One of the reasons I enjoy travelling by train is that it gives me an opportunity to read a newspaper from front to back (something I very much enjoy but rarely have time to do). Yesterday I was travelling to Bristol where I was delivering a lecture at the IMPACT6 Printmaking conference on colour management and took the train from Leeds to Bristol during which I was able to read The Times. I couldn’t fail to notice the story about a potential cure for colour blindness – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/medicine/article6837392.ece
Congenital red-green colour blindness occurs when either the L- or M-cone class is either missing (making the sufferer a dicromat) or shifted in terms of peak wavelength of sensitivity (resulting in anomalous trichromacy) – see http://colourware.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/colour-blindness-news/.
Scientists working at the universities of Seattle and Florida have restored normal colour vision to two colour-blind monkeys by injecting a virus with a modified gene (called L opsin) that is known to be responsible for red-green colour blindness. The success of this work is remarkable in that it suggests that the brain is able to rewire itself to take advantage of the new receptors. 24 weeks after the injection the monkeys were able to correctly distinguish patterns of grey, green and red dots that they had previously been unable to distinguish.
Jay Neitz, professor ophthalmology at the University of Washington, is now looking to start work that could lead to a similar treatment for humans.
The work has just been published in Nature – http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090916/full/news.2009.921.html