Two brothers in Rocklin are seeing a more vivid world after winning new glasses that have boosted their color vision.
Declan Rogers and his older brother Ryan have red-green colorblindness, a condition that impacts their ability to see those colors.
Declan, 10, submitted a video to a nationwide contest held by EnChroma, maker of the glasses, which increase the ability to see colors. He and his brother were among 75 entrants nationwide who won the EnChroma glasses. The company received roughly 200 applications.
“It was incredible,” said Ryan, 17, of the colors he saw when he first tried on the glasses last week. “Most reds and greens blend together in my normal vision, and everything has a washed-out, muted brown tinge to it, almost like looking at an older photograph.”
Once Declan tried on the glasses, “I noticed everything looked a bit different,” he said.
In his video, Declan features some of his drawings, which are devoid of colors. Stephanie Rogers, who recorded the video, said that her two daughters, who are not colorblind, add a lot of color to their art.
Red-green colorblindness is a condition that affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 230 women – 1 in 6 women is a carrier of the inherited condition.
“Both my boys are pretty much pencil and ink pen,” she said.
The world of the colorblind is not much different than the boys’ drawings. For red-green colorblind individuals, red flowers blend into the leaves on a green bush, the green light on traffic signals is washed of pigment, and color-coded maps are mostly useless.
Along the same line, the National Football League fumbled in November when red-green colorblind fans could not tell the Buffalo Bills from the New York Jets in a game in which the teams were playing in special uniforms for one game only.
The Bills were in red and the Jets in green. Red-green colorblind fans were in a state of confusion, not being able to tell the teams apart.
The NFL pledged to incorporate a colorblindness test when designing “Color Rush” alternate jerseys next season.
EnChroma co-founder Don McPherson was playing Frisbee with a friend while wearing special laser protective eyewear he had developed to help doctors perform surgeries. McPherson liked how the glasses enhanced colors.
His Frisbee partner, who was colorblind, asked to try them on. He marveled at all the colors, hues he had never seen before.
McPherson began exploring whether the glasses might help the colorblind see colors. With the support of a National Institutes of Health grant, EnChroma was born seven years later. The glasses cost from $250 to $450 per pair.
The company explained that normal color vision is based on light entering the eye and activating three photoreceptors. In the normal eye, the green and red photoreceptors overlap significantly.
For the colorblind, this overlap is even greater, and in the most severe forms of colorblindness it completely overlaps. For boys such as Declan and Ryan, the red and green photoreceptors’ extra overlap causes colors to become indistinguishable.
Simply put, according to the company, EnChroma’s glasses work by re-establishing the correct balance between signals from the three photo pigments in the eye.
The glasses don’t work for severe colorblindness, EnChroma said.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Eye Institute of the University of Washington have used gene therapy to cure colorblindness in squirrel monkeys. Male squirrel monkeys are red-green colorblind, but the females see color normally. Researchers used gene therapy to cure colorblindness in the males. Scientists are optimistic that the same techniques can be used to cure colorblindness in humans, but the gene therapy is not yet available for people.