SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Don McPherson had developed glasses to help doctors see better during laser surgery. One day during an ultimate Frisbee game, McPherson’s friend put on those glasses and told McPherson he could see the orange cones for the very first time. Seven years later that idea became Enchroma, a company that helps the colorblind see color.
Barbra Lann cried the first time she put on her Enchroma glasses.
Lann told Ivanhoe, “It was amazing. From the minute I put them on, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just greens that I was not seeing, it was also things like blues, browns, reds.”
Chief scientist of Echroma, Don McPherson has spent thirteen years studying color vision. Designing a lens that improved color discrimination for the color blind was the first step. Understanding how the glasses helped peoples’ color vision took a lot longer. In normal color vision, blue, red, and green photo pigments are separate. With colorblindness, red and green overlap, causing colors to become muddled.
“Our filter comes in and moves it back to normal position,” explained McPherson. “Now you’re sending the correct information to the brain and those neuromechanisms, which have been dormant their entire life, are suddenly activated.” (Read Full Interview)
Using CEO Andy Schmeder’s mathematical modeling expertise and three NIH grants, Enchroma was born in 2010.
“In the world, there’s an estimated two to three million that have colorblindness,” detailed Schmeder. “Right now, we’ve been able to help tens of thousands of those. It’s such a tiny, tiny percentage.”
Schmeder and McPherson hope to bring color to many more people, especially children.
A contact lens version of the glasses is currently in the works. Enchroma glasses work for about 80 percent of people with red-green colorblindness. They cost between $269 and $429 and are most easily available at www.enchroma.com.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.
MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS – RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: Enchroma Glasses for Colorblindness
REPORT: MB #4184
Colorblindness is the inability to differentiate colors from each other. Mostly it is genetic, but sometimes other diseases such as diabetes can cause it. Aging and certain medications can also cause the condition. People with color blindness can see things clearly, but they are unable to fully see certain light, either red green or blue. In rare cases some cannot see any color at all. The most common form is known as red/green colorblindness. This does not mean they mix up green and red, they mix up all colors which have some red or green as part of the whole. For example they may confuse purple and blue because they can’t see the red element in the purple color. This can occur across the whole color spectrum, and the effects can be mild, moderate to severe.
There are currently no treatments for inherited color blindness. Filters or contacts can be used in certain situations to enhance brightness between colors. There is hope for a cure using gene technology; however, this involves injecting genetic material into the eyes. Currently the trials have only been conducted on monkeys, not on humans. For acquired color vision deficiency, once the cause has been detected it can be treated and a person’s vision returned to normal.
Enchroma glasses work like a camera. The eye has three primary colors it works off of which are blue, green and red. Someone who is color blind has two of these crossing over each other which confuses the brain in processing them. The glasses make up for this mixed signal, and break it apart in order for the brain to properly process the signal and reveal the difference in colors. Suddenly all this information that was dormant in the back of a person’s brain comes to life, and they can see all the different variations of color. The younger a person is the more effective these glasses will be. The earlier they are exposed to all the information, the greater the chance that the brain will adapt to the new process. (Source: Dr. Donald McPherson)
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