Nanoparticle eye drops give mice night vision

An image showing nanoparticles binding to rods and cones

Infrared enabling eye injection will give solders night time SUPER VISION | Daily Star

A multidisciplinary team of researchers has just given mice "night vision" by inserting nanoparticles into their beady little eyes - and it could potentially be applied to humans someday.

Humans and other mammals can only see light within a wavelength of 700 nanometres, according to Xue Tian, corresponding author of the paper and a neuroscience professor from USTC, based in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui province.

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

People, animals and objects emit infrared light as they give off heat, and objects can also reflect it.

The mice were injected with photon "up-conversion" nanoparticles that converted low-energy, invisible protons, like near-infrared light, to high-energy ones that are visible.

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The human eye is unable to perceive infrared wavelengths because they are too long to be absorbed by photoreceptors but in this study, the team of scientists were able to make nanoparticles that could anchor tightly to photoreceptor cells.

The researchers tested the nanoparticles in mice, which, like humans, can not see infrared naturally.

When infrared hits these nanoparticles the wavelength of the light is shortened, converting the infrared into visible light that can be seen by the mice. The findings showed that their eyes were functioning as though they were seeing visible light.

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

In rare cases, side effects did occur, leaving some mice with cloudy corneas, which disappeared in less than a week. Tests found no damage to the retina's structure, suggesting that the procedure is safe. When the visible light was replaced with infrared, the mice that had been injected in the eyes detected this and avoided the brighter side.

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"In our study, we have shown that both rods and cones bind these nanoparticles and were activated by the near infrared light", says Xue.

"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 colour vision deficits".

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.

"This is an exciting subject because the technology we made possible here could eventually enable human beings to see beyond our natural capabilities", says Xue.

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