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The chicken's superior ability to see color may aid scientists

Researchers have mapped five types of light receptors in a chicken's eye. What researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered is that the receptors were laid out in interwoven mosaics which afforded the chicken the ability to see several colors in any given part of the retina. Details of the study are in the February 1, 2010 journal of PLoS ONE. Scientists are hoping that this knowledge will allow them to use stem cells and other new therapies to treat the various genetic disorders that can cause various forms of blindness. The difference between the avian and human retina is that humans have cones which are sensitive to red, blue and green wavelengths while birds have cones sensitive to red, blue, green and violet wavelengths. They can even detect some ultraviolet wavelengths. In addition, our avian friends have a double cone which is believed to help them detect motion. Since many of the conditions that cause blindness in humans involve cones and rods, it is hoped that studying the organization of the chicken's retina will help scientists understand and fix related problems in the human eye. Elise Ervin Staff Writer

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