back to article Danger mouse! Potent rodents 'see' infrared after eyeballs injected with nanoparticles

Did you know that a simple injection can give mice the power to see in infrared? Yeah, well us neither, until a research paper documenting the results of a bizarre experiment were published in Cell on Thursday. Researchers from the University of Science and Technology, China, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. IR

    Wonder if the particles are based on ZnS:Cu ? I came across an interesting reference to a similar effect in

    glow in the dark sheet back in the day.

    Scuttles off to read the cited paper, under infrared light obviously.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this mean I don't have to worry about sharks with lasers now?


      Do keep up, the sharks will have laser eyes now!

      Solves the problem of how to attach the laser to the shark so it doesn't fall off.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Up to ten weeks

    "With few harmful effects"

    Yeah! How harmful and how many is few?

    Cue a reshowing of The Man With X Ray Eyes.

    I think one of the last lines in the film is a biblical quote ' If thine eye offends thee, then pluck it out'

    So he diid!

    For the moment I'll carry on fumbling around.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Up to ten weeks

      an increased appetite for cheese, slightly longer tails and glowing red eyeballs, nothing for a rat to be concerned about

    2. Simon B-52

      I was thinking of that too

      I think it was:

      "If thine right eye doth offend thee, pluck it out"

      As he had binocular vision, he plucked thm both out, and quite graphically at that.

      About 40 years since I saw that, and it's still a very clear and highly unpleasant memory, for some reason just as vivid as real world nasties I've witnessed, featuring real people and real gore.

    3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Up to ten weeks

      upvoted for the movie reference. Very dated now, but I were a wee lad when it came out and it was VERY cool then.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Up to ten weeks

      "Cue a reshowing of The Man With X Ray Eyes."

      I was thinking "Pitch Black" and the followup "Chronicles of Riddick" franchise, actually...

    5. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Up to ten weeks

      Injections to the eyeball probably aren't fun.

      My company has drugs that need to be administered in that way and it make me cringe to think about it.

      1. Mark Dempster

        Re: Up to ten weeks

        >Injections to the eyeball probably aren't fun.

        My company has drugs that need to be administered in that way and it make me cringe to think about it.<

        It's not as bad as you imagine (I had them monthly for a year or so). The first couple of times it's pretty scary, but it's mainly the thought of it - there's no pain involved because you've had anaesthetic drops. It's just that you can see the needle coming closer & closer... then your image becomes swirly for a few seconds as the fluid is injected.

        It soon becomes routine, though.

  4. Aqua-Fyre

    News article claims ---------------- 'These rodents can now see through Bikinis' ---

    Next day - news article ------------ 'Guys line up to become to start human trials'

  5. jchevali

    Forgot to add "and then the mice were killed", as all animals participating in experiments are routinely destroyed as soon as the results are obtained and whether the experiment succeeds or not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In Europe they'd have had to submit a proposal to an ethics board, detailing what they were planning to do, how they expected it to affect the quality of life of the mice, the number of mice involved etc. Then the board would give them the go-ahead (or not) based on if they considered the harm to mice to be worth the knowledge that would be gained.

      As far as I know it's similar in the US, but I have no idea how it works in China, but at the bottom of the paper it says:

      "The experimental procedures on animals followed the guidelines of the Animal Care and Use committee of University of Science and Technology of China."
      So it looks like they gave it some thought.

      (anon as some of my friends work with live rats in experiments)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        heat the oil until it's smoking

        and wok the meat with chilies, chopped veg and some noodles

    2. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Actually no, quite often animals such as white rabbits are given away to a good home after a trial ends.

      This is quite often the case in monoclonal antibody research. Here you start with a fresh bunny and inject it with whatever antigen you want to raise antibodies against; once this is done and the immune cells producing the antibody are extracted, you then have a bunny with a lot of antibody-producing cells. Yes, you could use it again, but the task of separating out the cells with useful antibody products from the ones which you don't want gets harder the more "educated" the immune system becomes.

      So, you get rid of the used bunnies and buy in new ones. Killing a once-useful and perfectly healthy rabbit is a bit ungrateful, and tends to annoy the ethics committee, so quite a few university labs just give the rabbits away, assuming they are permitted to do so for commercial reasons. They also try not to give rabbits away to that porter who breeds rabbits for the table...

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

        I worked in the rat lab when I was in grad school. We destroyed animals that were used in training students and for acedemic research. The school would not give the animals away due to liability concerns. It was quite amazing the number of animals that "escaped" to the students' homes before their executions.

        It is also worth noting that animals used for scientific research are typically bred specifically for the purpose and are not intended as pets or food. While this does not prevent researchers from becoming attached to them (especially the aforementioned students), it is worth understanding what ethics review boards have to consider.

      2. Korev Silver badge

        I knew a lab where one of the lab members kept sheep and one of them happened to produce antibodies against one of the proteins of interest.

        (this was quite a while ago, I have no idea if this would be in line with regulations these days)

    3. harmjschoonhoven

      Re" "and then the mice were killed"

      So barbaric. The Byzantine Emperor Basileus II ordered in 1014 AD to have 15000 prisoners of war blinded on both eye, except one in a hunderd who lost one eye so they could lead their brethren back to Bulgaria, in stead of killing them as as was the habit at the time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re" "and then the mice were killed"

        Thus dumping 15000 invalids back on their enemies to look after at their own expense, and saving themselves the hygiene problems of 15000 dead bodies. Much the same as the way the French used to cut off the fingers of captured English longbowmen before returning them, now useless, to their army (and, apocryphally, originating the two-finged "V" salute: "I've still got my fingers, frenchies").

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge

    "bionic mice"

    Did this experiment by any chance cost six million dollars?

  7. James 51 Silver badge

    Won't there be problems if the wavelength the IR is showing up as is also present? How could you tell the difference between IR and green light? Might be obvious once it's tried in humans but then everyone could end up looking like an Orion.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      The problem depends upon the end application. If it's to allow a soldier to see enemies in low light then I wouldn't have thought it matters whether they're seeing infrared converted to avisible wavelength or if they're seeing that visible wavelength in the raw.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Or if the whole spectrum is shifted and you can't see blue/violet any more?

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        I think to shift the whole spectrum they would have to change the refractive index of the vitreous as it would change the wavelength of the light as it hit the retina. It would also introduce an optical distortion at the back of the lens but perhaps it might just require a minor focal adjustment to work out.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      As it's a photon energy shift, rather than a re-engineering of the rhodopsin, then the photons and the responses are the same between IR and middle-wave photons.

      Which makes me wonder... although it IS a tiny, tiny amount of energy, where is it coming from?

      Formula for energy of a photon E=Hc/λ, where:

      E is energy in Joules,

      H is the Planck Constant (6.63x10^-34),

      c is the speed of light (3x10^8),

      λ is the wavelength in m.

      It is an inverse relationship, so an increasing wavelength means decreasing energy. Infrared has a longer wavelength than "green" light, so has a tiny bit less energy to it. It's the same as UV and glow-in-the-dark paint, but in reverse. To boost IR photons up to stimulate the visible light rhodopsins, you're going to have to make the photons more energetic, and that energy has to come from somewhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        what I was thinking

        Yes, all normal phosphors and fluorescent materials shift and re-emit at a longer (slightly lower energy) wavelength - think things that glow in the visible when exposed to ultraviolet, or the broadband yellow phosphor in a "white" LED which glows from the blue LED source. The energy difference is lost as a tiny amount of heat.

        The only phosphors I know of which re-emit at a shorter (higher energy) wavelength than they are stimulated by, are "storage phosphors" (often with Europium ions), which have previously been "pre-charged" using UV light (or X-rays). When the pre-charge is exhausted, they don't re-emit at higher energy any more.

      2. Dale 3

        Nano-batteries to go with those nanoparticles. At first, that's what I assumed. Now I'm thinking something along the lines of the mechanism of a self-winding watch. When the IR starts fading, you sweep your eyes side to side a few times to recharge. In the heat of battle there's enough action to keep it going all night.

    4. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

      Counter measure.

      If the enemy troops are IR adapted then in daylight they are vulnerable to powerful IR sources which won't affect non-standard troops in the same way.

  8. knarf

    Look dandy except for the injection into the eyes

    Maybe it will come in a handy home DIY kits

    1. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: Look dandy except for the injection into the eyes

      No, no need for diy... got to get sent to a slam, where they tell you you'll never see daylight again. You dig up a doctor, and you pay him 20 menthol Kools to do a surgical shine job on your eyeballs.

  9. Tromos

    "With few harmful effects"

    I'm probably not alone in thinking I'd rather be using IR goggles than being stabbed in the eyeball even if the harmful effects are "few".

    Research efforts are probably better directed at making infrared goggles less bulky and more comfortable to use.

    (Icon depicts immediate post-treatment)

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "With few harmful effects"

      I'm probably not alone in thinking I'd rather be using IR goggles than being stabbed in the eyeball even if the harmful effects are "few".

      Sometimes getting 'stabbed in the eyeball' is a good thing. It's a relatively common medical procedure when treating wet glaucoma. My Dad gets injections every month I think. He says they are uncomfortable and they irritate his eyes for several hours afterwards.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "With few harmful effects"

        "It's a relatively common medical procedure when treating wet glaucoma."

        And other eye conditions. SWMBO had that treatment for a macula condition.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "With few harmful effects"

          ...due get another injection into one of my eyes later this week. Injected under local aesthetic. Thankfully, the procedure is quite quick. It can still hurt a bit. The sclera around the point of injection may have some bleeding that will clear within a few days/couple of weeks. Once it progressed to cover the whole of the sclera, leaving me with a red eye for about a month.

  10. Alister Silver badge

    A simple injection...

    Yeah, just a simple injection... IN THEIR EYEBALLS!!!

    Sod that for a game of soldiers

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sod that for a game of soldiers

      Trouble is, soldiers have to do what they're told...

  11. Spherical Cow

    “Some species of snakes, frogs, and fish can see in infrared. Mammals, however, can only see visible light”

    Technically the snakes, frogs, and fish can also only see in visible light. Visible to them, anyway.

    1. cornetman

      Yeah, it's a bit of a tautology. :D


      Lens removal

      If you remove the lens from a human eye (without killing the owner) the human will normally be able to see some ultra-violet. Of course, their focus on anything will now be a bit soft/useless. So humans CAN see "invisible light" but only if they have been surgically modified.

      Strange that they left birds off the list. I recall a New Scientist article from many years ago describing how some species of owl could see UV. Since some rodents spray as they walk, the owls could see rodent trails glowing in UV at night. Small dark patches moving along the bright UV trails gave away the position of the prey.

      I don't want anything injecting in my eyes, but I might go for the neck/spinal mod to allow me to turn my head through 270 degrees!

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What's the physics behind this? The normal way of things is that a photon hits a molecule, raises it to a higher energy level and then the molecule emits another photon but as a little energy is lost (in optical terms) as heat the emitted photon has less energy and hence is of a longer wavelength. Does this depend on two IR photons in, one photon out? Otherwise there has to be some additional energy input.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      The authors cite the following paper for the molecules they use:

      Amplified stimulated emission in upconversion nanoparticles for super-resolution nanoscopy

      Yujia Liu, Yiqing Lu, Xusan Yang, Xianlin Zheng, Shihui Wen, Fan Wang, Xavier Vidal, Jiangbo Zhao, Deming Liu, Zhiguang Zhou, Chenshuo Ma, Jiajia Zhou, James A Piper, Peng Xi, Dayong Jin

      Nature 543 (7644), 229, 2017,5#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3D8Nj0yJ10RQEJ

  13. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Did the mice start singing out "Here I come to save the daayyyyyy!!!!"?

    I for one welcome our super-powered infra-rodent overlords, and remind them that as a marketing professional I can help recruit my less talented and enlightened human compatriots to a future of glorious service in the new order's cheese mines...

  14. crob


    A local very successful and loved meteorologist had eye surgery to correct her vision. Her vision was so warped and beyond normal, she committed suicide.

    Infra red vision has got to be much worse. Just no.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No

      I'm sorry for your friend, isn't it possible she had depression that was aggravated by the failed eye surgery rather than directly caused by it?

  15. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "Two by two - hands of blue"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Five by Five"

      Joss Whedon did like his squares.

  16. Chris King Silver badge

    Danger Mouse

    Well, that would have made all those "eyes in the dark" fight sequences in the original series even more one-sided - and they did a lot of them to keep the costs down.

    The new series updated this old trope with Greenback shouting "Fools ! I have night-vision goggles !" then asking Stiletto to turn the lights back on so he could find them.

    (Yes, I also watched the new Clangers as well - growing OLD is compulsory, growing UP is a different matter)

  17. Lunablue

    Pointless & cruel

    Just because they can doesnt mean they should.This is why a lot of people hate scientists.

    When they show they have no moral boundaries it makes people sick .

    This is madness & arrogance.

    It doesnt aid mankind in any way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pointless & cruel

      Wrong. There will be times and places where being able to see IR could save lives.

    2. MrDamage

      Re: Pointless & cruel

      Just because you could post a comment on this article, (and by the looks of it, you signed up specifically so you could), it doesn't mean you should. This is why a lot of people hate animal activists.

      When they show they have no moral boundaries, common sense, or reason, it makes people sick of their madness and arrogance.

      You do not aid your cause in any way.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Pointless & cruel

      Thanks to animal experimentation, these protesters can protest for an average of 10-15 years more.

  18. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Probably annoying as hell

    Some early digital cameras saw near-IR as purple. It damaged lots of photos and incandescent objects effectively blinded the blue channel. It's probably best to stick to using goggles until we've hacked eyeballs to see IR without a new set of cones.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The IT angle ..

    .. is that we've had IR sensitive mice for years.

    Just in case someone asks :)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Eyes in the dark

    One moon, circling.

    (anyone get the reference?)

    Also removal of the lens has side effects including macular degeneration. The cones are very sensitive and it is now accepted that

    blue light is particularly damaging.

    Re. IR light, the nanoparticles themselves *might* be possible to make using a genetic technique.

    Not sure if it would need some sort of genetic switch but it could conceivably be done using eye drops.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Re. Eyes in the dark

      Were you meaning TNG and Troy's hydrogen message?

  21. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Just thought it would be fun to mention..

    ..that humans that have had cataract surgery can see into the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. Apparently once you remove the natural lens which blocks UV, our eyes can detect a bit shorter wavelengths. I wonder if you could replace the lenses with ones transparent to some UV, but with the nanoparticles sensitive to IR and truly have some augmented vision.

  22. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Experience IR vision without messing with your eyesight

  23. warmndry

    We have goggles that do the same thing.

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