Scientists from the University of Massachusetts have developed a way to give night vision to mice. With just a simple injection containing nanoantenna, the mice were given the superpower of being able to see in the dark.
The injection allows the animals to see light beyond the visible spectrum, into the range of infrared light. The effects of the injection are temporary and don’t interfere with the mice regular vision. The research might be the first steps in being able to repair vision damage in humans.
Hope for vision impaired
“With this research, we’ve broadly expanded the applications of our nanoparticle technology both in the lab and translationally,” said Gang Han, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology.
“These nanoantenna will allow scientists to explore a number of intriguing questions, from how the brain interprets visual signals to helping treat color blindness.”
We typically understand the visible spectrum to be the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is observable by the human eye. A regular human eye is capable of responding to wavelengths from about 400 to 700 nanometers.
This range is only a small slice of the full electromagnetic spectrum. Humans cannot detect longer wavelength light, such as near-infrared (NIR) light or infrared light without the aid of a device such as night vision goggles.
Temporary night vision without the goggles
Such devices are useless in bright light. To give the mice the ability to see in the dark, the researchers developed a lectin protein conjugated nanoparticle that can be delivered in droplets.
The proteins escort the nanoantenna and adhere them to the outside of retinal photoreceptors in the mice. Once they are in place the microscopic antennae convert NIR into visible, green light.
The green light is read by the retinal cell, and the sent images are understood by the brain as visible light without the need for any external aid or device.
The researcher developed a series of test for the mice to complete. It showed that the mice not only could perceive basic NIR light but they could comprehend complex shapes and outlines.
Humans could choose to see in the dark
These patterns were visible in bright light too, proving that the nanoantennas don’t interfere with the mice’s regular vision. After two weeks, the effect of the injection wore off leaving no measurable effects on the mice.
“We believe that this research is a major advance in the field of biotechnology. This concept-provoking study should pave the way to numerous critical applications via the unique creation of mammalian NIR visual ability and have high translational potential,” said Han.
“Moreover, it is very likely that the sky may look very differently both at night and in the daytime. We may have the capability to view all the hidden information from NIR and IR radiation in the universe which is invisible to our naked eyes.”
The research has been published in Cell Journal.