Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center have found that an infrequently occurring variation in the APLP2 gene causes susceptibility to myopia in children who read for more than 60 minutes per day. 

The study, published in PLOS Genetics, suggests that those carrying an alternate form of the APLP2 gene are more likely to develop the condition, and that the condition develops between the ages of eight and 15. Importantly, the cohort study found that those who read for more than an hour were five times more likely to suffer from myopia. 

Using data collected from 13,988 pediatric subjects, researchers evaluated the effect of the APLP2 phenotype on refractive error over an average of 15.5 years. Refractive error was evaluated by autorefraction every three years between the ages of approximately seven and 15. Statistical analysis predicted that those who carried the gene and self-identified as having read for lengthier periods of time would be more myopic than the group who self-identified as having read less. According to Andre Tkatchenko, MD, PhD, first author of the study, this is the first evidence showing the relationship between genetics and behavioral factors in causing a change in refractive error. 

Hypothetically, reducing the gene in the eye during childhood would be an effective treatment, Dr. Tkatchenko suggests in a press release. However, engaging in environmental behaviors favorable to reducing myopia during the ages of elementary and middle school is the only practical measure for ensuring the refractive health of the eye. 

Jeffrey J. Walline, PhD, OD, associate dean of research at the Ohio State University, agrees. “I recommend that parents encourage outdoor activities to decrease the likelihood of myopia onset,” he says, adding that the best evidence for slowing myopia progression comes from soft bifocal or corneal reshaping CL wear.

Tkatchenko AV, Tkatchenko TV, Guggenheim JA, et al. APLP2 regulates refractive error and myopia development in mice and humans. PLoS Genet. 2015 Aug;(11)8. [Epub].