Lazy eye, or amblyopia, affects 2% to 3% of all children and is the most common cause of vision loss during childhood, according to the CDC. In 2018 we wrote about doctors at the Jessenius Faculty of Medicine in Martin, Slovakia who reported success in treating amblyopia with virtual reality (VR) computer game software developed by Vivid Vision paired with a modified version of the Oculus Rift headset.

Last month Luminopia, a Cambridge, MA-based digital therapeutics company, announced more progress with treatments for amblyopia using VR. Following a series of clinical studies including a phase 3 pivotal trial published in Ophthalmology (the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology), the FDA recently approved the marketing of Luminopia One, a digital therapeutic for lazy eye. When a physician prescribes Luminopia One to a child 4 to 7 years old with amblyopia, the patient uses a virtual reality headset to watch therapeutically modified television shows to improve their vision.

Patients will watch the modified TV content at home for one hour per day, six days a week, for 12-week periods. Luminopia partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital and the PIcower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT to develop the technology. Patients can choose from more than 700 hours of content from partners such as Sesame Workshop, Nelvana, and Millimages. When children watch videos through a VR headset, algorithms modify the content to support weaker eye usage and train the patients’ brains to use input from both eyes.

In the published study, children in the test group who used the VR headsets with Luminopia One had significantly improved visual acuity after just 4 weeks and greater improvement on standardized vision tests than a control group of children who used the headsets alone.

Luminopia expects to launch Luminopia One in the second quarter of 2022. The company is currently working with regional and national health care payers to obtain coverage as a pharmacy benefit for children with amblyopia.