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Monkey See, In Full Color

Could a new experiment done on monkeys lead to fixing color blindness in humans?

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Photo: 2inches (flickr)

People who are color blind would have trouble seeing the two numbers above. Scientists are trying to find new solutions to color blindness.

Did you know that male squirrel monkeys can’t detect the colors red and green–they’re red‑green colorblind.

But scientists at the University of Washington used gene therapy to make squirrel monkeys produce proteins that allow them to see red and green.

Seeing In Full Color

Because most scientists assumed that it was impossible to create full color vision in an animal that had never had it.  The brain just isn’t wired for it.  Or so they thought.  But, evidently, that’s not the case.  Very soon after the monkeys got the gene they needed to start making the protein for red‑green vision, their brains worked to process those colors.

Fixing Color Blindness In People?

But this doesn’t mean that scientists can now fix color blindness in people.

This is because monkeys’ brains are different from human brains, for one thing.  And, it’s not certain what colors the monkeys are actually seeing.  So it’s impossible to tell how the same procedure would work in people, without actually trying it.

The Future

In any case, the experiment with the monkeys gives scientists some insight into how color vision works, and how its evolved.

The more we learn, the better chance we’ll have of addressing color blindness in people in the future.

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