Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Lucky 13' as new gene discovery offers further hope for childhood blindness

12.06.2007
An international research team has discovered a gene that, when mutated, causes one of the most common forms of inherited blindness in babies. Scientists at the University of Leeds, working in collaboration with experts from other centres around the world, identified the gene, which is essential to photoreceptors in the eye, the cells that "see" light.

The finding, the thirteenth gene to be linked to Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA), comes at a time of hope for the people born with the disorder. Scientists at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, recently announced the start of clinical trials for a gene therapy involving injecting genes into the eye of patients with LCA to restore their sight. The finding of the new LCA gene, based on work funded by the Wellcome Trust and local charity Yorkshire Eye Research, appears in this month's edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

The newly-discovered gene, LCA5, is involved in the production of lebercilin, an essential component of photoreceptors in the retina. Lebercilin is found in other tissues as part of the cilia, finger-like projections from the surface of cells capable of moving molecules around. However, mutations in the LCA5 gene only appear to cause defects in the retina.

"We already know of a dozen genes which, when mutated, cause LCA," says Professor Chris Inglehearn from the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine at St James's Hospital, Leeds. "This new gene is the thirteenth and adds a substantial new piece to a growing body of evidence that defects of the cilia are a major cause of inherited blindness. In that sense, we can consider this a 'lucky thirteenth' as we are building a much clearer picture of what causes the disorder."

... more about:
»Inglehearn »LCA »LCA5 »Retina »blindness

Professor Inglehearn believes that lebercilin may be involved in moving proteins from the inner to outer segments of photoreceptors in the retina. Protein transport is essential within retinal photoreceptor cells as they are long, thin cells with a highly evolved structure on one end (the outer segment) which detects light and sends signals to the brain, a function requiring a large amount of energy.

"LCA is usually a disease where protein function has been lost completely, but carriers of just one copy of the mutation, who will almost certainly have reduced protein levels, nevertheless function perfectly normally," explains Professor Inglehearn. "This being the case, restoration of even a tenth of the missing protein may be enough to restore vision. So our findings, together with the recently announced clinical trials, hold great promise."

Mutations in LCA5 are relatively rare. As it is a recessive gene, a child would need to be carrying two copies of the gene to develop LCA, one from each parent. However, the disorder is more common within populations where marriage to first or second cousins is common, such as the Pakistani community.

"If a parent is found to carry a mutation in the LCA5 gene, the risk of blindness in their children and grandchildren is still virtually zero as long as the other parent does not carry it," says Professor Inglehearn. "The odds of two parents both carrying the same or different mutations in the LCA5 gene is very low, but this increases where the parents are related."

Professor Inglehearn hopes that the findings will be useful to inform and counsel the families most at risk, particularly within the Pakistani communities both in the UK and Northern Pakistan.

The findings have been welcomed by Bruce Noble from Yorkshire Eye Research, which part-funded the research.

"Obviously we have to be careful how we interpret these results, as finding the genes doesn't automatically lead to a cure," says Mr Noble. "Nevertheless, this new result tells us something very important about what the eye is doing normally and about a new and common way in which it can go wrong. Given some exciting recent developments on testing possible cures for inherited blindness, its becoming very important for everybody to know exactly which mutation they've got, because the treatments being tested are specific for different kinds of retinal degeneration. All in all its an exciting time for eye research and a very promising one for people with these conditions. This new result is another important step in the right direction and Yorkshire Eye Research is very proud to have supported it."

The research was also welcomed by Professor John Marshall, Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board at the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society.

"This dramatic discovery provides further information enabling us to combat blindness within the Retinitis Pigmentosa group," says Professor Marshall. "The more genes we discover the better we are placed to treat the diseases by methods such as that recently announced at Moorfields Eye Hospital – also supported by the BRPS."

Craig Brierley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

Further reports about: Inglehearn LCA LCA5 Retina blindness

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>