Scientists identify genes that trigger onset of myopia

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Bangalore, Feb 11: Finally good news for all those suffering from myopia. With scientists finally identifying as many as 24 genes which have the potential to cause this particular eye disorder, people afflicted with short-sightedness can now hope for better treatment in the future.

Researchers based in different countries first looked at the genetic data from 37,382 individuals of European ancestry and 8,376 Asians. "We identified 16 new loci for refractive error in individuals of European ancestry, of which 8 were shared with Asians. Combined analysis identified 8 additional associated loci," the researchers wrote in Nature Genetics.

"The substantial overlap in genetic loci for refractive error between individuals of European ancestry and Asians provides evidence for shared genetic risk factors between the populations," they noted.

The genes discovered during the meta-analysis conducted by the Consortium for Refraction and Myopia (CREAM) are responsible for only 3.4 per cent of variations in myopia. However, the researchers pointed out that "The ten-fold increased risk of myopia for those carrying the highest number of risk alleles shows the clinical significance of our findings."

Among the genes the researchers indentified were the ones involved in brain functions, nuerotransmission and eye development.

Billions across the world are affected by short-sightedness. As far as differences between Asians and Europeans are concerned, the former are more likely to develop myopia compared to the latter. Around 30 per cent of people in western countries suffer due to the refractive error. In Asian nations, near-sightedness has been found in over 70 per cent of the population.

The eyeball in such persons is longer than normal, and the light focuses slightly short of the retina. Consequently, the individual gets a blurred image of the object he or she is looking at. Usually glasses or contact lenses are used to get perfect vision. The refractive error can be corrected by laser surgery. However, there could be unpleasant side effects post  the procedure.

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