The scientists' research, published in the 28 February edition of Cell, boasted that via a single injection of a special "ocular nanoparticle," the mice could see near-infrared light for up to 10 weeks at a time, with no major side effects or long-term damage to normal vision.
The nanoparticles work by anchoring to the mouse's photoreceptor cells, with the rodent then subjected to infrared light, with nanoparticles capturing the infrared wavelengths and retransmitting shorter wavelengths within the visible light range. Nearby photoreceptor cells then send signals to the brain similarly to how they would normally, thereby allowing mice to see light that's normally invisible.
According to the research team, which included study senior author Tian Xue from the University of Science & Technology of China, and Gang Han from the University of Massachusetts' Medical School, the groundbreaking work may eventually lead to infrared vision among humans.
"The visible light that can be perceived by [a] human's natural vision occupies just a very small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum," Dr. Xue explained. "Electromagnetic waves longer or shorter than visible light carry lots of information."
"We believe this technology will also work in human eyes, not only for generating super vision but also for therapeutic solutions in human red colour vision deficits," Xue said.
"This is an exciting subject because the technology we made possible here could eventually enable human beings to see beyond our natural capabilities," the scientist stressed.
Online, users were divided over the implications of the research. While many emphasised the amazing implications, others were less certain, speaking of possible dangers, including the ethical implications.
I, for one, welcome our new perceptually augmented murine overlords.— Simon E. Fisher (@ProfSimonFisher) 28 февраля 2019 г.
This could be stepping stone for some next level inventions in biological science— Hassaan Bin Khalid (@hbkhalid91) 28 февраля 2019 г.
That is incredible. This is what science is all about.— Henry Duluth (@HenryDuluth) 28 февраля 2019 г.
Cool. Now can we start working on cancer?— Michael (@Michael79252579) 1 марта 2019 г.
I would rather to focus on problem in hand and try to find cure for individuals with retinal degenerative disorders. Mice looking for fancy vision can wait.— Hassan Rashidi (@hr_RegenMed) 1 марта 2019 г.
How long until they’re injecting them into Army Rangers or Navy Seals? Maybe already…— Norman Jefferson (@JeffNorm) 28 февраля 2019 г.
Yeah, it sounds like a great idea until you think about it for more than ten seconds. The main advantage to us in being able to see IR is to see the heat of other humans (+similar temp animals). Problem: we radiate that IR ourselves…— Genome Editor 🐻🇺🇸 (@genome_editor) 28 февраля 2019 г.