Summary: Researchers use nanotech to enhance vision in mice, enabling them to see infrared light as well as visible light.
Source: Cell Press.
Mice with vision enhanced by nanotechnology were able to see infrared light as well as visible light, reports a study published February 28 in the journal Cell. A single injection of nanoparticles in the mice’s eyes bestowed infrared vision for up to 10 weeks with minimal side effects, allowing them to see infrared light even during the day and with enough specificity to distinguish between different shapes. These findings could lead to advancements in human infrared vision technologies, including potential applications in civilian encryption, security, and military operations.
Humans and other mammals are limited to seeing a range of wavelengths of light called visible light, which includes the wavelengths of the rainbow. But infrared radiation, which has a longer wavelength, is all around us. People, animals and objects emit infrared light as they give off heat, and objects can also reflect infrared light.
“The visible light that can be perceived by human’s natural vision occupies just a very small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum,” says senior author Tian Xue of the University of Science and Technology of China. “Electromagnetic waves longer or shorter than visible light carry lots of information.”
A multidisciplinary group of scientists led by Xue and Jin Bao at the University of Science and Technology of China as well as Gang Han at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, developed the nanotechnology to work with the eye’s existing structures.
“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,” says Han. “Because infrared wavelengths are too long to be absorbed by photoreceptors, we are not able to perceive them.”
In this study, the scientists made nanoparticles that can anchor tightly to photoreceptor cells and act as tiny infrared light transducers. When infrared light hits the retina, the nanoparticles capture the longer infrared wavelengths and emit shorter wavelengths within the visible light 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.
Image Credit: 123RF
Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen. Follow him on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen
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