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Color blindness is the inability to see certain colors or shades of colors. It can also cause other vision problems and light sensitivity. Because there are several different types of the disease, it can effect people who have it in different ways. More severe types of it can have a greater impact on a person’s quality of life.
The cause of color blindness has been known for many years to be related to genetics in some way. The reason for this determination was due to the much larger base of males with the disease in comparison to females. Scientists could tell by this information that the X chromosome was being effected the most. Genetic research has come a long way now though, which has made it easier for scientists to finally have the tools they need to analyze specific genomes in our body and how mutations to them can cause adverse side effects leading to disease. This research lead to the identification of the true cause of color blindness, and it lies in a gene called ATF6.
For years, scientists believed that there was no cure for color blindness because though they knew it was related to genetics in some way, it was thought that there was no way to change health problems related to damaged genomes. But, based on this new discovery, they think they might be able to repair the cone pathways that are not functioning properly because of the mutated ATF6 gene. This gene is effectively closing off color cone pathways in the eye. People have both rods and cones in their eyes. The rods are responsible for night vision. Poor night vision is due to damage to rod pathways. Cones are light sensitive cells like rods, but they are responsible for seeing color. If pathways to certain cones are closed off or damaged in anyway, that kind of color cannot be seen.
Testing is being done for a color blindness treatment that can repair cone pathways in color blind people by inserting genetic material directly in to the eye. It has been successful in some cases, but more research is still needed before it becomes a standard procedure in those interested in correcting their color blindness. Previously, the only way to help people with the disease was with a special pair of glasses, which were not always very useful or functional. Some patients who have tried the special glasses have said that they make differentiating colors even more confusing.