For those of us who are concerned about myopia and its development, there is some pretty big news! Just take a look at the screen shot of all the news headlines to the right. It goes on an on.
Under the title, APLP2 Regulates Refractive Error and Myopia Development in Mice and Humans, scientists described a gene identified in children that leads to myopia (nearsightedness). We clearly know that there is a genetic component to developing nearsightedness. It runs in families. We also know that it is not all genetics. The more years of studying a person does, the more likely he or she might become myopic.
Here is an excerpt of the abstract from the study (without all the technical info):
Myopia is the most common vision disorder and the leading cause of visual impairment worldwide. However, gene variants identified to date explain less than 10% of the variance in refractive error, leaving the majority of heritability unexplained (“missing heritability”). Previously, we reported that expression of APLP2 was strongly associated with myopia in a primate model....This work identifies APLP2 as one of the “missing” myopia genes, demonstrating the importance of a low-frequency gene variant in the development of human myopia. It also demonstrates an important role for APLP2 in refractive development in mice and humans, suggesting a high level of evolutionary conservation of the signaling pathways underlying refractive eye development.
This is a big deal because this, as Lead author Dr. Andrei Tkatchenko- Assistant Professor of Ophthalmic Sciences at Columbia University, says, "the first known evidence of gene-environment interaction in myopia."
So children with the APLP2, "myopia gene," are more likely to become nearsighted. But here is the kicker from the research: both mice and children who had the "myopia gene" didn't necessary develop myopia. They only became nearsighted if they also spent time reading or doing close work. Close work would include reading and hand-held video games.
What does this mean for optometrists like me who see people, not mice, in their exam chairs. Business as usual. We will continue to educate patients about options for seeing well despite myopia and options for limiting its progression. And for goodness, sakes, kids need to be outside more!
Stay tuned. There will be more on this front, for sure!