|Alma mater||University of California, Santa Barbara|
|Institutions||University of Washington
Medical College of Wisconsin
Cone cells and the numbers of colors an organism can see
According to Jay Neitz, each of the three standard color-detecting cone cells in the retina – blue, green and red—can pick up about 100 different gradations of color. But, he says, the brain can combine those variations exponentially, multiplying each new variety of cone by 100, so that the average human trichromat can distinguish about one million different hues.
This means that a monochromat can see 100 different colors, a dichromat can see 10,000 different colors, a trichromat can see 1,000,000 different colors, a tetrachromat can see 100,000,000 different colors, and a pentachromat can see 10,000,000,000 different colors.
Curing color blindness in monkeys by gene therapy
Neitz and his wife, Maureen Neitz, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington began training in 1999 two dichromatic squirrel monkeys. After five months of gene therapy treatment, the monkeys began to acquire trichromatic color vision. They say this almost seemed to suddenly occur overnight. After that, they spent a year and a half to test the monkeys' ability to discern 16 hues.
Potential for curing color blindness in humans
According to Gerald H. Jacobs, Ph.D., a research professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research, this means that color blindness can be cured. "This is also another example of how utterly plastic the visual system is to change," Jacobs said. "The nervous system can extract information from alterations to photopigments and make use of it almost instantaneously."
Possibility of turning human trichromats into tetrachromats
According to Jay Neitz, “If the neural circuits for color vision are sufficiently plastic, it may be possible to use gene therapy to replace missing photopigments in the eyes of color blind humans." Neitz further states that since apparently "the neural circuits can handle even higher dimensions of color vision that could come from artificially adding a fourth cone type, it is possible that gene therapy could also be used to extend normal human color vision", making human trichromats into tetrachromats.
Evolutionary appearance of vision
- Mark Roth (September 13, 2006). "Some women who are tetrachromats may see 100,000,000 colors, thanks to their genes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- "Color Vision:Almost Reason for Having Eyes" by Jay Neitz, Joseph Carroll, and Maureen Neitz Optics & Photonics News January 2001 1047-6938/01/01/0026/8- Optical Society of America
- Scientists Cure Color Blindness in Monkeys—Science News Daily September 16, 2009:
- Gene Therapy Cures Color Blind Monkeys Wired.com September 16, 2009:
- Neitz Lab Website
- Reweaving the Rainbow Lecture at the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology, October 10, 2013