Nanotechnology refers to work that’s done at the very smallest of scales. In nanotechnology, individual molecules and even atoms are moved and manipulated. Nanotechnology was first discussed in the late 1950s. The idea was named in the mid-1970s. By the 1980s, it was growing into a proper field.
In the past 30-odd years, nanotechnology has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, real interventions are starting to become possible. In labs across the globe, people are finding ways to integrate nanotechnology with biology. One of the most recent developments in this arena has seen mice develop night vision after injections.
Teams in China and Boston, Massachusetts have been hard at work on this project. Researchers there used subretinal injections to bind nanoparticles to retinal photoreceptors. The nanoantennae made it possible for the mice to convert near infrared light into visible green light.
The potential for this technology is intriguing. Scientists in China, who conducted this research, say the mice suffered few side effects. The injections left the mice with infrared vision, which no mammals have naturally. If this treatment can be adapted for the human body, it could have valuable applications.
Currently, to see in the dark, humans rely on equipment. Infrared cameras are used in research and for security purposes. Night vision goggles are effective, but they can also break or get lost at an inopportune moment. Injections making it possible for humans to see in the dark could revolutionize military maneuvers and some types of research. It could also make search and rescue operations much more efficient.
Of course, there are some caveats with this research. Mice are much simpler animals than humans are. The effects of the injections were temporary. The mice were able to distinguish things in the NIR conditions for about two weeks. Although not many side effects were observed, they were mild and temporary. Issues like cloudy retinas cleared up after about one week.
Scientists are eager to see what nanotechnology can do in the human body. This technology has the potential to change the way diseases are treated. In the future, it may be possible to target specific cells to prevent or repair damage. Nanotechnology could also possibly be used to specifically target troublesome cells in cancers. For now, these early experiments are offering very promising results.