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Scientists Cure Color Blindness In Monkeys

Scientists Cure Color Blindness In Monkeys

Ray of hope for the color blind…

New research in monkeys has shown that it may be possible for the color blind to be given the gift color vision. Scientists say they have used a form of gene therapy to eliminate red-green color blindness in monkeys, with no side effects.

Although there is no guarantee that it will work in humans, study co-author Jay Neitz is optimistic:

“The great challenge of finding a way to cure color blindness is solved…

“Now, the great problem is transforming this technology so it can be used on humans and be perfectly safe.”

Approximately one in 12 men and one in 230 women, worldwide have some form of inherited color blindness. Two percent of men have the most severe form of color blindness. This can causing difficulties distingushing between some colors because the receptors in their eyes lack the ability to perceive the full difference between them.

Severe case of color blindness can be dangerous, for example, people with red-green color blindness may see the two colors as gray, possibly causing confusion at traffic light intersections.

Neitz explained:

“Those people have a very different color experience than the rest of us…

“The biggest challenge is jobs. That’s where there’s a real headache. You can’t be a police officer, fireman, bus driver or pilot if you have red-green color blindness.”

Nor, he added, can they be ophthalmologist, medical students are occasionally disappointed to find that they can’t be eye doctors.

Currently, there is no treatment for color blindness, although people can wear special glasses or contact lenses to better distinguish between colors.

In the new technique involves injecting a ‘missing’ gene into the eyes of the red-green color blind monkeys. The gene then piggybacked on a virus that had been defanged so it no longer caused illness.

The researchers then measured the monkeys responses to colors. About 20 weeks after the treatment, the monkeys, which are still alive and doing well, were no longer color blind and could distinguish between red and green.

The findings appear in the Sept. 16 online edition of Nature.

scientist cure color blindness Scientists Cure Color Blindness In Monkeys

Researchers still need to make sure the procedure is safe for humans, Neitz explained, even if it’s 99 percent safe, that’s not enough because the eyes are involved, he noted.

“[But] We are confident that something is going to happen,”

Anand Swaroop, a senior investigator at the National Eye Institute, is color blind himself and uncertain about whether he’d undergo a treatment to fix the condition, especially considering that he’s done fine so far:

“Sometimes if you don’t know a color, you just don’t know a color. Big deal…

“Will I let someone inject something into my eye with some viruses when I can otherwise see normally and I have absolutely no other problem? I’m not sure,”

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