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.
Dr Baker used a long series of experiments on thousands of volunteers that suggested humans could indirectly sense magnetic fields, though he never definitively identified the mechanism. In subsequent years, several groups attempted to repeat those experiments, claiming opposing results.
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