FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Researchers have succeeded in introducing a gene that produces a human photopigment into laboratory mice, creating transgenic rodents that have the widest known spectral range of vision of any mammal.
Electrophysiological test indicates the pigment functions normally in the mice and the gene is transferable from one generation to another, according to the researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Creation of the transgenic mice will give scientists a new vehicle for studying human vision problems, as well as a tool for investigating the evolution of sight and how the nervous system reacts to new sources of information, says Michael Crognale, a UW research assistant professor of psychology and Samir Deeb, a UW research professor of medical genetics.
Deeb will describe the characteristics of the new line of mice at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology here, May 14. The research also was published last week in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
Normal mice and humans both have visual spectral ranges that extend over about 300 nanometers. What the two species see, however, is different. The wild or laboratory mouse's vision stretches from the ultra-violet range, which humans can't see, up through medium wavelengths to yellow-green. Humans see in a spectrum that extends from violet to red.
Mice lack the photopigment or protein that allows them to see long-wave
or red light. To expand the spectral range of mouse vision, the researchers
introduced the gene that produces human L-photopigment (long wave) into mice
embryos. The result is the line of mice that can see over a range of about 360
nanometers, more than humans or old world primates (apes and pack monkeys),
which have the widest natural vision range of any mammal, says Crognale. Some
birds, insects and fish
Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington