A joint study by Indian and foreign scientists has claimed to have found three new cataract-causing genes, often carried on for many generations in families in the country.
Scientists at the Centre for Genetic Disorders of Guru Nanak Dev University here in association with researchers from the National Institute of Health, USA and the Institute of Human Genetics in Berlin have discovered three genes causing Fan-Shaped, Cerulean and Sutural cataracts, after 30 years of research in the field of opthalmology.
The research team, led by Dr Jai Rup Singh who is Coordinator at the Centre for Genetic Disorders achieved the breakthrough by identifying and localising the genes in Indian families.
Talking to reporters, Singh said research on congenital cataract was carried out for 30 years during which the Centre collected DNA samples from more than 2,400 persons suffering from genetic diseases of the eye. Presently, DNA analysis on more than 700 families of congenital cataract is still in progress, he said.
Congenital cataract affects three out of every 10,000 newborns and is a significant cause of blindness in children and also life-long visual disability, Singh informed.
The first breakthrough in the field came in 2001 when two new genes were identified. This time around, the two genes, along with a newly discovered third, have been localised to Indian families, he added.
The first of these, fan-shaped cataract gene is caused by a single nucleotide alteration which changes the structure of alpha-crystallin, an essential lens protein, ultimately leading to congenital cataract that is associated with microcornea.