Queensland Institute of Medical Research scientists have helped discover 24 new genes that cause myopia, or nearsightedness, opening the door for new treatments.
An international group of researchers analysed 45,000 people from around the world and discovered those with the high-risk genes were ten times more likely to develop nearsightedness.
Associate Professor Stuart MacGregor, from QIMR’s Statistical Genetics Laboratory, said it was previously known that myopia was more likely in people who read a lot, and spent little time outdoors.
“The intriguing thing is how such environmental factors interact with these newly identified genes and cause myopia,” Associate Professor MacGregor said.
“There is a good chance that the insights gained from this study will provide openings for development of new strategies for myopia.”
Myopia affects 30 % of the Western population, and up to 80% of the Asian population. It is a refractive error in the eye which can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery. The condition can also lead to retinal detachment, glaucoma, macular degeneration and blindness.
QIMR’s database of twins – Q-Twin – played a critical role in this research.
“This is the latest example of Australian twins contributing to international efforts to understand the genetic basis of eye disease,” Assoc Professor MacGregor said.
Researchers from Australia, Europe, Asia, and the US collaborated on the work as the Consortium for Refraction and Myopia (CREAM).
This research is published in Nature Genetics and can be found online at http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ng.2554.html