Magazine article USA TODAY

"Blindness" Gene Finally Identified

Magazine article USA TODAY

"Blindness" Gene Finally Identified

Article excerpt

A gene and a related signaling pathway play a role in the development of glaucoma, which is a common cause of visual impairment and blindness worldwide, it has been found by scientists led by Alcon Research, Ft. Worth, Tex., and including investigators from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md. The study, which revealed that overexpression of the gene sFRP1 elevates pressure in the eye, could help improve glaucoma diagnosis and lead to the development of sight-saving treatments.

"The cause of glaucoma and the resulting elevation of intraocular pressure has been poorly understood," relates Abe Clark, Alcon's vice president of discovery research and head of glaucoma research. "This new discovery may allow researchers to develop therapies to treat the underlying cause of the disease."

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Glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness in the U.S. (hypertension is number one) and the leading cause among African-Americans. The disease damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, and leads to vision loss, especially peripheral vision. High pressure in the eye often is related to this nerve damage and vision loss. …

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