Researchers have identified five genetic variants that increasingly increase a person’s risk of developing nearsightedness the longer they stay in school. A team led by Jeremy Guggenheim of Cardiff University, UK, published these findings November 17 in the journal Open Access PLOS Genetics.
Myopia is associated with a range of eye disorders, making it a leading cause of irreversible visual impairment in the elderly. People often develop nearsightedness as children, and the condition appears to be caused by a combination of genetic factors, lack of time spent outdoors and many years of schooling. Genetic studies have identified more than 450 genetic variants associated with an increased risk of myopia, but few have been shown to increase risk specifically in people who have associated lifestyle factors. In the new study, the researchers used genetic and health data from more than 340,000 participants of European ancestry. They conducted a genome-wide study to identify genetic variants that, in addition to extensive education, make people more likely to develop myopia.
The study yielded five genetic variants that progressively increased the risk of myopia for individuals, the more time they spent in school—particularly for people with university-level education. Three of these variants were not previously known, while two were found in studies of East Asian cohorts, where about 80% of children develop myopia. For comparison, about 30% of children develop myopia in the West. The researchers said these findings provide new insights into the biological pathways that cause myopia, but more research is needed to understand how these pathways interact with lifestyle factors to cause the condition.
Guggenheim adds, “In addition to the need for glasses or contact lenses, myopia is a major cause of uncorrectable visual impairment. Building on our previous research linking education and myopia, the new study identifies 5 genes associated with the development of myopia whose effects are amplified by additional years. spent in education.
Materials provided by Plus. Note: Content can be modified by style and length.