my sabbatical with a bang, Professor James Wolffsohn from Aston University in the UK and I discussed dry eye at Royal Society’s Summer Science Symposium during a July heatwave in London. Leaping at the chance to be part of a ‘real live science experiment’ around 1500 visitors opted to receive an abbreviated dry eye workup, providing us with a valuable contemporary snapshot of dry eye prevalence and key risk factors. This data is currently being analysed and prepared for publication.

Other opportunities arising during my research and study leave included visits to Aston University, Schepen’s Eye Research Institute at Harvard University in Boston, the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales. At each of these sites, research links were further developed and projects were proposed, continued or set up.

At the Universities of Waterloo and Montreal in Canada, a two-site study investigating the tolerability of lid hygiene products for the management of Demodex blepharitis was completed. Negotiating industry funding, we have also initiated an investigator-led international multicentre randomised clinical trial with Auckland as the primary site. As principal investigator, I am now, with the OSL, working closely with Professors Lyndon Jones, James Wolffsohn, and Mark Willcox and their teams in Canada, the UK and Australia, respectively. The Auckland arm of this study is being managed by post-doctoral researcher Dr Ally Xue.

In the meantime, the team at the OSL continues to push back the frontiers across a range of areas, spanning epidemiology, diagnostics and management of dry eye, much of which is detailed in the following pages of this special feature. As with all good research, we continue to move forward, often raising as many questions as we answer, but considering ourselves fortunate to have an inquisitive team with a desire to seek the answers.

Associate Professor Jennifer Craig heads the OSL in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and was vice-chair of TFOS DEWS II.

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