September 17, 2009
Gene Therapy Fixes Color Blindness In Squirrel Monkeys

All male squirrel monkeys are naturally red-green color blind. Gene therapy has successfully restored vision of 2 male squirrel monkeys.

Researchers have used gene therapy to restore colour vision in two adult monkeys that have been unable to distinguish between red and green hues since birth raising the hope of curing colour blindness and other visual disorders in humans.

The problem with gene therapy is cancer risk. Whenever scientists figure out how to delivery gene therapy safely lots of diseases will become treatable. But when will that happen? Seems like a real hard problem. The Nature article above reports on 3 gene therapy phase 1 trials for underway in humans for retinal regeneration. I'd be curious to know what the scientists involved in these trials see as risks.

The fact that pigment expression was enough to fix the problem opens up the prospect that the same would work for humans.

Most striking, says Ali, is the discovery that the brains and retinas of the adult monkeys weren't too "hard-wired" or fixed to respond to the treatment. "What's so exciting about this study is that is demonstrates there's more plasticity in the brain and cone cells than we thought," says Ali. "It forces us to reconsider our assumptions, and opens up more possibilities than we thought for treating blindness."

What I want to know: If gene therapy was used to add a 4th and 5th pigment could humans gain the ability to see a wider range of colors? Just what would the additional colors look like?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 September 17 07:34 AM  Biotech Gene Therapy

Allan said at September 17, 2009 9:24 AM:

I want to know if gene therapy can end baldness ...

Inverse Agonist said at September 17, 2009 9:33 PM:

It's likely that the person [would] be able to detect inputs from an expanded domain. Yet, as these new inputs would be mapped onto the existing networks, they would likely be experienced either as a low-level feeling or as an extension of an already existing experience. If interested, I would look into the experiences felt by people who have their sight augmented by remapping the output of a CCD to an electrode array placed on a person's tongue, which is densely innervated.

Here is the first article I came across in google, if interested. Description at the end:

Davezilla said at September 21, 2009 11:55 AM:

If "All male squirrel monkeys are naturally red-green color blind," then reporting, "restored vision," is somewhat misleading. It *gave* them more complete color vision. They didn't lose color vision. They never had it.

Randall Parker said at September 21, 2009 9:42 PM:


True. But they are more like humans in that their females can see more colors. So it is a restoration in the sense that the species naturally has this capability. Other pieces needed to support the capability are present. I realize restoration isn't best choice of words but couldn't come up with a short way to be precise.

mcd said at October 7, 2009 7:16 PM:

There are already accidental human tetrachromats (all female), but we might be more interested in expanding into the ultraviolet:

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