|[October 14, 2013]
Simple Blood or Urine Test to Identify Blinding Disease
MIAMI --(Business Wire)--
Research led by physician-scientists at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of
the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has produced a
breakthrough discovery in diagnosing retinitis pigmentosa, a blinding
disease that affects about 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S.
Rong Wen, M.D., Ph.D., and Byron Lam, M.D., professors of ophthalmology
at Bascom Palmer, in collaboration with biochemist Ziqiang Guan, Ph.D.,
a research associate professor at Duke University Medical School,
discovered a key marker in blood and urine that can identify people who
carry genetic mutations in a gene responsible for retinitis pigmentosa
(RP). "A simple urine test can tell who has the RP-causing mutations,"
said Dr. Wen. "Collecting urine is non-invasive and easy."
The first mutation in this gene, named DHDDS, was identified in 2011 by
scientists at the Miller School of Medicine, including Stephan Zuchner,
M.D., Ph.D., Interi Chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation
Department of Human Genetics, Wen, Lam, and Margaret A. Pericak-Vance,
Ph.D., Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, on
behalf of a South Florida couple who were searching for the reason why
three of their children were blinded by RP. Mutations in this gene are
more common in persons of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage than in the general
population. RP is a group of inherited eye diseases that cause
progressive vision loss and blindness due to degeneration of the retina,
the layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
"It is our vision that every patient who is affected with an inherited
eye disease like RP should have access to a clinician who is
knowledgeable about the diseases, as well as to affordable diagnostic
testing and counseling," said Lam, director of Bascom Palmer's
hereditary eye disease center. "This diagnostic test is a powerful tool
that will help in developing treatments for RP caused by DHDDS
The DHDDS mutation has special meaning to the Lidsky family of South
Florida. Three of the four Lidsky children, who are now in their 30s,
began to lose their sight as teens. "The fact that a simple blood or
urine test can identify the genetic defect that causes this form of RP
is very important," said Betti Lidsky, mother of the children.
To read more about this important discovery, click here.
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