Certain mammals, including humans, can see a limited range of wavelengths of light known as visible light. The visible light spectrum includes the wavelengths of the rainbow. However, infrared radiation includes a longer wavelength present all around us. Infrared light can be emitted from people, animals and objects as heat is given off. Now, a team of scientists developed technology that allows mammals to have night vision through injectable photoreceptor-binding nanoparticles.
Injectable photoreceptor-binding nanoparticles with the ability to convert photons from low-energy to high-energy forms allow mice to develop infrared vision without compromising their normal vision and associated behavioral responses.
Image credit: Ma et al, doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.01.038.
The visible light spectrum is a region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is detected by the human eye, typically under wavelengths from about 400 to 700 nm (nanometers). The human eye cannot detect near-infrared (NIR) light—longer wavelength light.
“With this research, we’ve broadly expanded the applications of our nanoparticle technology both in the lab and translationally. 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 Dr. Gang Han, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The injectable photoreceptor-binding nanoparticles involves conjugated lectin that can be delivered in droplets. The proteins anchor the microscopic nanoantennae to the outside of retinal photoreceptors in mice where they are capable of converting NIR into visible, green light.
“We believe that this research is a major advance in the field of biotechnology. This concept-provoking study should pave the way to numerous critical applications via the unique creation of mammalian NIR visual ability and have high translational potential,” said Dr. Gang Han, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “Moreover, it is very likely that the sky may look very differently both at night and in daytime. We may have the capability to view all the hidden information from NIR and IR radiation in the universe which is invisible to our naked eyes.”
Findings were published in the journal Cell.