Nanoparticle Injection Gives Mice Night Vision To See In Infrared

Olive Hawkins
March 3, 2019

A multidisciplinary group of scientists led by Xue and Jin Bao at the University of Science and Technology of China as well as Gang Han at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, developed the nanotechnology to work with the eye's existing structures. Were you bummed that there wasn't some intra-mask device that could give you heat vision? The researchers state that the breakthrough might also be able to help people born with severe colour blindness. "Electromagnetic waves longer or shorter than visible light carry lots of information". Once anchored to the photoreceptor cell, they convert NIR into visible green light that can then be observed by the retinal cell.

The mice were put through a battery of tests which found that they could recognize infrared patterns while exposed to daylight and also perceived infrared light and visible light in a similar manner.

Scientists transformed ordinary rodents into "super mice" by giving them the ability to see infrared light - a technique they say could one day be used on humans.

"The visible light that can be perceived by humans' natural vision occupies just a very small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum", according to senior study author Tian Xue, of the University of Science and Technology of China. A series of tests were created to verify the full capability of identifying NIR light by the tested-upon mice, through the presence of an exceptionally low power NIR LED lamp light to activate the nanoparticles.

When infrared light hit a mouse's retina, nanoparticles introduced to the eye latched onto those photoreceptor cells and acted as micro-transducers.

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Mice that received the injections showed unconscious physical signs that they were detecting infrared light, such as their pupils constricting.

Long lasting: The tests, published in Cell, found that the infrared effect lasted in the mice for 10 weeks, causing no long-term damage (though some had cloudy corneas for up to two weeks).

"With this research, we've broadly expanded the applications of our nanoparticle technology both in the lab and translationally", said Han. 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.

The researchers also think more work can be done to fine tune the emission spectrum of the nanoparticles to suit human eyes, which utilise more cones than rods for their central vision compared to mouse eyes.

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