Mice given ‘night vision’ superpower with simple injection

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Did you know that a simple injection can give mice the power to see in infrared? "So we believe this technology will also work in human eyes, not only for generating super vision but also for therapeutic solutions in human red color vision deficits".

Illustration of the infrared-to-visible-light conversion process.

Biochemist Prof Gang Han, of the University of MA, explained: "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". Because wavelengths that were too long had now been morphed into something more digestible, to the brain, it was as if the retina had been hit by visible light. They turned infrared light, which mice cannot see, into green light, which they can. They captured longer near-infrared waves that the eyes of mice (or humans) normally can't absorb, emitting shorter wavelengths within the range of visible light.

Mice with vision enhanced by nanotechnology were able to see infrared light as well as visible light, reports a study published February 28 in the journal Cell. The same patterns were projected onto one end of the maze using infrared light, and the bionic mice were able to find the hidden platform whereas the normal, plain mice could not. The closest rod or cone then absorbed that wavelength and zapped it to the brain.

In this study, the scientists made nanoparticles that can anchor tightly to photoreceptor cells and act as tiny infrared light transducers.

Mice injected with the nanoparticles showed various signs that they were able to detect infrared, such as their pupils constricting.

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The researchers said the mice's ability to see visible light was not impaired and the effects lasted for as long as 10 weeks.

In rare cases, side effects from the injections such as cloudy corneas occurred but disappeared within less than a week. These trigger nerve impulses that pass via the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed. The new nanotechnology has potential application in a number of fields including security and military operations, according to the scientists. Human eyes have a retinal structure called the fovea, which has a much higher density of cones than rods, while mice have more rods than cones.

A recent scientific breakthrough made jointly by scientists in China and the United States will enable mammals to see in the dark, and also serve as the basis for fixing human beings color blindness.

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