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The genetics of childhood cataract


Human congenital cataract has a diverse aetiology. In the proportion of cases where the cause is genetic, the disease shows wide phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity. Over the past few years, much research has been devoted to mapping the genes that underlie the disorder. This has been helped by the extensive array of naturally occurring and genetically engineered mouse cataract models and the abundance of human candidate genes. Most progress to date has been in the identification of genetic mutations causing autosomal dominant congenital cataract where eight genes have been implicated in cataractogenesis. Overall there is good correlation between the genetic mutations so far identified and the resulting lens phenotype but it is clear that mutations at more that one locus may give rise to similar forms of cataract.

The identification of genes causing inherited forms of cataract will improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying cataractogenesis in childhood and provide further insights into normal lens development and physiology. Perhaps more importantly, it is likely that some of the genes causing early onset cataract will be implicated in age related cataract which remains the commonest cause of blindness in the world.

  • cataract
  • congenital
  • genetics
  • phenotype

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