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Surv Ophthalmol. 2010 Nov-Dec;55(6):561-83. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2010.07.003. Epub 2010 Sep 19.

The heritability of ocular traits.

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  • 1Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. p.sanfilippo@pgrad.unimelb.edu.au


Heritability is the proportion of phenotypic variation in a population that is attributable to genetic variation among individuals. Many ophthalmic disorders and biometric traits are known to have a genetic basis and consequently much work has been published in the literature estimating the heritability of various ocular parameters. We collated and summarized the findings of heritability studies conducted in the field of ophthalmology. We grouped the various studies broadly by phenotype as follows: refraction, primary open-angle glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and others. A total of 82 articles were retrieved from the literature relating to estimation of heritability for an ocular disease or biometric trait; of these, 37 papers were concerned with glaucoma, 28 with refraction, 4 with AMD, 5 with diabetic retinopathy, and 4 with cataract. The highest reported heritability for an ophthalmic trait is 0.99 for the phenotype ≥ 20 small hard drusen, indicating that observed variation in this parameter is largely governed by genetic factors. Over 60% of the studies employed a twin study design and a similar percentage utilized variance components methods and structural equation modeling (SEM) to derive their heritability values. Using modern SEM techniques, heritability estimates derived from twin subjects were generally higher than those from family data. Many of the estimates are in the moderate to high range, but to date the majority of genetic variants accounting for these findings have not been uncovered, hence much work remains to be undertaken to elucidate fully their molecular etiology.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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