Scientists from the United States and China have given mice the ability to see near-infrared light, a wavelength not normally visible to the rodents (or human beings, for that matter), by injecting nanoparticles into their eyes. These findings could lead to advancements in human infrared vision technologies, including potential applications in civilian encryption, security, and military operations.
A single injection of nanoparticles in the rodents' eyes bestowed infrared vision with "minimal" side effects. "Because infrared wavelengths are too long to be absorbed by photoreceptors, we are not able to perceive them". The technology cannot only generate super vision but also provide a therapeutic solution in human red color vision deficits. This thought-provoking research should pave the way for a number of critical applications through the unique creation of mammalian near-infrared vision capabilities with high conversion potential. Rather than modifying the photoreceptor, the technology involves a tiny antenna that converts the near-infrared (NIR) light into visible green light observable by the retina, and the resulting data would get interpreted as visible light by the brain. In other words, yes, scientists have developed technology that can give animals night vision.
When the light hits the retina, they capture the longer infrared wavelengths and emit shorter wavelengths within the visible range.
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Nanoparticles (white) bind to rods and cones in the retina of mice, allowing the rodents to sense infrared. Mammals have photoreceptor cells known as rods and cones that recognise light with wavelengths in the visible spectrum and send signals to the brain. "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". When the researchers shone infrared light into the furry creatures' pupils, they constricted - a sign that their eyes were registering the light. Other tests found no damage to the retina's structure following the sub-retinal injections.
The researchers also think more work can be done to fine tune the emission spectrum of the nanoparticles to suit human eyes, which utilise more cones than rods for their central vision compared to mouse eyes.
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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