Health risks associated with eye color are an emerging area of interest in the scientific community
In their latest research, the scientists set out to determine whether genes that determine color regulate retinal health independently of their role in pigment formation.
The health risks associated with eye color are an emerging area of interest in the scientific community, but many of the findings to date have been inconclusive.
The scientists’ recent findings indicate that genes are a critical determinant of retinal health and other neurodegenerative diseases.
According to the “Express” website, the latest findings show that some of the metabolites involved in eye color damage the retina, with the degree of degeneration determined by imbalances between metabolites and other protective metabolic pathways in the eye.
Elisabeth Knost, of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden, Germany, who led the study, noted: “This work shows that the kynurenine metabolite pathway is important not only in pigment formation but that the level of Individual metabolites play important roles in maintaining retinal health.”
Kynurenine is an evolutionarily conserved metabolic pathway that regulates a variety of biological processes. Its disruption can lead to a buildup of toxic or protective biomolecules or metabolites, which can deteriorate or improve the health of the brain, including the retina.
The findings suggest that a person’s eye color genes could be an important component of retinal health.
Metabolic pathways consist of a series of biochemical reactions in cells that convert a starting component into other products.
Many human diseases, including retinal or neurodegenerative diseases, are associated with abnormalities in metabolic pathways.
Scientists now know that four genes known to control eye color are also essential for healthy retinal tissue.
In previous research, scientists found that people with brown eyes had a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness in the elderly.
The journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science came to this conclusion in 2015.
The journal stated: “Previous studies have indicated that lighter iris color increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration. That is, individuals with blue iris color were more likely to have a higher prevalence and stronger likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration compared to those with darker iris color.” .
According to the paper, published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, a study was conducted on 171 participants, ages 52 to 93, who were identified as having early-onset macular degeneration.
In all, 53 people in the sample showed signs of progressing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The study authors note, “Participants with light iris color had twice the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration as those with dark or medium iris colors.”
Another group of research in 2011 indicated that those with a combination of blue eyes and light skin were more likely to develop type 1 diabetes.
It was also found that their brown-eyed counterparts are less likely to experience hearing loss in noisy environments.
Other problems such as alcohol dependence, endometriosis, and cataracts were associated with changes in eye color.
The Vision Center at Everyday Health states that although there are many studies suggesting that health risks may be related to the eyes, “it is not really possible to predict health outcomes or vision quality based on color alone.”
What has been proven is that people with blue or light eyes are generally more sensitive to light, due to the lack of light-absorbing pigments in the eye.