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Gene discovery could yield treatments for nearsightedness
Date:9/12/2010

DURHAM, N.C. -- Myopia (nearsightedness) is the most common eye disorder in the world and becoming more common, yet little is known about its genetic underpinnings.

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center, in conjunction with several other groups, have uncovered a gene associated with myopia in Caucasian people from several different regions, including Dutch, British and Australian subjects.

Their work was published in Nature Genetics online on Sunday, Sept. 12.

Myopia happens when the focal point of an image falls just short of the retina at the rear of the eye, causing blurred distance vision.

Often the discovery of a gene still means that many years could pass before a treatment becomes available. However, gene therapies are already working well in some eye conditions, and myopia may be a good candidate condition for gene repair.

"The eye is already an organ of choice for gene therapy, for example, because the eye's small volume and self-contained area allow the therapy to remain inside the eye in a concentrated volume," said lead author Terri Young, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, pediatrics, and medicine, and a researcher in the Center for Human Genetics at Duke. "In addition, the eye's accessibility lets clinicians observe the effects of treatment over time with noninvasive methods that can illuminate and test the retina and other eye structures."

While many cases of myopia are mild, about 2 to 3 percent are pathological cases with retinal detachment, premature glaucoma, macular bleeding, and glaucoma leading eventually to blindness, said Young, who has spent over a decade studying the severe form of myopia.

Up to 80 percent of people in Singapore have myopia, while about one in three Americans has the condition. Countries with a high prevalence of nearsightedness have a hard time finding fighter pilots, to give one example of how myopia affects a population.

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Contact: Mary Jane Gore
mary.gore@duke.edu
919-660-1309
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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