Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gene Interacts with Retina--Giving Us a 6th Sense

"Many animals rely on the magnetic field for navigation, and researchers have often wondered if people, too, might be able to detect the field...[A]fter years of inconclusive experiments, interest in people’s possible magnetic sense has waned," reports the NYTimes. "That may change after an experiment being reported Tuesday by Steven M. Reppert, a neurobiologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and his colleagues Lauren E. Foley and Robert J. Gegear. They have been studying cryptochromes, light-sensitive proteins that help regulate the daily rhythm of the body’s cells, and how they help set the sun compass by which monarchs navigate...One of the monarch’s two cryptochrome genes is similar in its DNA sequence to the human cryptochrome gene. That prompted the idea of seeing whether the human gene, too, could restore magnetic sensing to fruit flies...In the journal Nature Communications, Dr. Reppert reports that this is indeed the case. ...The human cryptochrome gene is highly active in the eye, raising the possibility that the magnetic field might in some sense be seen, if the cryptochromes interact with the retina." Read more.

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