With Genetic Gift, 2 Monkeys Are Viewing a More Colorful World

Seems scientist have found a cure to color blindness in monkeys! Dalton and Sam, two of the cutest male squirrel monkeys in captivity, have been cured of their inability to see all colors. The two little primates have a genetic disorder which until now has prevented them from seeing the world in full color. Male squirrel monkeys are born with only two opsin color pigments. Humans have three.

Jay and Maureen Neitz, scientist at the University of Washington, have cared for these two their entire lives. Dalton and Sam have been protected from the wild, sheltered and fed in safety and security. The husband and wife team work with the two primates in their laboratory.

The Neitz’s along with Katherine Mancuso and other members of the scientific team at UW, injected Dalton and Sam with the missing pigment through gene therapy. Several months afterwards, they discovered the two were able to see the world in hues not seen before, including the red pigment. Oranges, apples, grapes, were now seen in bold vibrant shades. Without the gene, Dalton and Sam saw the fruit as colors much like lemon, lime and potentially black or blue.

Obviously, Dalton and Sam were not able to communicate what they were seeing verbally so the team used color vision test to determine color delineation. Dalton and Sam were rewarded with fruit juice when selecting the correct colors.

Dr Jeremy Nathans, a molecular biologist at the John Hopkins Hospital known for successfully engineering a mouse with full color vision, has put his sign of approval on the work of the UW team. He stated, with their success, scientist will be capable of understanding how the brain distinguishes and analyzes color.

Female New World Monkeys have full color vision. Females are endowed with a different version of the X chromosome from parents. The genetic ability of the female to receive a version of the X chromosome from both the mother and father allows them to acquire both a red and green opsin gene. Males however, only obtain one version: either the red or green but never both. In the case of Dalton and Sam, only the green was inherited.