Night vision among humans is now a reality. A team of researchers have experimented with a human volunteer to allow him to see through the darkness over a distance of 50 meters for a couple of hours.
Researcher Gabriel Licina, human guinea pig for the experiment, stated that he could positively identify people 50 meters away in the great darknesses of the woods.
A group of bio-hackers – as they described themselves – decided to test the effect of using a light-sensitive substance obtained from sea creatures known as Chlorin e6 (Ce6). It has been previously shown to treat night blindness and other eye disorders. Could it also improve vision, wondered the researchers.
The concept of using Ce6 to test for night vision was inspired from a patent filed in 2012. The latter claimed that mixing Ce6 with insulin (or using the compound dimethlysulfoxide (DMSO) in its place) and saline to a person’s eye would increase vision in low light. For the new experiment though, the researchers decided to try both DMSO and insulin as a way of increasing the permeability of the solution.
“Going off that research, we thought this would be something to move ahead with,” the lab’s medical officer, Jeffrey Tibbetts.
“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. After doing the research, you have to take the next step.”
To test for the hypothesis, they needed a volunteer. Researcher Gabriel Licina came forward to be the guinea pig.
The procedure has been explained by the team on their website as follows:
“For the application, the subject rested supine and his eyes were flushed with saline to remove any micro-debris or contaminants that might be present. Eyes were pinned open with a small speculum to remove the potential for blinking, which may force excess liquid out before it had a chance to absorb. Ce6 solution was added to the conjunctival sac via micropippette at 3 doses of 50μl into each eye.
After each application, pressure was applied to the canthus to stop liquid from moving from the eye to the nasal region. Each dose was allowed to absorb between reloading the pipette, with the black colour disappearing after only a few seconds.
After application was complete, the speculum was removed and 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 later related that he felt the effects of the compounds many hours after the application. He was placed in a dark room with four controls. After an hour, he could identify the objects from their shapes 10 meters away. After some time, he could make out objects 20 meters away, and later 50 meters from him. He could recognise and identify symbols and objects like as numbers, letters, and shapes, moving against differently coloured and patterned backgrounds.
Linica and the controls were then taken into the woods and were asked to spot people standing 50 meters away. This is what happened:
“The Ce6 subject and controls were handed a laser pointer and asked to identify the location of the people in the grove. After testing, the Ce6 subject replaced the sunglasses, which were not removed until sleep. Eyesight in the morning seemed to have returned to normal and as of 20 days, there have been no noticeable effects.
The Ce6 subject consistently recognised 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.”
The team added that more testing needs to be done.
“For us, it comes down to pursuing things that are doable but won’t be pursued by major corporations,” said Tibbetts. “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.”