A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the National Eye Institute, has discovered gene variants for glaucoma in a black population. The finding could lead to future treatments or a cure for the disease, which leads to blindness in millions of people around the world each year.
According to researcher Dr. Kang Zhang: “Once we understand the specific gene or protein structure that is altered in the disease, we are one step closer to developing gene or stem cell-based therapies”.
The study has been published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
The researchers chose to conduct the study in the Afro-Caribbean population of Barbados, where the incidence of glaucoma is nearly ten per cent of all residents of the island.
“We have now identified very common gene variants that have a dramatic impact on an individual’s risk for developing glaucoma,” Dr. Zhang said.
“These gene variants are present in 40 per cent of individuals with glaucoma in the Barbados population and explains nearly one-third of their genetic risk for the disease. This study should give us a better handle on earlier diagnoses and new therapies.”