Researchers say twins are helping them learn more about genetic causes for blindness.
The researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s Genetics and Population Health Division have tapped into data collected from more than 1,000 sets of twins to discover genes that affect people’s eyesight.
Dr. Stuart MacGregor, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research’s Genetics and Population Health Division, said identical twins were ‘nature’s clones’.
“Despite having the same genes, the environment can make them very different,” he said in a statement.
Dr. MacGregor said this type of work could lead to genetic tests for blindness risk and help doctors monitor people who may have a higher glaucoma risk
“Comparing identical and non-identical twins, we can determine how much of who we are is determined by our genes and how much is influenced by environment.”
Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research have been working on an international study alongside a team from the Centre for Eye Research Australia.
Dr. MacGregor said researchers had discovered a new gene for myopia (long or short sightedness) and a gene that caused optic nerve hypoplasia – one of the leading causes of blindness in children.
He said the research was the first to identify a gene that influenced cornea thickness. Decreased cornea thickness is a major cause of glaucoma.
“Another risk factor for glaucoma is intraocular pressure, which is tested in regular eye exams with the puff of air onto the eye,” Dr. MacGregor said.
“We identified genes that influence the pressure inside the eye.”
Dr. MacGregor said this type of work could lead to genetic tests for blindness risk and help doctors monitor people who may have a higher glaucoma risk.
Two new papers were published in the journal Nature Genetics in September.
They come on top of papers published in PLoS Genetics in May and in Human Molecular Genetics in April.