Research finds new gene for Myopia, Long-Sightedness and eye disease

AUSTRALIAN scientists have identified several new genes that cause eye disease, in further steps towards a test that could determine a person’s lifetime “risk of blindness”.
Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) assessed data from more than a thousand sets of twins, looking for genes that drive a range of vision-related problems from mild to severe.

an eye for eye desease gene“Our research is the first to identify a gene that influences cornea thickness,” said QIMR’s Dr Stuart MacGregor.

“We discovered a new gene for myopia — long or short-sightedness — new genes affecting glaucoma risk, and a gene that causes optic nerve hypoplasia — one of the leading causes of blindness in children.”

Dr MacGregor said decreased cornea thickness was a major contributor to glaucoma as was “intraocular pressure”, or the amount of pressure inside the eyeball.

“We identified genes that influence the pressure inside the eye,” he said.

“This type of work can lead to genetic tests that can analyse the risk of blindness, and help doctors to monitor people who may have a higher risk of conditions such as glaucoma.”

Such a test could be used to identify those young people who would go on to suffer vision problems later in life, leading to closer monitoring and an opportunity for preventive measures.

Dr MacGregor said the research was undertaken in “nature’s clones” — identical twins — because they provided a way to see how environment can prompt changes in people who share exactly the same genes.

Studies in non-identical twins also show how very slight changes in genes can lead to major differences.

“Comparing identical and non-identical twins, we can determine how much of who we are is determined by our genes and how much is influenced by environment,” Dr MacGregor said.

“We are helping to understand how small changes in genes can have large impacts on our health.

“Large-scale genetic tests like these can increase our understanding of a range of diseases, and we need lots of twins to participate in these studies.”

The Queensland Twin Registry, known as QTwin, recruits identical and non-identical twins for studies to determine disease risk and many other factors.

Article Source: News.com.au

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