Scientists Create Proteins To Enable Human Eyes To See A Wider Color Spectrum

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Body modification to expand the realm of the senses, New Scientist reports:

Researchers have altered the structure of a protein normally found in the human eye so that it can absorb a type of red light that we cannot normally see. The new protein could, in theory, give us the ability to see reds that are currently beyond our visible spectrum.

Colour vision in nearly all animals depends on specialised chemicals called chromophores, which sit inside proteins and absorb different wavelengths of light. Specific protein structures are thought to determine the absorption spectrum of the chromophores within. Babak Borhan at Michigan State University and his colleagues engineered a series of mutations which altered the structure of human chromophore-containing proteins.

If these proteins were present in the eye you would be able to see red light that is invisible to you now, says co-author James Geiger, also at Michigan State University. But since objects reflect a mixture of light, the world would not necessarily always appear more red. “Something that looked white before would now look green with your new super red vision,” he says.

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