Bad Genes and Good Glasses
Almost every day, we read that another gene has been discovered. I wonder what gene is responsible for the discovery of other genes. But among the heap of meaningless genes that supposedly dictate this or that… I came across a pretty decent gene – the myopia gene. Yes, heredity in this respect saves me the effort of doubting. I myself was born into a “multiracial” family: a short-sighted father and a mother whose vision was normal. But they say that you don’t collect the best traits from either parent, so of course I got myopia. I would have preferred a castle in Switzerland, but this is an ophthalmological site, so the topic is perfect. Responding to my questions, Dr. Benjamin was, as always, patient and kind, although not as optimistic as the discoverers of these genes.
So is there indeed a “short-sighted” gene?
There were many articles in which it was promised that the discovery of this gene may, in the near future, lead to new methods of treatment for nearsightedness.
All of us who, as children, ran through the jeering crowd that despised us for wearing this thing on our nose… we bear that trauma. Only when you’re older do you understand that glasses can color a person, especially those like me with bags under their eyes. So when you put on those Dior sunglasses, it is becoming of a man, although maybe more like Terminator. Who exactly discovered this gene?
Scientists from King’s College London. They believed that based on this knowledge they would soon be able to create drugs to prevent the development of myopia. But the gene was discovered in 2010, and they began to paint a rosy picture of the total deliverance of mankind from glasses, promising that within ten years nearsightedness will be treated with drops. Since then, though, this gung-ho prognosis has partially faded away. True, there are three years to go, but it’s clear that heredity is a major risk factor, as well.
As children, we were scared to read or eat while lying down. How was the gene discovered?
There isn’t room for details here. They studied several thousand twins for a number of years. In the end, they were able to identify a gene which is found in people suffering from myopia. Then there was a study in the Netherlands that discovered a second gene.
So there are two?
There may be more. Myopia occurs due to the fact that the eyeball ceases to correctly focus light. Children are often born farsighted, and the ability to distinguish closer objects comes gradually. It’s a matter of growth. But some eyes continue to change beyond this time period. In principle, it’s possible that sooner or later we will create tools that can block genetically predetermined signals, a kind of “command” to regulate the growth of the eyeball.
As a last resort we could always do Lasik.
Not everyone has that opportunity. In Singapore, for example, 80% of the people have myopia.
As a whole, do you believe that we can conquer the use of glasses in our lifetime?
Perhaps they’ll remain, even after the triumph of gene therapy. Myopia, remember, is not only a disease of the eye. We have a long way to go – clinical trials and the elimination of side effects, not to mention the characteristics of national bureaucracies in different countries.
For how long have we already worn glasses?
So long that time has stopped. They appeared, according to some reports, at the end of the 13th century in what is now Italy. Ear hooks were added in the 18th century in England, and within a 100 years one of the Founding Fathers (and my namesake), Benjamin Franklin, invented bifocal lenses. Then in the 1930s, Hollywood decided that it was a beautiful thing, so sunglasses became fashionable.
That said, I read about young men that are still embarrassed to wear glasses, in Brazil and even Argentina, home to the great blind writer (Borges).
Their youth is passing faster than they’d like. It’s a fact that for many, glasses are a burden. Benjamin Eye Institute, on our end, is doing everything possible to save the maximum number of people from having to wear glasses. (to be continued)
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Фото: Sebastian Varo