skip to main content

Uno Dos of Trace: Scientists Upgraded Mouse Eyes to See Infrared & It Might Work in Humans!

8 minutes

When you absorb photons into your eyeballs, they're gone forever. Yeah, they literally get absorbed into your body. While you are watching this video, the device you're using is energizing LEDs in your screen, and shooting photons out at you. And they wash over you physically. The number of photons shooting out of my face at you right now is astronomical. You're welcome for that. From there, my face photons, or face-tons get absorbed literally into your eyeballs inside of your body by 126 million light-sensitive cells. The photons literally cease to exist. They impact the atoms of your eye, and get absorbed, and turned into energy that your brain interprets as light. And according to one researcher, a conventional light bulb emits about 8.2 times 10 to the 18th photons every single second. But most of the energy emitted by a light bulb is outside of our sad, little eyeballs' ability to see. We can only see about 390 to 700 nanometers, violet to red. Below that is ultraviolet. Those are really tiny waves. And above that is infrared. Those are really large waves. We can't actually see them, but we know that they're there. Things like ultraviolet gives us sunburn. And infrared gives us heat. They're all part of the same energy spectrum. What if you could open your eyes and see infrared? Scientists allegedly just gave this power to mice with a single injection. And I have to say, I really have questions about this. Hey, everyone. Thanks for coming back to Uno, Dos of Trace this week. Make sure you like and subscribe. Click the bell so you get all the videos. Let's kick into it. We've all heard the nursery rhymes-- three blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run. And like all nursery rhymes, it just gets weird from there. But unlike most rhymes, it's actually partially true. Mice don't have good vision. This, of course, was until recently, when researchers gave them superpowers. They injected nanoparticles into the eyeballs of these lab mice. The nanoparticles gave the mice the ability to see infrared-- well, actually near infrared. Cool, right? Basically, they used a very common procedure done by eye doctors to inject an engineered nanoparticle into the eye directly. The nanoparticles were engineered with a protein, ConA, which binds with photoreceptors. This allowed the mice to "see"-- big, old finger quotes-- near infrared light. It's pure Mad Scientist amazing insanity. It's like a nano prosthetic. The mice could see shapes projected in near infrared light. And they could be trained to identify near-infrared buttons and lights. Mice like darker spaces, and they would perceive boxes lit with infrared lights as bright, even though everything would appear dark to us. This activates on both the rods and cones in the mice. And the mice could see during the day, and at night, this green light where the infrared was. And their brains picked it up right away, because the mammalian brain is amazing and plastic, and it can adapt to all sorts of different, awesome things. And I want it. But-- there's a big, old but here-- it would not let you see in the dark per se. It does not convert darkness into light. It converts specific near-infrared nanometer waves to specific green nanometer waves. What it might do is make everything look really bright to us. It might be used to treat colorblindness, because you could bend light to match the spectrum that you are missing. You could also perceive IR, but not discern between it and something that was also around 535 nanometers of green light. It doesn't give the mice a new color. It wouldn't give you the ability to perceive IR. It would just bend it into something that we can already see. So for the moment, we should be a bit skeptical of people calling this "super vision." Like, we should supervise those people. We don't know that much yet. Currently, it uses heavy metals. And we don't want that in our bodies. Mice don't have foveas, the dense collection of photoreceptors that we have in our eye at the center of our vision. It makes everything sharp, and it's completely populated with cones. So they'd have to modify it so it hooks to cones and not rods. We don't know where the nanoparticles go over time, either. Eventually, they stopped working. But what happens to them? So we still need lots of information before you could use this. They have other trials with other animals. And I think next up might be dogs. Many animals already can see outside of our visible spectrum. Cats have more rods than us, so they have great night vision. And there is some evidence of near infrared perception. Some fish can see ultraviolet. And of course, the predator Alien, full infrared vision, amazing. But of course, the government wants us to think that they're fictional, so we can't really study them. Let's get them off that fictional list, so that we can really get studying, you know what I'm saying? And telescopes use infrared all the time. It's beautiful. Even ole Hubble can see near infrared. It's been up there forever. But they shift any photos taken in IR into visual spectrums, by changing things to black or to blue, and false color images. It's because our sad, little, cow eyes just can't see that part of the spectrum, no matter what we do. Trans humanists are, understandably, very excited. The military is very excited. They already have IR goggles, but they're not the best. They require batteries, and they're bulky. And another new tech that they've used is even using nanocrystals as well, with gallium, and arsenide, and aluminum, and they coat it to a lens, and it bends light, blah, blah, blah. But this would be so much better, because it would be inside of our bodies. But again, we do not know if it would work for us, or even what we would really see. Because it's not like you can talk to the mice. We just know that they can perceive it. Overall, scientists are comfortably impressed, but skeptical. Best-case scenario for this in a super- conservative estimate is that it'll be used for drug delivery. These nanoparticles bind with rods and cones, so we could deliver drugs specifically to those things-- a very clever way to do that. And at least that's a way to use this. Because most of the visible spectrum is invisible to us, and it will continue to be even with nanoparticle injections. The thing that I'd be most interested in, even knowing that I'd just see 535 nanometers green all over the place, I'd be able to look at a coffee cup and know if it's hot, because it'd be a little bit green. I'd just have to glance at it. I don't have to touch it. But the thing that I would be really excited about is looking at the sky. Infrared is everywhere in the universe. The sky literally glows with infrared light in every direction. And our sky would look very different if we could perceive it in infrared. So looking at the sky and physically absorbing photons from galaxies far, far away, and getting to absorb more of them, I don't know, would make me feel just that much closer to those amazing objects. Wouldn't that be cool? Even with all of this, infrared vision in mice-- awesome. But what about humans? The lead researcher says that he would try it, because he is obviously a mad scientist. What about you? Would you try it? Special thanks to @symphlov on Twitter who sent me this story, and all of the patrons who are sharing stories in our discord. You all are great. I love them. Some of them are going to be future videos. Thank you so much for watching, everyone. I'm Trace, and I will see you in the future.

Transcript Options


Now Playing As: Captioned (English) (change)

Report a Problem

Infrared light is all around, and the universe literally glows with it everywhere. However, humans are not able to see infrared light because it is just outside the limits of the human eye. With a simple injection, scientists gave mice the ability to perceive near-infrared light. What does this mean for humans? Part of the "Uno Dos of Trace" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 8 minutes

Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 2
7 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 3
8 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 4
6 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 5
5 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 6
6 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 7
8 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 8
6 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12
Recently Added
Uno Dos of Trace
Episode 10
6 minutes
Grade Level: 11 - 12