HUMANS could get the power to see in the dark after mice were injected with nanoparticles which gave them the ability to see infrared light.
The rodents were given infrared night vision for 10 weeks after the injection, with only minor side effects, in an experiment conducted by Chinese and US scientists
The team at the University of Science and Technology of China said they could modify a human’s vision to detect a wider spectrum of colours.
Current infrared technology allows the user to see heat emitted from animals but its effectiveness is hampered by bulky batteries and interference from visible light.
But nanoparticles inserted into the eyes of mice boosted their vision beyond the normal range of colours they can detect and enabled the rodents to see infrared light.
Lead researcher Dr Tian Xue said the applications include military use and could be adapted to treat people who are colour blind and can’t detect red.
“We believe this technology will also work in human eyes, not only for generating super vision but also for therapeutic solutions in human red colour vision deficits,” said Dr Xue.
“This is an exciting subject because the technology we made possible here could eventually enable human beings to see beyond our natural capabilities.”
The research was published in Cell antested the nanoparticles in mice which, like humans, cannot see infrared naturally.
The researchers made nanoparticles that could anchor tightly to photoreceptor cells and act as tiny infrared light transducers.
How the nanoparticles gave mice 'super vision'
Mice like humans cannot perceive light with a wavelength longer than 700 nanometres, which is at the red end of the visible spectrum.
But the nanoparticles absorb light with longer, infrared wavelengths and convert that into shorter wave light that the mice retinal cells can detect.
This converted light peaks at a wavelength of 535 nanometres, so the mice see infrared light as green.
“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,” said research team member Gang Han.
“Because infrared wavelengths are too long to be absorbed by photoreceptors, we are not able to perceive them.”
When the light hits the retina, they capture the longer infrared wavelengths and emit shorter wavelengths within the visible range.
The nearby rod or cone then absorbs the shorter wavelength and sends a normal signal to the brain, as if visible light had hit the retina.
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Mice that received the injections showed unconscious physical signs that they were detecting infrared light, such as their pupils constricting.
Mice injected with a placebo solution as a comparison did not respond.
During tests in mazes the injected mice demonstrated they could distinguish infrared patterns while also exposed to daylight.