Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Give Mice Infrared Sight: Human Super-Vision Could Be Next

Thursday, 28 February 2019 - 1:54PM
Nanotechnology
Medical Tech
Thursday, 28 February 2019 - 1:54PM
Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Give Mice Infrared Sight: Human Super-Vision Could Be Next
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Composite from Pixabay
In the 2000 science fiction film Pitch Black, an escaped prisoner who's received prison surgery that enables him to see in the dark uses his superhuman enhancement to fight off species of alien predators on what was supposed to be a deserted planet. That technology – minus the jailhouse crudity – may soon be an option for humans wishing to transcend the limits nature has placed upon our species. A team of scientists and researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China and the University of Massachusetts Medical School successfully used injections of nanoparticles to enhance the vision of mice, allowing them to see both infrared (IR) and visible light. Their findings were published in the journal Cell

Many mammals – including humans and mice – can only see the range of light wavelengths known as visible light. There are, however, other wavelengths that we cannot detect except with special equipment: night vision goggles are an example of IR detecting technology. In a Phys.org article, University of Massachusetts Medical School researcher Gang Han explained the basic science of vision. "When light enters the eye and hits the retina, the rods and cones-or photoreceptor cells-absorb the photons with visible light wavelengths and send corresponding electric signals to the brain," Han explained. "Because infrared wavelengths are too long to be absorbed by photoreceptors, we are not able to perceive them."

The injections consisted of nanoparticles that connected to photoreceptor cells and served as IR light transducers. The particles were designed to absorb the longer IR wavelengths and emit the shorter visible wavelengths, which are in turn absorbed by photoreceptor cells that signal the brain. 

"In our experiment, nanoparticles absorbed infrared light around 980 nm in wavelength and converted it into light peaked at 535 nm,"University of Science and Technology of China scientist Jin Bao told Phys.org, "which made the infrared light appear as the color green." In other words, yes, scientists have developed technology that can give animals night vision. The researchers were optimistic about the possibilities that this holds for human subjects.

Opening quote
..."these nanoparticles not only provide the potential for close integration within the human body to extend the visual spectrum, but also open new opportunities to explore a wide variety of animal vision-related behaviors. Furthermore, they exhibit considerable potential with respect to the development of bio-integrated nanodevices in civilian encryption, security, military operations, and human-machine interfaces, which require NIR light image detection that goes beyond the normal functions of mammals, including human beings.
Closing quote


The effects of the injections lasted approximately ten weeks, with the animals experiencing only a few minor side effects – blurred vision among them – that subsided. 

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