Washington: A new research has discovered a gene that plays a key role in maintaining clarity of cornea and vision in humans and mice, potentially opening the way to treat blindness.

"We believe we've discovered the master regulator gene that prevents the formation of blood vessels in the eye and protects the clarity of the cornea," said Tsutomu Kume, associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The existence of the gene, FoxC1, was previously known, but its role in maintaining a clear cornea is a new finding, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported.

Working with a special breed of mice missing this gene, Kume and colleagues found abnormal vascular formations, or blood vessels, streaking their corneas and blocking light, a university statement.

When Kume discovered the corneal blood vessels in the mutant mice, he called a collaborator at the University of Alberta in Canada, Ordan Lehmann, a professor of ophthalmology and medical genetics.

Lehmann found that his patients who have a single copy of this mutated FoxC1 gene -- and who have congenital glaucoma -- also have abnormal blood vessel growth in their eyes.

"The exciting thing is by showing the loss of FoxC1 causes vascularization of the cornea, it means increasing levels of the gene might help prevent the abnormal growth of blood vessels, potentially in multiple eye disorders that cause blindness," said Lehmann, co-author of the study.

"That's the hope, one possible use might be in corneal transplants, where the growth of new blood vessels onto the transplanted cornea is a major problem," he said.