Researchers might finally have a fix for the color blind

Despite our many advancements in technology, there are still some biological matters that continue to confound and befuddle us. It might come as a surprise to many that color blindness, a condition that affects more than 10 million in the US alone, is one of those. But hopefully not anymore. Jay and Maureen Neitz, husband and wife researchers from the University of Washington, may finally have a way to fix this genetic mutation to help those affected by it to see in color again. And it won't even require surgery.

Color blind people have varying problems with identifying colors. Most are not able to distinguish red and green colors while some have problems with blue and yellow. An even rarer strain makes people completely unable to completely see any color, seeing the world only in shades of grey (no, not the book). This deficiency is attributed to a mutation in the X chromosome, which cause 1 in every 12 males to be color blind. Considering women have two X chromosomes, the rate is much lower with females, only 1 out of 230.

Some readily attribute color blindness to mismatched socks and comic scenarios, but it is a real problem that has the potential to ruin a person's life. Color blind people are usually prevented from taking jobs that require almost perfect color vision, like pilots, electricians, painters, and even chefs. While people who can see colors might think of it only as inconvenience, it is a real life changer for those who are affected.

Several trials have already been conducted on curing this ailment, most of them revolving around squirrel monkeys, who are naturally born with deuteranopia, which is just a sophisticated term for the red-green color blindness. However, these treatments require risky surgery, something color blind people will most likely avoid even if it means bring back color into their lives. The Neitz's solution, however, requires only an injection. An adeno-associated virus which houses a specific type of gene, is injected into the eye. Once inside, it targets the cells on the back of the retina, the cones that are responsible for our ability to see color. The necessary cells are then changed in order to let them absorb the right color, thereby fixing the color blindness of the subject.

As before, the procedure has been tested on squirrel monkeys with positive effects. Now, the researchers are arranging an exclusive licensing agreement between the University of Washington and Avalanche Biotechnologies to start the process that will lead to clinical trial for humans in one to two years. In the best case scenario, it will get the stamp of approval of the FDA and become a more legitimate way to treat color blindness. In that ideal future, one trip to the ophthalmologist might be all that it takes cure it.

SOURCE: Seattle Times