Scientists have identified three genetic regions in our DNA which are present in those who have the eye disease glaucoma but not in those who don't.
Experts believe their findings may lead to new treatments to prevent and perhaps even cure the disease.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions, which cause optic nerve damage and can affect vision.
Now an international team of researchers, including experts at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, has identified the first regions of DNA that are conclusively linked with angle-closure glaucoma.
The discovery means that a way of pinpointing those at risk of developing the condition is a step closer. It could lead to the creation of a test to spot who may go on to develop it, meaning they could be treated before sight loss becomes irreparable.
"We looked at thousands of people with the disease and thousands without and identified three regions linked to the disease. We don't know whether they definitely cause it but this gives us a better idea of where we should be looking to understand the mechanisms that trigger the condition," the Daily Express quoted Dr Paul Foster, a glaucoma specialist at Moorfields, as saying.
"It has given us the best evidence that we have to date of the molecular mechanisms that might control the risk of getting this disease.
"I don't think we are yet at the stage where we are thinking it could lead to a treatment or diagnostic test but it gives us a strong indication of where we should be looking to go on to develop these," he added.
The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics.