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Progress made towards genetic test for myopia

Researchers from the UK have developed a genetic test capable of predicting an individual’s risk of developing childhood myopia.

The team behind the project, from Cardiff University and the University of Bristol, hope the test could mean earlier interventions and better outcomes later in life for myopes.

“Treatments are available for slowing down the progression of short-sightedness,” Professor Jeremy Guggenheim, director of research at Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences and co-lead on the study, said.

“Knowing a child is at high risk would help parents and clinicians decide if treatment should be started.”

Using data from the UK Biobank and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, the team analysed the genetic differences between 700,000 individuals against myopia progression.

Based on the results of their study, the team claim they can identify one in 10 individuals who are 6x more likely than average to develop myopia by the time they reach adulthood.

“A genetic test can be carried out at any age, so a test like this – for a high risk of myopia – could give children who are likely to become very short-sighted a head start if carried out when they are young and if there are effective suitable treatments,” Dr Cathy Willaims, from the University of Bristol and co-lead on the study, said.

In order to develop a more accurate and complete genetic test for the condition, the team claims further work, as well as a larger genetic sample, is needed.

The findings have been published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

It builds on the same team’s previous investigations into childhood Myopia. In 2018 they identified a correlation between education and myopia, with every year of schooling linked to an increased refractive error of 0.27 dioptres.

How education affects children’s eyesight was not clear, although the team suspects the additional time spend indoors and on near work activities might contribute to worsening conditions.