While we’ve been off creating synthetic retinas and talking cameras for the blind, this woman’s vision is far from lacking. The UK native has an extra cone cell, which means she can see far more colors than a typical person can.
According to estimates… she can see an incredible 99 million more colors than the rest of us, and the scientists think she’s just one of a number of people with super-vision, which they call “tetrachromats”, living amongst us.
Most people are trichromats, able to distinguish around 1 million colors. Mammals and sufferers of color blindness are dichromats with only two cone cells. The apparent reason researchers have only discovered a single true tetrachromat is because people with this special vision would never need to use their fourth cone cell.
“Most of the things that we see as colored are manufactured by people who are trying to make colors that work for trichromats. It could be that our whole world is tuned to the world of the trichromat.”
In short, our world of colors is just too primitive for tetrachromats. We may ever know what things look like through the eyes of one, but it will allow for better seeing aids.
Treatments for the seeing-impaired are not always easy to come by. That’s why we make do with technology like talking cameras that allow the blind to “see.” However, a new study shows that mimicking fish eyes could potentially cure blindness.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle reported that they have hacked the cells of a mouse retina to act like those of a fish—not only growing new neurons, but also wiring those neurons up to other neurons that send signals to the brain.
While surgery can treat cataracts, retina damage is incurable — but not for zebrafish. Their eyes regenerate indefinitely, assisted by a cell called Müller glia. The cell acts as a “stand in” for lost neurons. Humans also carry the cell but due to differences in DNA, cannot access this reprogrammable characteristic.
[UW Researchers found] Trichostatin-A (TSA), a hormonal treatment for breast cancer, that also happens to open up the regeneration DNA sequence. In an injured retina, these Müller glia cells treated with TSA transformed into two types of neurons, bipolar and amacrine cells, that are part of the retina’s internal wiring.
Scientists have yet to produce photoreceptor neurons, but with the way things are going, creating them is very possible.