Shanghai scientists yesterday came out with good news for China's 5 million newborns and children suffering from congenital cataract, declaring they have ferreted out a gene critical to the disease, which could "make a prenatal check possible, preventing babies from getting poor eyesight or contracting blindness."
The news of the discovery made by scientists from the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences - a mutant gene (called heat-shock transcription factor 4 or HSF4) which affects the eye's protein arrangement, causing congenital cataract - was also published in the U.K.-based Nature Genetics.
The science magazine hailed it as the first genetic "disease" gene for cataract detected by Chinese scientists.
Medical experts agreed that in five years time the discovery may lead to a prenatal check for congenital cataract to find whether the baby's HSF4 gene mutates.
"As a result of the check, doctors can tell what to expect in the baby. Later on, other measures, like renovating the mutant gene, are also possible," said Chu Renyuan, chairman of Shanghai Ophthalmology Association.
(eastday.com June 25, 2002)