Even those of us with perfect vision are actually blind in some ways. Many birds can see ultraviolet light and snakes can detect infrared, something we don’t have the right retinal cells for. But now researchers at University of Massachusetts Medical School and University of Science and Technology of China have shown that it may soon be possible to give such option to willing people. Additionally, it may lead to new therapies to restore lost or fading eyesight for people suffering from a variety of retinal diseases.
The researchers gave a group of mice the ability to see infrared light, something that few animals are able to do and even those that do don’t seem to be very good at it. This was possible thanks to tiny “nanoantennae” that were injected into the eyes and attached to photoreceptors using a lectin protein conjugated nanoparticle developed by the researchers.
The nanoantennae are fluorescent particles that glow green when illuminated by infrared light and the mice were able to see this glow as normal light. It’s important to note that the animals didn’t really see infrared light, but only green light and therefore their normal vision was not affected. This allows the animals to see the visible spectrum and also “image” in infrared at the same time.
Check out this video from UMass Medical School about the research: