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In A Breakthrough Study, Johns Hopkins University Researchers Discovered How An “Offshoot” Of Vitamin A Helps In Forming The Specific Cells That Make It Possible For Humans To See A Rainbow Of Colors

Gorodenkoff - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual people

Humans have the advantage of seeing a broad range of colors– a mix of red, blue, and green– that many other mammals simply cannot. Dogs, for instance, are actually only able to see blue and yellow.

But, through a breakthrough study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, we may finally understand why. They discovered how a derivative, or “offshoot,” of vitamin A helps in forming the specific cells responsible for our ability to see various colors.

The team credited their success to using human retinas cultivated in petri dishes, a key element in their research.

“These retinal organoids allowed us for the first time to study this very human-specific trait,” said Robert Johnston, one of the study’s authors.

“It’s a huge question about what makes us human, what makes us different.”

The study’s findings broaden our understanding of age-related vision deterioration, color blindness, and other diseases associated with photoreceptor cells. The research also revealed how genes guide the human retina in creating cells that detect specific colors. Previously, it was believed that thyroid hormones were responsible for this process.

After adjusting the cellular characteristics of the organoids, the research team found that retinoic acid plays a crucial role in deciding whether a “cone,” or a type of photoreceptor cell in the retina, will be specialized in detecting red or green light. The development of the red sensor is exclusive to humans with normal vision and some primates closely related to us.

Scientists assumed that the formation of red cones was a random process for decades. It was thought to be similar to a “coin toss,” where cells randomly chose to sense either green or red light.

Recent studies also hinted that this might be governed by the levels of thyroid hormone. But, this new research suggests that the creation of red cones follows a specific series of events, all directed by retinoic acid inside our eyes.

Gorodenkoff – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual people

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