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Human eye protein senses Earth’s magnetism

June 26, 2011
"I would be very surprised if we don't have this sense... the issue is to figure out how we use it”
- Steven Reppert University of Massachusetts Medical School

A light-sensitive protein in the human eye has been shown to act as a 'compass' in a magnetic field, when it is present in flies' eyes.

The study in Nature Communications showed that without their natural "magnetoreception" protein, the flies did not respond to a magnetic field - but replacing the protein with the human version restored the ability.

Despite much controversy, no conclusive evidence exists that humans can sense the Earth's magnetic field, and the find may revive interest in the idea.

Although humans, like migratory birds, are known to have cryptochrome in their eyes, the idea of human magnetoreception has remained largely unexplored since pioneering experiments by Robin Baker of the University of Manchester in the 1980s.

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