Researchers recently harnessed the power of the genetic test provider 23andme to uncover previously unknown genetic factors associated with myopia—161 of them, in fact. The international Consortium for Refractive Error and Myopia study group looked at the genetic makeup of more than 250,000 people from Europe, Asia and North America in an effort to better understand factors that play into myopia development and progression.1

They found 161 genetic factors for spherical equivalent and myopia, which showed all retinal cell types affect myopia, in addition to their primary roles as light processors. Previously, researchers only knew of 37 independent factors. The data confirms what has long been suspected: “refractive errors are caused by a light-dependent retina-to-sclera signaling cascade.”1

The study also revealed novel mechanisms, including “rod-and-cone bipolar synaptic neurotransmission, anterior-segment morphology and angiogenesis.” In addition, because 31 of the loci are in or near regions that transcribe small RNAs, the researchers suspect “a role for post-transcriptional regulation.”1

“We have known for some time that education-related behavior is a major environmental factor in developing short-sightedness," said co-author Professor Norbert Pfeiffer, head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Mainz University Medical Center. “Send your kids to play outside for two hours every day. And it's not just their eyes that will benefit.”2

1. Tedja MS, Wojciechowski R, Hysi PG, et al. Genome-wide association meta-analysis highlights light-induced signaling as a driver for refractive error. Nature Genetics. 2018;50(6):834.
2. Mainz University Medical Center. Identified 161 genetic factors for ametropia. June 4, 2018. Accessed June 19, 2018.