Descendants of The Bounty mutineers could soon help to find a cure for myopia, according to Australian researchers who spoke to ABC.
Professor David Mackey and colleagues have been studying the inhabitants of Norfolk Island, where almost 50% of the population can be traced back to the nine Bounty sailors and their Polynesian wives. The Bounty mutineers settled at Pitcairn Island after their mutiny in 1789, and later moved to Norfolk Island, 1,600 kilometres north-east of Sydney.
Back in the modern-day, Mackey and his group from the Lions Eye Institute are hoping to use the Islanders to identify the causes of myopia, or short-sightedness as it’s more commonly known.
The choice of Norfolk Islanders for the study is down to their unique genetic make-up. Mackey and his team found that rates of myopia since 2007 have been far lower among people on the island who are related to the Bounty sailors, compared to those with Australian ancestry. In the most recent paper from the study, published in the Investigational Ophthalmology and Visual Science journal, Professor Mackey reveals:
“We found the rate of Pitcairn group myopia is approximately half that of the Australian population, and as a result would be ranked among one of the lowest rates in the world.”
Meanwhile, those islanders who trace their roots back to the Australian population have roughly the same rates of short-sightedness as the Australian population – around 16 per cent.
Professor Mackey’s conclusion? That genetic factors contribute to short-sightedness, but also that spending too little time outdoors can be problematic, raising a person’s risk of becoming short-sighted.
The Norfolk Island Eye Study, which saw all 1,275 Norfolk Islanders aged over 15 invited to take part, is still ongoing. Yet it might not be too long before the Bounty mutineers, in one of history’s most unlikely connections, have helped cure myopia!
[Eye image via Shutterstock]