23andMe Reported New Genetic Associations for Myopia

23andMe reported that a team of researchers discovered previously unknown genetic mechanisms that lead to myopia, or nearsightedness, including new associations with circadian rhythm.

Led by scientists at King’s College London, researchers from University College London, Kaiser Permanente, and 23andMe identified three ways that genetics plays a role in myopia, according to the study published by Nature Genetics.

Mayo Clinic says that nearsightedness is a common vision condition in which you can see objects near to you clearly, but objects farther away are blurry. It occurs when the shape of your eye causes light rays to bend (refract) incorrectly, focusing images in front of your retina instead of on your retina.

23andMe states that nearsightedness affects more than a third of adults in both the UK and the United States. Researchers have long known that both genetics and environment influence why someone develops myopia. This very large study found that genes involved in circadian rhythm – the inner biological clock regulating our 24-hour long sleep and wake cycles – could be an important factor.

In addition, researchers found overlapping associations with genes that play a role in pigmentation of the eyes, hair, and skin. Scientists had previously found that some genetic disorders that affect pigmentation also caused changes to the back of the eye that resulted in more severe myopia, but the strength of the association found in this study was surprising, said Eric Jorgenson, PhD., an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research and a co-author of the study.

To make these findings, researchers used data from more than half a million individuals from the UK Biobank, Kaiser Permanente and 23andMe customers who consented to participate in research. Drawing on this very large dataset, the researchers were able to analyze thousands of genetic variants across more than 450 genes.

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