Credit: Tian Xue, University of Science and Technology of China
Mammals, including humans cannot see IR light, which has longer wavelength than visible light which between 700 nm and 1 mm.
But Scientist have created a technology which enable mice to convert IR wavelength to visible. Tian Xue, a neuroscientist at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, and his team has developed nanoparticles that has the ability to change IR spectrum into visible.
Principle of working:
The nanoparticle absorbs photons having a wavelength of around 985 nm and release them at shorter wavelength, around 530 nm.
These particles were attached to proteins that bind to photoreceptors (cells in the eye that convert light into electrical impulses) and then injected them into mice.
“With this research, we have broadly expanded the applications of our nanoparticle technology both in the lab and translationally,” said Gang Han, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMMS. “These Nano-antennae will allow scientists to explore a number of intriguing questions, from how the brain interprets visual signals to helping treat color blindness.”
Super visionary mouse.
Researchers made a set of tests to confirm that the mice having the nanoparticles were able to apprehend Near infra red light.
In an experiment, two boxes were set up a dark box and a box ‘illuminated’ with IR light and gave the mice choice to choose between them. Normally, mice being nocturnal would seek the safety of a darker area. The normal mice showed no preference between the two boxes because they could not see the IR light. But the modified mice favored the dark box.
Similarly in another test the mice were taught to associate green light with an electric shock, but the mice having Nano particles also shrunk in fear when an IR light was turned on. These mice could also recognized complicated shape patterns and were able to apprehends these light patterns even in day-light, suggesting that the nanoparticles were working in parallel with their natural vision.
“It’s sometimes a little bit creepy,” says Xue. “You show different patterns to the mouse which you cannot see, to you, it’s just an empty screen. But the mouse can choose it correctly.”
Xue’s work could have several applications, including giving people “super-vision” like seeing at night, almost every particle in this world release infra-red light which could be seen without any special equipment. This could be useful for security and military work as well. Similarly these nanoparticles could be made to carry drugs to eye for treatment.