New York, Jan 29 : A protein that modulates corneal thickness can also act as a possible risk factor for a type of eye disease, a study has found.
Glaucoma comprises of a group of eye diseases that builds up pressure in the eye and damages the optic nerves, leading to blindness.
The study, conducted on mice, found that genetic variations in the genes that codes for protein POU6F2 may affect the structure of the eye and increase a person's risk of glaucoma.
When the researchers removed the genes carrying POU6F2, the affected mice had thinner corneas than normal mice.
The researchers found that while a complicated mix of multiple genes and alterations as well as environmental conditions all contribute to glaucoma, the most common risk factor among all is having a thin cornea.
"We hope that defining this link between central corneal thickness and glaucoma will aid in early detection of glaucoma and eventually treatments to halt the progression of this disease," said Eldon E. Geisert, Professor at the Emory University in Atlanta, US.
For the study, published in the journal Plos Genetics, the team investigated genes that affect corneal thickness using strains of specially bred mice.
They then compared genetic variants that lead to thin corneas in mice, to genes that increase a person's risk of a common type of glaucoma, called primary open angle glaucoma.
Additionally, POU6F2 was found to help regulate the developing cornea and may also be responsible, in part, for keeping the cornea healthy by regulating corneal stem cells in adult mice, the researchers said.