Researchers believe that aside from allowing mice to see infrared light, more experiments can be tweaked in favor of humans seeing the same.
Researchers from the University of Science and Technology, China, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass) in the U.S., injected the rodents' eyes with a solution filled with nanoparticles.
"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.
"When light enters the eye and hits the retina, the rods and cones-or photoreceptor cells-absorb the photons with visible light wavelengths and send corresponding electric signals to the brain", Han explained.
A Sino-U.S. joint research project has enhanced the vision of mice by using nanotechnology to make them see infrared light as well as visible light, which could lead to applications for humans to have an infrared vision in the future. But the nanoparticles capture the longer infrared wavelengths and emit shorter wavelengths that retinal cells can detect.
The injected nanoparticles anchored themselves to photoreceptors within the eyes of the mice. The mice, which are normally equipped with eyes capable only of seeing visible light, like us humans, have instead been given the ability to see near infrared light, effectively allowing them to see in the dark.
Mice, like humans, can not naturally see infrared, making them an ideal candidate for experimentation.
Nanoparticle (green) shown binding to the rods (violet) and cones (red) of the eye's retina. The particles were created to absorb the longer IR wavelengths and emit the shorter visible wavelengths, which are in turn absorbed by photoreceptor cells that signal the brain.
Researchers found that those critters receiving injections showed unconscious physical signs of infrared light detection (like pupils constricting), while the control group didn't respond.
The research, which was published in a new paper in the journal Cell, focused on formulating special nanoparticles that convert near infrared light into a greenish visible light. Although there was a minor side effect (a cloudy cornea), it disappeared within less than a week.
Other tests found no damage to the tissue's structure after injecting the nanoparticles right into the retina.
The researchers also think more work can be done to fine tune the emission spectrum of the nanoparticles to suit human eyes, which utilise more cones than rods for their central vision compared to mouse eyes.
A recent scientific breakthrough made jointly by scientists in China and the United States will enable mammals to see in the dark, and also serve as the basis for fixing human beings color blindness.