Scientists give 'night vision' to mice with the help of nanoparticles injections

04 March, 2019, 21:28 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • An image showing nanoparticles binding to rods and cones

"Because infrared wavelengths are too long to be absorbed by photoreceptors, we are not able to perceive them", said Han.

Researchers believe that aside from allowing mice to see infrared light, more experiments can be tweaked in favor of humans seeing the same.

Besides the whole superhuman capability, the researchers say their work presents an opportunity to explore neural networks in the brain and potentially assist with vision fix.

To make sure the mice were actually seeing the converted infrared light, the scientists subjected the animals to a number of tests, including one in which they were given a choice of entering a totally dark box or one illuminated only with infrared light.

The team injected nanoparticles that stuck to the rodents' photoreceptors. These findings could lead to advancements in human infrared vision technologies, including potential applications in civilian encryption, security, and military operations.

It is known that the human eye can see only lights with wavelengths in the range of 400 and 700 nanometers among the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Mammals can see wavelengths in just a sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the new technique is created to widen that sliver.

Illustration of the infrared-to-visible-light conversion process. Infrared light has a longer wavelength and it surrounds us, yet we're unable to see it. Humans, animals and other objects can emit infrared light through their heat, while objects can also reflect it.

When infrared light reaches the retina, the nanoparticles capture and transform its long wavelengths into shorter ones.


Researchers found that those critters receiving injections showed unconscious physical signs of infrared light detection (like pupils constricting), while the control group didn't respond.

The Chinese scientists behind the work said that it could pave the way for soldiers to be given "super vision" and help to treat forms of colour-blindness.

In rare cases, side effects from the injections such as cloudy corneas occurred but disappeared within less than a week.

"In our study, we have shown that both rods and cones bind these nanoparticles and were activated by the near infrared light", says Tian Xue of the University of Science and Technology of China and senior author of the study's accompanying paper. Tests showed that the mice experience no retinal damage due to the injections.

Current infrared technology relies on detectors and cameras that are often limited by ambient daylight and need outside power sources.

Prof Han said: "In the future, we think there may be room to improve the technology with a new version of organic-based nanoparticles, made of FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved compounds, that appear to result in even brighter infrared vision".

In the future, the researchers plan to tweak their nanoparticles to better suit human eyes, which have more cones and rods than mice.

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