Research highlight

Can humans sense the Earth’s magnetism?

Nature Communications

June 22, 2011

A protein expressed in the human retina can sense magnetic fields when implanted into Drosophila reports a study published in Nature Communications this week. These findings demonstrate that the human protein cryptochrome 2 has the ability to function as a magnetosensor and may open future avenues of research into whether humans can sense the Earth’s magnetic field.

It has previously been shown that the Drosophila cryptochrome protein could function as a magnetosensor. Using a behavioural fly assay, Steven Reppert and colleagues now show that the human cryptochrome 2 protein can correct magentoreception in flies which lack their native cryptochrome protein. These findings may path the way for further investigation into whether visual function in humans is affected by magnetic fields.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1364

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