Seeing the beyond visible spectrum and allowing the brain to process near-infrared light (NIR) is now possible with the help of a nanotechnology injection.
Wonder Eye Drop
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School experimented on an eye drop that enables the eye to see into the range of infrared light.
The researchers expanded the use of nanoparticles and developed nanoantennae, which contains lectin proteins. These proteins direct the nanoantennae to the retinal photoreceptors in mice and essentially attach itself to it.
During this process, the microscopic antennae convert NIR into green light. The brain receives the signal and processes the image as visible light.
"These nanoantennae will allow scientists to explore a number of intriguing questions, from how the brain interprets visual signals to helping treat color blindness," said Gang Han, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at UMass Medical School.
Han's team, together with the scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China, used small amounts of NIR LED light to activate the nanoparticles.
The effect on mice lasted for two weeks with no perceived side effects on their vision. The experiment had satisfactory results and opened new opportunities on biotechnology applications.
Blind In The Dark
Mammals can only process light of about 400 to 700 nanometers. Detecting wavelengths greater than these measurements is almost impossible. This is why the typical mammalian eye has limited visibility at night.
"This is because detecting longer wavelength light, with lower energy photons, requires opsins (e.g., human red cone opsins) to have much lower energy barriers," wrote the study authors.
In order to see through infrared light, humans have to wear devices like night-vision goggles. These goggles become unusable at daytime due to saturation.
Details of the paper, which was published in the journal Cell, presented possible use of nanoantennae in the treatment of color blindness. Han said the technology will be helpful in gathering and understanding information that is invisible through the naked eye.