Eye colour more complex than previously thought

2 minute read

The largest genetic study of eye colour to date has revealed that an extra 50 genes are at play.

The largest genetic study of eye colour to date has revealed that an extra 50 genes are at play. 

Chocolate brown, ice blue, sea green – all the pigments that give your eyes their distinct you-ness – are determined by a much more diverse cocktail of genes than scientists once thought. 

An international team of scientists, led by researchers at King’s College London in the UK, have conducted the largest genome-wide association study of iris colour to date.

By looking at the genomes of 192,986 European participants from 10 populations, the scientists identified an additional 50 single-nucleotide polymorphisms that contribute to eye colour. 

Prior to this study, researchers had only identified 11 genes linked with eye colour, including the influential HERC2 and OCA2 genes.

Co-senior author Dr Pirro Hysi, King’s College London, said: “The findings are exciting because they bring us to a step closer to understanding the genes that cause one of the most striking features of the human faces, which has mystified generations throughout our history. This will improve our understanding of many diseases that we know are associated with specific pigmentation levels.”

The findings may help researchers understand eye diseases such as pigmentary glaucoma and ocular albinism, and help with the prediction of eye colour from DNA for the purposes of anthropological research and catching badies. 

Fire-red is a very suspicious eye colour…

Science Advances 2021, 10 March

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