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Genes Associated with Glaucoma Identified

Women's eye closeup (


Researchers in Australia and the U.K. have identified two genes associated with open-angle glaucoma (OAG), the most common form of the disease that can lead to blindness. The team’s findings are published online this week in the journal, Nature Genetics.

The researchers tested some 4,500 patients in Australia and New Zealand, including 590 individuals with severe visual field loss. The study reported that 18 percent of the population in the two countries carry variations of these two genes, making them up to three times more likely to develop severe glaucoma than those that do not. The researchers replicated the associations in three groups with either advanced or less severe OAG.

According to PubMed, the cause of OAG is unknown. An increase in eye pressure occurs slowly over time, which pushes on the optic nerve and the retina at the back of the eye. In most cases of glaucoma, this pressure is high and causes damage to the optic nerve. A genetic connection with OAG has been suspected, since the condition tends to run in families. PubMed says people of African descent are at particularly high risk for this disease.

Ophthalmologist  Jamie Craig at University of Flinders in Adelaide, Australia who led the study says the discovery will “help replace routine monitoring and hit-and-miss treatment for glaucoma, by identifying patients at the highest risk of going blind.” Craig adds, “It opens the pathway to developing completely new ways of treating patients that could delay disease progression and prevent blindness.”

Read more: Outcome Sciences to Study Effectiveness of Glaucoma Treatments

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