New link between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s found

Scientists from Singapore and the United States have found new evidence suggesting a link between primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) and Alzheimer’s.

According to research recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a variation in a beta-amyloid gene family, which is also a known cause of the nerve cell death seen in glaucoma, was observed to be significantly associated with POAG risk among people of African ancestry.

While the high-risk variant was found to be common in African populations, it was almost completely absent in other groups.

Despite Africa being the continent where modern humans originated, African populations are typically understudied and underrepresented in genomic research. The team hopes this study could change the way that researchers perceive glaucoma and examine neuroprotective mechanisms.

“Glaucoma in Africans is severe, striking early and often leading to blindness,” Dr Michael Hauser, professor of medicine and ophthalmology at the Duke University Medical Center, said.

“Our data shows that glaucoma in Africa has a different genetic structure than glaucoma in Europe or Asia. We hope that our work to better understand African glaucoma will help preserve sight in people of African ancestry around the world.”

The global team behind the project consisted of researchers from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s Genome Institute of Singapore, Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Duke University, Duke-NUS Medical School and several other partner institutions.

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