The National Eye Institute has awarded a five-year $6.4 million grant for a study on the genetics of glaucoma in persons of African descent.

    Robert N. Weinreb, MD, chairman and distinguished professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, leads the study, ADAGES III: Contribution of genotype to glaucoma phenotype in African Americans.

    The goal is to identify glaucoma-related genes in this high-risk group of people who are four to five times more likely to develop the condition. Using detailed phenotypes from more than 2,000 subjects, researchers will work to identify relevant genes, develop models for glaucoma diagnosis and progression, and determine potential new drugs for treatment.

    "The lack of understanding about the cause of this disease impedes our ability to identify and treat it early in its development," said Weinreb, who is also director of the Shiley Eye Center, part of the UC San Diego Health System. "Evidence of genetic contribution in the pathogenesis of POAG is well established. Since POAG tends to run in families, it is critical to identify the genetic basis of the disease in order to develop effective therapies for early intervention."

    Study participants will be recruited from four clinical centers, including the UC San Diego School of Medicine, the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the University of Alabama and a private practice in Atlanta.