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Genetic Clue Found To The Leading Cause Of Blindness In The United States


OHSU Researchers Find The Location Of A Gene Linked To Age-Related Macular Degeneration

(Portland, OR) -- Retired schoolteacher Ruth Oster lives with a small spot that blocks off part of the central vision in her left eye.

"I first noticed it about 15 years ago," said Oster, who lives in a rural area northwest of Portland. "I was trying to type a paper, and it just took tremendous effort to see the letters. The spot would move wherever I was trying to read." Now, Oster is unable to drive at night and she struggles to read music when playing the violin, one of her favorite activities. New research by a team at the Macular Degeneration Center at Oregon Health Sciences University's Casey Eye Institute shows the disease that's blurring Oster's vision has a genetic cause. The research was done in collaboration with scientists at the Laboratory of Statistical Genetics at Rockefeller University in New York.

Like Oster, millions of Americans suffer from a gradual fading-out of central vision known as age-related macular degeneration. Roughly 7 percent of Americans older than 75 have progressed to the late stage of the disease. The loss of vision comes from deterioration of a particularly sensitive area of the retina called the macula. The team of scientists has zeroed in on the location of a gene that causes an inherited form of the disease. Details of this research appear in the August edition of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

The team of researchers, led by Michael Klein, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at OHSU, studied 21 individuals from Oster's family; 10 of them with age-related macular degeneration.

"It has been difficult to find a genetic cause for this disease," said Klein. "It has a late age of onset, can take one of several forms and is difficult to diagnose early. By studying a large family affected by the disease, we could compare genetic information from family membe
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Contact: Henry Sessions
sessionh@ohsu.edu
(503) 494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
13-Aug-1998


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