Genetic link to blindness discovered by Islington doctor

Moorfields Eye Hospital

Moorfields Eye Hospital - Credit: Archant

A genetic link to blindness has been discovered by a group of scientists including a Finsbury consultant.

Ananth Viswanathan, who works at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital, in City Road, and his international team recently published their research which explains four new genetic variations have been linked to the risk of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world.

The study examined almost 36,000 people and analysed their genetic makeup to discover common markers for the building up of fluid in the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP).

Mr Viswanathan said: “The discoveries are significant because they improve our understanding of the risk of this serious disease and may lead to better treatments.”

The research was conducted across the globe and Mr Viswanathan says the results highlight how invaluable international collaboration can be.

“By taking this ‘big data’ approach,” he said. “We have found out more about the biology of the disease, new genomic areas and have been able to confirm the findings in different parts of the globe.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 4.5 million people in the world have become blind through glaucoma and it accounts for approximately one in eight cases of blindness.

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It occurs when damage is caused to the optic nerve, usually by IOP, and can avoided if it is diagnosed early.

Spotting patients who are genetically more at risk of developing glaucoma would therefore be highly desirable.