Genetic Screenings for Color Blindness

The Clinical Testing Laboratories at New Mexico State University will cooperate with the Genevolve Vision Diagnostics Inc. to start genetic screenings for color vision deficiency and to work towards a possible gene therapy to cure color blindness.

Jay Neitz from the Neitz Color Vision Lab could just recently cure some colorblind monkeys and also developed a genetic color vision test. Building upon this basis in this new partnership they want to develop a new standard for color blindness tests and possibly have a breakthrough in curing color deficient patients.

Matt Lemelin, the founder and CEO of Genevolve:

“Our goal is to establish a new world standard for color vision testing and to increase public safety while providing a diagnosis that doctors may discuss with their patients. With this process, we can now diagnose the type of colorblindness and the extent of deficiency with amazing accuracy and precision.”

Lemelin also lists some of the reasons, why such a genetic color blindness test is a need today:

  • Age: Todays color blindness tests often require a minimal age of at least 5 years. This could potentially affect a child’s development.
  • Memorizing: Persons can memorize a test and alter the result. This could be very dangerous for some specific jobs.

I personally believe that a genetic test is only needed because people themselves want to have something fool-prove. A test which tells them the truth about their color vision, which is not influenced by some doctors judgment. Of course a fool-prove test also makes the testers feel more safe. But I don’t really think that the above two statements are true:

  • Children don’t have to be tested much earlier. They can’t grasp the concept of color yet and don’t need special assistance in daily life until they recognize it themselves.
  • Arrangement tests, anomaloscopes and lanterns can’t really be memorized. And even a plates test only needs a shuffle to unmask any potential cheater.

Anyway, the colorblind community is definitely looking forward to get an accurate color vision test which can be used as a standard for many job specific vision tests and as a matter of course a gene therapy to cure color blindness. We will wait patiently for further news…

You can read the whole article from the NMSU here: DNA lab at NMSU partners with company to fight colorblindness. And don’t miss the latest breakthrough in color blindness gene therapy of monkeys.

Can the Sun Change Color Perception More Than a Mild Color Vision Deficiency?

Brett wants to become a pilot. But he is suffering from a mild form of color vision deficiency which disqualified him.

He is now looking for any possibility which could show, that in some cases weak colorblind people are not less suitable than people with normal color vision as there are many factors which can have quite an impact on your performance and which you always have to be aware of.

Read his request, you might be able to help him:

I have been diagnosed with mild deuteranomaly and have been disqualified from USAF pilot training. I am currently working to get an exception to policy that would allow me to still go to pilot training, and I know how difficult this will be. But I need help with research for my exception to policy package. Today I came up with a simple but interesting idea and tried researching but was unable to find the information I need.

The idea is that since I have mild deuteranomaly, my M (green) cones are shifted a few nanometers towards the L (red) cones. I also know that many other factors can affect the color perception of people with normal color vision, such as the position of the sun in the sky, weather, hazy, cloudy, etc… So what I’m looking for is a measure of how much the position of the sun would affect the color of an object. I’d bet the bank on the sun shifting light wavelength more than my condition.

I’ve looked into color temperature a bit and found at dusk or dawn sunlight has a color temp of approx. 3200 K and at noon its around 6500 K. My problem is I’ve been unable to relate this change of 3200 K to 6500 K to a change in wavelength (nanometers).

Any information on how much the sun would affect color perception, or how many nanometers a person with mild deuteranomaly would be shifted would be greatly appreciated.

I can be contacted at: bmather9@gmail.com

After reading his thoughts you maybe realized that your situation is quite similar. Hereafter you can read his whole story which might help us all to find a better solution to the problem, that many colorblind people are rejected from a job just because of some color vision tests, which are most of the time to unspecific and much to restrictive.

So I’ll start my story about 3 years ago when I began applying to become an Air Force Pilot through OTS. I was in my senior year at Virginia Tech working on my degree in Aerospace Engineering. After turning in my application to OTS I had to wait a while for the boards to make their decision, so I asked to have my flight physical done so that I would know if I was medically qualified before I even entered the Air Force. With the exception of distant visual acuity everything went well and I was given a waiver for my vision (20/200 uncorrected). I passed the PIP1 color vision test with 13/14 each eye. Unfortunately I ended up not being accepted to OTS and was quite disappointed.

Searching for what’s next, I found the possibility of a 2-year AFROTC program I could do while working on my Masters degree. I looked at school and was accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aerospace Engineering Master’s program and the AFROTC program their. During my first year their I was selected for a Pilot slot before even going to field training.

I went on to complete my work at Embry-Riddle and commission 3-MAY-09. I had to sit around all summer waiting to EAD but finally did on 3-SEP-09 and began to long drive to Laughlin AFB to wait for ASBC at the end of October, IFS, and someday UPT. I’ve been at Laughlin for just over a month now and received orders to go to Brooks AFB last Wednesday for MFS (Medical Flight Screening). At MFS they did a a few tests, but the only thing I was a bit worried about was my distant vision waiver. All of my tests went fine except for color vision. I scored 10/14 for the PIP1 for each eye failed a few other tests. They kept me for additional color vision tests and determined that I have hereditary red-green (deuteranomalous) green-weak, color deficiency. This is completely disqualifying for Pilot, Navigator, ABM (not sure about this one), Combat Control, Combat Rescue, Special Tactics Officer, OSI, Test Pilot School as an Engineer, and 99% of Astronaut positions.

This has been quite devastating since all of those jobs I listed have been my dreams and backup plans in case my dreams didn’t work out. Having them all stripped away in one day has motivated me to fight this to the end. I’ve been researching quite a bit to come up with anything I can do. I don’t really know who to contact but I’m planning to start with my commander. I plan to tell my whole story and explain why I believe I am fit for at least one of those jobs.

I’ve gone my entire life (24 years) without knowing I had any form of color deficiency and have accomplished a lot; I just don’t see how it can be so bad that I would be at a disadvantage now. I’ve read about potential advantages that red-green colorblind people have such as better night vision (which I found one paper going against this), being able to see “faster” (I haven’t found any scientific evidence), and most notably being able to see through and detect camouflaged objects more easily (still don’t have a solid source, just mentioned in other sources).

From what I can tell the only way I might be able to get around this is to get my commander or someone above him to write an “exception to policy” that would basically say that they are willing to take a risk on me since I might be able to make up for a deficiency with other aptitudes. Other than that, political figures may be able to use their pull somewhat to get me around this (but I know none personally).

If anyone has any information that may be useful to my cause please contact me at bmather9@gmail.com. Otherwise I’ll be busy looking for other careers (which don’t require perfect color vision) that will be as exciting, dangerous, noble, and challenging (both mentally and physically) as that of an Air Force Pilot.

Color Update on D-15 Color Blindness Test

The D-15 Color Arrangement Test is running online on Colblindor for quite a while now. But unfortunately the colors weren’t perfectly accurate.

old and new example colors

Yves contacted and told me about this error. What happened? I forgot to perform the chromatic adaptation from D50 to D65 for the sRGB color space. This means I actually assume the XYZ values were taken under a white-blueish D65 light while in reality they were measured under D50 which is white-yellowish. This means I have overestimated the red and underestimated the blue.

Today I updated the test with the new values. The used colors should now be correct and ready to try out: Online D-15 Color Arrangement Test.

I you’ve taken the test previously the result won’t change that much as the colors are just slightly shifted in the color space. My results were still very unpromising: Strongly color blind!

Richard’s Life as a Color-Blind

Richard was so friendly to write his answers in detail on The Color Blindness Project Questionnaire. Thanks! I thought putting this together into an article by itself makes it more public to other interested readers. So the here are his answers:

When did you first discover you were colourblind?
My parents suspected when I was about 4. I could arrange the vivid primary coloured blocks of my toys, but anything less than vivid, crayons, clothes food, I was misidentifying what colour they were.

A trip to The Natural History Museum in London with an exhibit on the eye, and on colour vision, confirmed this when I did all the classic misreading of the Ishihara test. By the time the formal colour test rolled around at school, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

How did you discover you were colourblind?
Well aside from being told the story above, it was for me, being simply unable to colour things in correctly or recognise colours.

  • For years, my anti-smoking posters at school had cigarette butts in brightest green.
  • My Union Jack was easy to identify: It was purple and orange.
  • All my drawings throughout my youth were in my own special palette.

And it continues. There was a lot of hoo-ha in the news recently about our beloved British brand Cadbury being taken over by US Multinational Kraft, “the famous purple wrapper” the newsman announced. — Purple? I’m 29. I had no idea. I thought it was blue.

What are the issues/problems you have faced being colourblind?
Well disability, let’s just define that, depends on how society is organised. What I have is an altered sensitivity to the spectrum, this only matters when things are categorised by colour, then I am adrift in a canoe without a paddle.

An example, only a trivial one, I was attending a job interview and the waiting area was a calendar which denoted all the religious festivals of about 10 different faiths. The key was colour code and the days and months were festooned with little coloured dots, which were meant to be wonderfully informative about which religious festivals fell on which days. I couldn’t tell them apart. Moreover if someone had been there and said what about that one, what colour is that? I’d have been guessing. I’ve gotten pretty good at that: guessing. And false positives are self correcting.

I see what I think are the colours but I have very little ability to tell them apart. I’m a diagnosed protanope so very strong red blind, and this cuts a swathe through my sensitivity to reds, greens, browns, yellow, oranges, and the pseudoisochromatic colours with which I can (and do) confuse them.

Thus, red can appear black or dark grey, but not always. Blood for instance to me looks brown, very dark. I do see a red – coca cola cans for example, but I’d bet what I think of as red probably isn’t and is very much dependent on the context. Take my coca-cola red and put it on a snooker table and I bet I’d confuse that red with something else. That’s why grass is green. Of course grass is green. But green in other contexts is where hue, and brightness combine to confound me.

  • Blue and purple, covered that one.
  • Orange and certain browns.
  • Yellow and green.
  • Grey, certain greens and pink are completely interchangeable.

Everyone all thinks traffic lights are hard, they aren’t – not really. You learn them by sequence. What they aren’t is the right colours. The two red and amber, to me look like slightly different species of yellow. And the green at the bottom, is white – it looks like an ordinary light bulb.

Of slightly more difficulty are brake-lights. Recognising those from tail lights is hard. I’ve hit the brakes hard, once to often now to believe that I’m not just a bad driver.

How did you overcome the shortcomings?
I have very sympathetic parents. My brother is the same, so they coped with both of us down the years.

Teachers, I think don’t get it. And I don’t blame them. Colours are a second alphabet. People assume you know what they are talking about. Even when you tell them, if they remember at all, it’s rare that they alter their behaviour.

And what do you tell them?

I’m colour blind?

What you can’t see colours?

Well..no..or …yes..but..I..can’t tell them apart.

What colours’ this [ ]* then?

*[ ] insert nearest object here.

and that’s how it usually goes.

Colour vision deficiency takes longer to say, as does the explanation, and I prefer it but I don’t think it helps people understand. I’d prefer they had a solid grounding in colour-theory instead.

It’s taken some time for me to get my head round it, but I am not sensitive (cannot see) certain hues. The hues I can see are modulated by brightness. A sufficiently bright green is as yellow to me. Purple’s an interesting one, because what is reflected is blue and red light, I can detect the blue, I am insensitive to the red, all purples are species of lighter or darker blues.

My solutions are if it’s important that it’s coloured I label it. It is simply no good relying on me to see a colour and recognise it. I need that second level of information like a name written down. Second, I ask people. I’m pretty up front about saying I’m colour blind – I can’t see that. What colour is it? That usually works, with the above caveat that no-one has any idea what I’m actually talking about.

In my own life it was pointed out to me, that I shop for clothes by texture, I’ll go around scrunch up shirt sleeves and jumpers to see how they feel, what they look like is secondary. My wardrobe also reflects a certain bias. Lots of blues (which I can see) Lots of dark colours, greys, a few greens (definitely green not pink) and black.

What else can be included/excluded in the guide book for parents other than the ones described above to make it more comprehensive?
Oooh. I wouldn’t want to frighten them. An introduction to Ishihara—as that is what they will likely encounter and have to sit with their child through, what it means and how it diagnoses.

I think I would personally want an easy to understand overview of what colour is (wavelengths of light), the idea of a colour gamut, a colour space, (RGB etc). And then how colourblindness changes that. How the Ishihara dots are painted in the pseudoisochromatic colours that exist in those spaces for people like me who lack sensitivity to one of the spectral colours of light.

What it means: not that my world is uncoloured. I swear to you it isn’t. I just have no idea what those colours are called. It’s rather like having a virtuoso chef who can create all the world’s dishes out of only three ingredients. A little of this, a little of that, a pinch of the other and *foompf* Egg salad nicoise. And then taking away one his ingredients. Yes he can still make all those different foods in all the variety, but without that extra thing, everything he makes is just the little bit more bland and samey. You can’t really tell them apart anymore. That would be flavour blindness. I’m colourblind in the same way.

Thank you very much Richard for this great insights.

PS: Richard updated his answers and polished them even more. You can find his latest answers on the color blindness survey at Further Adventures in the Land of the Colourblind

The Color Blindness Project Questionnaire

Joanna is doing a project on color blindness. She wants to create a guidebook for parents to help them in the diagnosis of their child’s color vision. To fulfill her project she created an online survey to research and discuss the topic of color vision deficiency.

The proposed content of her guidebook sounds very promising. It will probably include the following topics:

  1. When to identify – age group
  2. How to identify – developing tests for kids
  3. What to do – step by step for parents (doctor visit, school – what to tell/give the teacher)
  4. How to equip house/classroom (safety first)
  5. How to educate friends/family/community
  6. How to teach their child to navigate neighbourhoods/MRT/shops/traffic lights etc…
  7. Identifying danger hotspots

As I am strongly color blind, I would like to present you in the following my answers to the survey:

When did you first discover you were colorblind?
At the age of about six in my first year at school.

How did you discover you were colorblind?
We had to paint a picture with color crayons. I painted the sky very solid—in pink. I thought it was blue until somebody told me that I was wrong. Only then, after a closer look at the color, I also realized that I’ve chosen the wrong color.

What are the issues/problems you have faced being colorblind? (as a child, navigating, identifying, naming, differentiating colors etc…)
As a child I new the colors of my crayons by heart. So far no problem. But if we had to paint I didn’t really like it so much because knowing the right colors or even mixing them was and still is a big issue.

Later at school I specially remember my chemistry lessons. We had to use some color coding to find certain elements, I never really could master this part.

While I was looking around for an apprenticeship I was interested to become an electrician. But I had to many problems with the color coding of the resistors, so I withdrew that thought.

These days I struggle with fitting clothes colors, any form of LED colors, seeing if something is occupied (red) or not (green), seeing nice flowers, seeing fruits and know if they are ripe or not and of course with naming any sort of color. I just guess colors or know them by heart, but I never really see colors, or I’m to unsure to know if it is right or not.

How did you overcome the shortcomings? (ways/solutions you found helped you in the process? how? who helped you?)
I think my only real technique to overcome my color blindness is to ask. Ask friends, work mates, family members and sometimes even some sale assistants. They help me besides making some jokes from time to time.

Lately I found out about a little big helper called Seekey. A great little tool specially if it comes to identifying LED colors.

What else can be included/excluded in the guide book for parents other than the ones described above to make it more comprehensive?
I think the most important thing is that parents should relax. Let your child first a chance to develop its color vision. And after that if you really find out that your child is color blind, don’t panic. There are millions of color blind people around the world who master their life perfectly. Yes I know, your child might not be able to become a pilot, police officer or firefighter. But think about it, this is not the end and many others also don’t have that chance because of a lot of other handicaps.

If you are also colorblind please consider filling out the online survey at The Color Blindness Project Questionnaire and help Joanna on the way to produce her parents guidebook about color vision deficiency.

ColorAdd: A Color Coding System

The designer Miguel Neiva developed a color coding system called ColorAdd which shall help colorblind people around the world. Simple and easy with many applications. Let’s have a closer look at it.

basic color codes

ColorAdd Basic Color Shapes

The system is based on three basic color shapes representing the primary colors blue, yellow, red and two forms for black and white. While mixing those basic graphics like you would mix colors themselves this results in a list of 21 basic colors including lighter (mixing in white) and darker (mixing in black) shades.

color palette color codes

21 Basic Color Codes of the ColorAdd System

This is it. Some more shapes for grey, silver and gold, but nothing else. That’s the whole ColorAdd system. At the first glance this is really simple and easy.

The designer claims that you don’t really have to memorize all those shapes as it works like mixing real colors. If you know the basic shapes you’re all set. In a way that’s true. But as I’m not that good on mixing colors—remember I am colorblind—I have to think about it twice if I’m right with my color mixture guess.

  • Simple: Yes. But somewhere you have to explain the system in my language as the symbols can’t easily be associated with the right colors.
  • Intuitively: No. Why don’t you use some sort of symbols which everybody associates with a certain color like fire, water and sun?
  • Nice design: Yes. Yes I like it. Simple shapes, they are nice to look at.
  • Robust usage: No. Hold some of them upside down and you will get the wrong color.

But the most important question to answer is: Can this color coding system be an added value for color blind people? This is what the designer claims and what it is actually all about. I don’t think so. Here are a few examples in my everyday life to support my point of view:

  1. The banana couldn’t change such a shape if it turns ripe. A big issue for me.
  2. Red/green led lights often already include some icon to show you something. So you can’t enhance them with another one and I’ll never know if it’s red or green.
  3. Ok, I would know if my shirt is blue or green. But I’m still not sure if it matches my purple tie or red trousers.
  4. And in most cases already now the manufacturers could add some sort of icon or pattern to help colorblind users in many situations. But they don’t do it and such a color code wouldn’t be easier to decipher than some simple icons.

Nice but unusable for me. I would be very glad if I get proven wrong in the future, if ColorAdd starts to get used and enhances my life in some way I can’t see yet.

Do Color Blind People Perceive a Colorful Life?

Sarah contacted me to learn more on how color-blind people perceive our colorful world. Everybody can generate images which simulate this visual handicap with my color blindness simulator Coblis. But this isn’t the whole story, as those pictures can’t tell you how colorblind people think about this colorful—or in this case colorless—world.

Sarah put together some really interesting questions concerning the perception of color and how I handle this as a quite strongly colorblind man. Here are my answers to her questionnaire:

Colorful Dancer

Colorful Dancer

Sarah: I’m interested in the perception of color to one’s self, mostly. How do you describe colors to yourself (when others are not around)? For instance, what does ‘colorful’ mean to you? Do you conjure up an image of rich blues, yellows, and whites, or do you include red and green (what you perceive to be red and green, anyway) in that definition?

Colblindor: I included this picture as an example for what colorful means to me. If it includes red or green, I can’t tell you. So I can not tell you which colors I explicitly include to name something colorful as I can’t name them. I would say a colorful thing needs at least three to four clearly distinguishable colors for me. This could also be a fire truck red and a grass green combined with some blue or yellow. On the other side I can tell you that there are certain pictures which are not colorful for my eyes but seem to be colorful if you are not colorblind yourself.

Sarah: In your own mind (just yourself, all alone), do you describe the world around you in shades of blue and yellow, or do you throw red and green into the mix? For example, if you saw a brightly lit Christmas tree, would you say to yourself that you see a lot of blue and yellow lights, or would you describe colors you think might be red, green, purple, etc.?

Colblindor: If you dig a little deeper into the topic of color blindness you can learn, that moderate to strong color-blind people have problems along the whole color spectrum (see Colorblind Colors of Confusion). I am strongly red-blind and therefore have also problems for example with blue/violet/purple or blue-green/gray/purple. — Personally I would say I don’t attach color names to my visual perception. I only name them when somebody else asks about it and this very often puts me into a position, where I just can’t name it or even describe it properly.

Sarah: Do you describe things to yourself as being red/green/etc. when the situation does not call for a need to tell the exact color? For example, grass is green and everyone is taught this at a young age, but when you’re just walking around by yourself, do you ever mistake grass for being yellow/another color (before remembering it’s green)?

Colblindor: As I described above I don’t really actively perceive colors attributing names to them, only if I learned the color of something (green grass). In this case I just know the color name but don’t clearly perceive it. Therefore I can’t really say that I sometimes mistake anything for having a wrong color. Sometimes I get confused if I know something always has a certain color (for example red) and I perceive it completely differently. In this case I ask myself if this is really the color it should be or if the source of the problem is somewhere else.

Colorful Rainbow

Colorful Rainbow

Sarah: I can use certain color filters that show me what some images might look like to someone with a color vision deficiency. To my color normal eyes, these filters for red-green deficiency make a rainbow look like a streak of yellow in the sky. Is that how you would describe it too? If not, how do you perceive it?

Colblindor: Rainbows look like rainbows. Rainbows are not to colorful for my eyes but anyway a beautiful phenomenon. In colors I would say blue-something-yellow-some other color streak. By the way, the picture wall on this image looks very colorful to me, even if I can’t tell you at all which colors I see.

Sarah wants to learn a lot more about color blindness. She says: “I’d love to talk to anyone with any form of color vision deficiency”. So if you feel like chatting just contact her directly at sarahvas84@gmail.com.

Rainbow photo by Cavin

The Color Blind who Feels Colors — Synaesthesia

I am colorblind and don’t have a very broad color spectrum. Because of that it is even harder for me to believe, that there are some people who not only can see colors with their eyes but in a way feel colors or see them with an extra inner eye. Every thing, even abstract terms, letters, numbers, just everything is associated to a color or several colors.

Colblindor Synaesthesia

As a word it would be a mixed pink-yellow-white color.

Ying, a women who is gifted with this very special ability, contacted me a few weeks ago and I could learn from here explanations a lot about grapheme (color synaesthesia): An individuals perception which is involuntary, consistent, and memorable associated with the experience of colors.

Basically I never really thought about this, but most things (real, abstract, imagined) has a color to me since I was a small child. The assignment of colors seems to have no reason or any rule at all, yet remain consistent. i.e. The days in a week: Monday is silver white, Tuesday is grayish blue, Wednesday is deep pink, Thursday is green, Friday is mustard yellow, Saturday is red, and Sunday is pale yellow. All the numbers have a color, too, as well as things like directions, months, abstract things like gravity (do you know gravity is steel gray to me?)…etc. I didn’t think it’s weird until my friends said it’s weird and they don’t think like that. I can speak three languages and the colors of things don’t always match in different languages. i.e. the word “wife” in English is a gray color, it’s equivalent word in Chinese is a dark red color. I can’t really explain them. Like I can’t explain why bananas are yellow, well because they are yellow as a fact.

I added a few more questions to this first introducing statement so I could learn more about synaesthesia. Here are a some more of those very interesting facts about it.

Colblindor: What about some specific words. Do they always have a specific color? Is angry really red, calm green and hot red, cold blue?
Ying: Ok about the colors of words: yes those words definitely have consistent colors to me. I have to mention that words have no colors until you understand them, and I didn’t start English until my late teens. My sense of colors might be off from authentic English speakers who learned them as little kids. :) Anyway, hot is orange to me, almost burnt (dark) orange, cold is steel gray, angry is a whitish blue, same color as “air”, calm is a watery dark blue. The thing is, many words don’t have a solid color, they frequently have 2 or 3 colors and have a swirly or mottled look. Only very simple things like simple digit numbers or the alphabet have a single color.

Colblindor: Do you in some way “see” this colors or more like “feel” them?
Ying: I’m a very visual person, so I would say I rather “see” them then “feel” them.

Coblindor: Do you think it is a gift, a handicap, or something you would prefer not to carry around with you?
Ying: It doesn’t affect my daily life much at all. I’ve only ever brought it up a few times with some very close friends and was surprised that they don’t have it. It might help me remember things and names better. I’m not sure if it has any other use.

Colblindor: Do you know other members in your family who are feeling the same?
Ying: I never talked to my parents or siblings about this so I don’t know if they have that or not.

Now there is no obvious relation between color vision deficiency and grapheme. What if you combine both of them? — You wouldn’t be really able to see all colors with your eyes but feel and automatically associate colors to everything. Could you “feel” more colors than you perceive?

Fact is that Yings both sons claim to have also an inner eye which relates colors to things; and one of her sons is colorblind.

If you want to learn more about synaesthesia read this excellent description from Cassidy Curtis at otherthings.com. There is also an interesting site from the University of Sussex about their ongoing synaesthesia research.

The Cure of Color-Blind Monkeys

If you believe it or not, but a team around Jay Neitz could cure monkeys suffering from red-green color blindness by injecting the missing red pigment genes into their eyes.—How does this work and could is also get true for you and me?

Cured Monkey Dalton completing his
Color Blindness Test

How can you cure color blindness?

First of all the team of researchers needed some test persons—in this case some adult male squirrel-monkeys which are colorblind from birth.

This monkeys are missing long wavelength cones and therefore their vision is comparable to protanopia, a specific form of red-green color blindness.

The chosen monkeys were trained on some form of color blindness test: Whenever they touch the screen where the colored area is shown, they get a drop of grape juice. Watch the video to see how the test works.

After some time two of the monkeys—Sam and Dalton—received an injection behind their eyes retinas. The injection inserted viruses carrying a gene that makes L-opsin, one of three proteins released when color-detecting cone cells are hit by different wavelengths of light.

And after the treatment nothing happened…

Only about five months later Sam and Dalton started to get better on their test. The video above shows Dalton on a perfect run, something he could never achieve before the treatment.

What has changed in the color perception of the monkeys?

Jay and Maureen Neitz explain it on their website as follows: Before the treatment the monkeys had only two perception patterns which could differentiate hues, S supported by M and M supported by S. The insertion of the third opsin gene gave rise to new color perception stimuli: M supported by L+S and L supported by M+S.

After a while the brain started to react on this new information. Gaining this new dimension of color vision becomes a simple matter of splitting the preexisting blue-yellow pathway into two systems, one for blue-yellow and a second for red-green color vision; which sounds almost to simple to be true.

When will we be able to cure color vision deficiency?

Nobody knows the answer on that question. But people like Jay Neitz think that this could get true in the near future. You shouldn’t be to optimistic yet as it still needs a lot of testing. First of all the proposed gene therapy also has to be save for humans, which will take quite a while to accomplish and to show to be true.

After that it is not sure what the internal perception of this new colors look like and if there are any psychological side effects—Sam and Dalton didn’t show any, but they can’t tell us what they feel like. The Neitz Lab team lists the following risks:

  • Gene therapy for red-green color blindness may not work in humans as well as it does in the monkeys.
  • Side effects of subretinal injections can include irritation or infection, in addition to the risks of permanent retinal detachment and blindness at the injection site.
  • There could be adverse psychological effects associated with suddenly being able to see new colors and learning how to categorize them.

And on the other side of course the benefit, that you my colorblind fellow could start to see the world much more colorful and experience a supposedly overwhelming colorized life.

Keep your eyes on the latest outcomes of this new gene therapy for color blindness. But please don’t be frustrated if this never comes true in the time you hope for it. If you master your colorblind life with ease you won’t get disappointed if it doesn’t get true but maybe positively surprised!

Thanks to Bob, Martin, and Mac for pointing me so quickly to this new exciting results!