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Managing glaucoma risk through early detection

CERA has collaborated with scientists across Australia to identify several new genes associated with glaucoma, giving hope to the promise of early detection.

This discovery brings researchers one step closer to being able to predict who will develop the disease.

Image of Professor Alex Hewitt

Professor Alex Hewitt, Principal Investigator in Clinical Genetics

“Approximately half the people in our community who will develop glaucoma don’t know that they will,” says Professor Alex Hewitt, Principal Investigator in Clinical Genetics at CERA.

Family history plays a key role; first degree relatives of people with glaucoma have a ten-fold increased risk of developing the disease.

Glaucoma progresses slowly and may not be obvious until vision loss is advanced and irreversible.

Vision impairment occurs because the nerve cells that transmit signals from the eye to brain are damaged and die. High eye pressure is a risk factor for the disease and the main target for treatment.

But until now, little was known about what causes the disease at a molecular level.

The new research has dramatically increased our understanding of which genes cause glaucoma. Professor Hewitt and his team plan to use this knowledge to develop a predictive test for the disease.

“We’re extending this work with the aim of identifying other genes related to glaucoma,” he says. “We can then incorporate this information into a risk score that could identify people who may develop the disease.”

This advance could mean earlier diagnosis and treatment for the estimated 150,000 Australians who don’t yet know they are at risk.

This story is reproduced from CERA’s 2018 Annual Review. 


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