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Study Suggests Advanced Education, Genetics May Contribute to Nearsightedness

A combination of genetics and extended years in education can drive the development nearsightedness, according to a new study in PLOS Genetics this week. Myopia typically develops during school age, with the highest incidences in countries with extensive education programs. Some have hypothesized that interactions between genetic variants and education exposure can contribute to myopia, but few such interactions have been identified. A team led by scientists from Cardiff University analyzed data on hundreds of thousands of participants in the UK Biobank and identify five genetic variants — two that have been reported in East Asians and three that are novel — that appear to confer a progressively increased risk of myopia in people who spent increasing years in education. The findings, the investigators write, provides insight into the biological pathways through which genes and lifestyle interact to cause myopia. More research is needed, however, to determine the specific ways these genetic variants are influenced by near work, intensive education, or reduced time outdoors, for which education may be a proxy.