A multidisciplinary team of researchers has just given mice "night vision" by inserting nanoparticles into their small eyes – and could be applied to humans someday.
Cue music of superheroes.
A new article in Cell describes the technology, which uses a simple injection containing nanoanthene – nanoscale electromagnetic collectors designed to absorb specific wavelengths – to allow mice to see beyond the visible spectrum of current light. The whole process is temporary and disappears after about two weeks without persistent effects. In addition, the injection works with structures already found in the eye and had no effect on the rodents' ability to see during the day.
In short, most mammals can only see a very small percentage of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is equivalent to wavelengths of 400 to 700 nanometers or rainbow colors. Our eyes are not equipped to see longer wavelengths emitted at night, which includes infrared (IR) and infrared (IR) light – both of which are around us, such as the heat that people emit or objects that reflect light infrared light.
"When light enters the eye and reaches the retina, rods and cones – or photoreceptor cells – absorb the photons at wavelengths of visible light and send corresponding electrical signals to the brain," said lead author Gang Han in an announcement. "As the infrared wavelengths are too long to be absorbed by the photoreceptors, we are not able to perceive them."
This is where the conjugated nanoparticles of lectin come in. Delivered through droplets, these proteins guide the nanoanthen and "glue" them to the outside of the retinal photoreceptors in the eyes of the mice. Once anchored in the photoreceptor cell, they convert the NIR into visible green light that can be observed by the retinal cell. The rod or cone absorbs the shorter wavelengths and sends them to the brain for translation.
"With this research, we have broadly broadened the applications of our nanoparticle technology, both in the laboratory and in translation," Han said. "These nanoanthenics allow scientists to explore a number of intriguing issues, from how the brain interprets visual signals to aid in the treatment of color blindness."
You may be wondering how one can tell whether a mouse sees it at night or not. Simple: laboratory test. The researchers noted that the mice injected with the nanoparticles exhibited unconscious reactions to infrared light, such as the constrictive pupils. They were also able to distinguish between different shapes, such as triangles and circles, found along a labyrinth in the same way they could during daylight.
In addition to all superhuman ability, researchers say their work presents an opportunity to explore the neural networks in the brain and potentially aid in vision repair.
"We believe this research is a breakthrough in the field of biotechnology. This study provoking the concept should pave the way for numerous critical applications through the unique creation of mammalian NIR visual capability and have a high translation potential, "said Han. "Furthermore, it is very likely that the sky looks very different both at night and during the day. We may have the ability to visualize all the hidden information of NIR and IR radiation in the universe, which is invisible to our naked eyes. "