With the NBA Championship one week in the rear view and Thursday night’s NBA daft, sports fans have got their eyes on basketball.
In 2009, six-time NBA all-star, Steph Curry, was the Warriors first round draft pick. Now, he lives with a progressive eye disease called keratoconus that can cause blurry vision if left untreated.
Doctors know keratoconus is partially genetic, but what goes wrong from one generation to the next is pretty unknown so local researchers are trying to find out.
The Medical College of Georgia just received a $2.1 million grant to study better ways to detect and treat keratoconus.
“Keratoconus is a progressive disease of the cornea and the cornea is kind of the clear front shield of the eye,” MCG Ophthalmologist Dr. Amy Estes describes. “Thecornea is supposed to be like a perfect sphere or half of a basketball, but in keratoconus the bonds between in the cells are weak… and over time instead of staying in their perfect sphere shape, the cornea starts to pooch forward like the tip of a cone or the tip of a football
Dr. Estes says for patients with keratoconus, their vision can be significantly blurred over time.
“It’s very significant because it typically affects young people so late teens and early 20s and these are people who are trying to continue with their, schooling, have families, are in the workforce,” Dr. Estes points out.
Geneticist Dr. Yutao Liu says often patients do not realize they have keratoconus until after it has progressed to a bad place.
“Then they don’t really seek the help from ophthalmologist. They just try to get a new pair of glasses. “What we do, we try to find new genes in the family to see what role the genetics plays in this disease,” Dr. Liu says.
Dr. Liu will use the recently received $2.1 million grant to look for a genetic link that would allow doctors to catch keratoconus earlier.
“If we can determine which patients are at higher risk of developing a more progressive disease then it will help us guide the therapy,” Dr. Estes explains.
The eye cells in people with keratoconus do not get the proper fuel. Why this problem leads to the disease is still a mystery that Dr. Liu is trying to solve to help people like Steph Curry in the future.