Researchers Take a Closer Look at Myopia

Scientists uncover gene associated with nearsightedness

(RxWiki News) Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have helped uncover a gene associated with nearsightedness (myopia) in Caucasians from different regions.

Although myopia is the most common eye disorder in the world, relatively little is known about its genetic roots. The disease affects distance vision, causing blurring of far-away objects as image focal points fall short of the retina at the back of the eye. (Myopia is caused by eyeballs that are longer than normal.)

Researchers analyzed some 13,414 subjects and discovered several distinct spellings of DNA code near the RASGRF1 gene that were strongly linked to focusing problems in individuals. The findings were affirmed in six other Caucasian adult groups.

The gene discovery could potentially yield new treatments for myopia. Gene therapies have proven effective for some eye conditions.

The eye makes for a good gene-therapy model, said lead author Terri Young, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, pediatrics, and medicine, and a researcher in the Center for Human Genetics at Duke, because of the organ's small volume and self-contained area, allowing therapy to remain inside the eye in a concentrated volume.

Although most myopia cases are mild, some have pathological roots associated with other eye conditions, including retinal detachment, macular bleeding and glaucoma.

"The development of myopia is complex and likely does not have a single genetic cause," said Dr. Chris Quinn, president of OMNI Eye Services. "The identification and understanding of the gene isolated by these researchers may provide us with valuable information to unlock the mystery why patients develop myopia."

Advice suggesting myopic patients to go outside and take a look at the horizon to combat myopia (which may be influenced by prologned by work and lifestyle habits) should be taken with a grain of salt, Dr. Quinn said. 

"Going outside to look at the horizon is not likely to affect the development of myopia."

About 1 in 3 Americans have myopia. Common treatments for this condition (myopia is not a disease), include refractive surgery, and prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Review Date: 
January 24, 2011