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Scientists Discover Gene That Causes Early Blindness in Men

May 02, 1996|From Times staff and wire reports

After searching for more than a decade, scientists have found a gene for a disease that usually blinds men by age 30--a particularly severe form of retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. RP affects nearly 100,000 Americans. The gene, when defective, causes one of the most common forms of RP, accounting for about 10% to 20% of RP cases.

The new gene, called RP3, is one of three genes on the X chromosome that cause severe RP that hits hardest in men. The two other genes have not been identified. A team headed by Dr. Alan Wright of the Medical Research Council in Edinburgh, Scotland, reported the discovery in the May issue of Nature Genetics. The gene's structure suggests that it turns on some sort of biological switch, Wright said.

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