Published on February 27th, 2013 | by Color Blindness Editor0
Vision Research Links Color Blindness to Eye Cells, Not Brain
A condition that affects an estimated 13.5 million in the U.S. and 200 million worldwide, most of which are male, color blindness was long thought to be a genetic disorder that affected the vision centers of the brain. However, recent research conducted by the Vision Centre and the University of Sydney in Australia indicates that, contrary to past beliefs, the condition originates in the cone cells in the eye, and it is not a result of faulty wiring between the eye and the brain.
The results of animal studies using monkeys concluded that wiring in the brains of color blind monkeys was identical to that of monkeys with full color vision. Because the wiring between the brain and the eye appears to be identical, researchers have concluded that the cause of the disorder lies in the signals that are transmitted from the cells in the eye to the brain.
The new discovery has led researchers to believe they are significantly closer to determining how to restore full chromatic vision to color blind individuals. Gene therapy has already been used experimentally to restore color vision to color blind monkeys. So far, the experiments are reported to have promising results. However, there is still a significant amount of research that will need to be conducted before it is determined whether gene therapy can successfully correct the condition in humans.
The next phase in research will be a study to determine the number of cone cells in the human eye. This research will be conducted in conjunction with the Save Sight Institute. If gene therapy is proven to be successful in humans as a treatment for color blindness, it is believed that gene therapy may also be used to correct defects that occur during cell replication and result in a variety of other vision disorders.
For example, researchers also believe the findings will be helpful in understanding and treating age-related macular degeneration, which also affects the cone cells and is a leading diagnosis among people who are classified as legally blind. As a result of the findings, further research will focus on the cone cells and determining how many there are in the human eye. The discovery of an effective treatment for macular degeneration would be a significant breakthrough in ocular healthcare.