The scientists injected nanoparticles into mice's eyes, giving them an infrared vision for up to 10 weeks, as the nanoparticles can absorb infrared light and convert it into green colored visible light. "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.
Researchers from the University of Science and Technology, China, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass) in the United States, injected the rodents' eyes with a solution filled with nanoparticles. Once those particles were in a mouse's eye, the proteins guided them to photoreceptor cells in the retina, essentially glueing the particles to those cells.
Scientists from the USA and China have given mice the ability to see near-infrared light, a wavelength not normally visible to the rodents (or human beings, for that matter), by injecting nanoparticles into their eyes.
Could this experiment, which surprisingly had nearly zero side effects (the cloudy corneas that were observed in some mice quickly cleared) actually give humans Predator vision?
"These nanoantennae will allow scientists to explore a number of intriguing questions, from how the brain interprets visual signals to helping treat color blindness", said Gang Han, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at UMass Medical School.
The findings appeared in the journal Cell.
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Neuroscientist Dr Jin Bao, a member of Prof Xue's lab, said: "In our experiment, nanoparticles absorbed infrared light around 980 nm (nanometres) in wavelength and converted it into light peaked at 535 nm, which made the infrared light appear as the colour green". Our eyes aren't equipped to see longer wavelengths of light given off at night, which includes near-infrared (NIR) and infrared (IR) light - both of which are all around us, like the heat people give off or objects that reflect infrared light.
Illustration of the infrared-to-visible-light conversion process. The closest rod or cone then absorbed that wavelength and zapped it to the brain.
Mice that received the injections showed unconscious physical signs that they were detecting infrared light, such as their pupils constricting.
In rare cases, side effects from the injections such as cloudy corneas occurred but disappeared within less than a week. 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. Tests found no damage to the retina's structure, suggesting that the procedure is safe.
Would it work in humans?