Gene Linked to Nearsightedness: most common eye disorder

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Scientists have discovered a gene associated with nearsightedness, or myopia, the most common eye disorder in the world. This discovery, made by scientists at Duke University Medical Center in collaboration with other groups, could lead the way to a new treatment for nearsightedness.

Nearsightedness is a vision condition in which individuals can see close objects clearly, but ones that are farther away appear blurred. The American Optometric Association reports that about 30 percent of the US population is nearsighted. The condition generally first occurs in school-age children and progresses until about age 20. It can also develop in adults due to health conditions (e.g., diabetes) or visual stress.

In people who are nearsighted, the eyeball may be too long or the cornea may have too much curvature. The result is that when light enters the eye, it is not focused correctly and objects that are far away look blurred. Although the exact cause is not known, experts generally believe that genetics and visual stress play a role in nearsightedness.

Genes, linked to nearsightedness, is crucial and found in patients from several backgrounds.

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The scientists found the gene associated with myopia in Caucasian people from several different backgrounds, including British, Australian, and Dutch. Several distinct spellings of DNA code were observed near the RASGRF1 gene that were significantly associated with focusing problems. This gene is “crucial to retinal function and visual memory consolidation,” according to lead author Terri Young, MD, professor of ophthalmology, pediatrics, and medicine, and a researcher in the Center for Human Genetics at Duke.

The scientists then created mice that did not have the correct gene, and the animals had changes in the lenses of their eyes. Young noted that “The RASGRF1 provides a novel molecular mechanism to study so that we can work to prevent the most common cause of visual impairment.”

The discovery of a gene linked to nearsightedness may mean scientists could soon have a new treatment for this common eye condition. “The eye is already an organ of choice for gene therapy,” notes Young, and gene therapies are already being used successfully in some eye conditions. Nearsightedness may be the next vision problem for gene repair.

SOURCES:
American Optometric Association
Duke University Medical Center

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Caucasians of Australian anscestry? Are you part of Monty Python's Group?