A research group announced this week that they have successfully induced night vision that lasted several hours in a human subject by injecting a solution containing a light sensitive substance directly into the eyeballs. The subject was able to see in darkness for several hours over a distance of up to 50 meters.
The independent researchers, Science for the Masses, who described themselves as “biohackers” from Tehachapi, north of Los Angeles in California, obtained a light-sensitive chlorophyll derivative called Chlorin e6 (Ce6) found in certain types of deep-sea fish. The substance has been shown through previous research to have light amplification properties. It has been used to treat night blindness, and has been used in cancer research.
According to Jeffrey Tibbetts, the team’s medical officer, their work built on the foundation of previous research that considered the results of injecting the substance into rats. The team reportedly got the idea from a 2012 patent that described a mixture of Ce6, insulin or dimethlysulfoxide (DMSO), and saline injected into the eyes as absorbed by the retina and allowing a person to see in low light conditions.
“Going off that research, we thought this would be something to move ahead with. There are a fair amount of papers talking about having it injected in models like rats, and it’s been used intravenously since the ’60s as a treatment for different cancers.”
The team used its biochemistry research specialist Gabriel Licina, as guinea pig in the experiment described on their website.
Using a micropipette, Tibbetts slowly injected under Licina’s conjuctival sacs, a solution containing about 50 microliters of Ce6, insulin, dimethlysulfoxide (DMSO) and saline. From the conjuctival sac, the solution reached the subject’s retina.
The team used a combination of insulin and DMSO to enhance the permeability of the solution.
“[Subject’s] eyes were flushed with saline to remove any micro-debris or contaminants that might be present… Ce6 solution was added to the conjunctival sac via micropipette at 3 doses of 50µl into each eye.
“After application was complete… black sclera lenses were placed into each eye to reduce the potential light entering the eye. Black sunglasses were then worn during all but testing, to ensure increased low light conditions and reduce the potential for bright light exposure.”
Licina described the experience to Science.Mic’s Max Plenke, saying, “To me, it was a quick, greenish-black blur across my vision, and then it dissolved into my eyes.”
In the initial test, Licina and four controls were placed in a darkened environment with various geometric shapes about 10 meters away. The light amplification effect of the chemical took effect gradually while they sat in the darkened room, and within an hour Licina began to make out the shapes in the darkness.
He was able to recognize shapes that were about the size of a human hand from a distance of 10 meters. He was also able to recognize static symbols, including numbers and letters, placed against various background color patterns.
He was able to identify human subjects moving against varied backgrounds at different distances. The distances were increased stepwise from 10 meters to 20 meters and finally 50 meters.
The tests demonstrated conclusively that Licina was able to see objects and human figures that the control subjects could not see.
“Three forms of subjective testing were performed. These consisted of symbol recognition by distance, symbol recognition on varying background colors at a static distance, and the ability to identify moving subjects in a varied background at varied distances.”
The team then went out into the woods at night and tested Licinia’s ability to see people standing in random locations at a distance of up to 50 meters. Licina was able to identify human figures standing in the dark at a distance of up to 50 meters with a success rate of 100 percent compared with the control group that registered a success rate of only about 33 percent.
“The Ce6 subject and controls were handed a laser pointer and asked to identify the location of the people in the grove… The Ce6 subject consistently recognized symbols that did not seem to be visible to the controls. The Ce6 subject identified the distant figures 100 percent of the time, with the controls showing a 33 percent identification rate.
“After testing… eyesight in the morning seemed to have returned to normal and as of 20 days, there have been no noticeable effects.”
The results of the experiment were presented in an open-source paper Tibbett co-authored with Licina, titled, “A Review on Night Enhancement Eyedrops Using Chlorin e6.”
Tibbett said he and his colleagues plan to follow up the initial experiment with more rigorous experimental designs. He said they hope to be able to measure the degree of light amplification achievable.
“For us, it comes down to pursuing things that are doable but won’t be pursued by major corporations. There are rules to be followed and don’t go crazy, but science isn’t a mystical language that only a few elite people can speak.”
He acknowledged there was need for further research and testing to confirm the results. He emphasized that other researchers could repeat the experiments with a low budget experimental setup because the materials used were not expensive. He also pointed out that the chemicals have previously undergone rigorous testing for safety.
[Images: Science for the Masses via Mic]