If you’ve always wanted to have night vision, but walking around with an electronic scope or tactical goggles just seemed a little too safe or normal; today is your lucky day. Maybe.
According to the website Science.Mic, a group of “biohackers” has successfully given a man night vision by injecting his eyeballs with a chlorophyll analog called Chlorin e6, which found in the eyeballs of many deep sea fish.
The compound had been used clinically to treat a condition called night blindness, so you know, it isn’t completely crazy. Just a little mad scientist-y.
“Going off that research, we thought this would be something to move ahead with,” Jeffrey Tibbetts, medical officer at the biohacker group Science for the Masses, told Science Mic. “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.”
The article didn’t say if Tibbetts was speaking from a dimly-lit underground lair, surrounded by henchmen, or if he cackled regularly after speaking, but it did note that team member Gabriel Licina volunteered for the injections.
Using what was described as a “really fine turkey baster,” Tibbetts gradually leaked 50 microliters of Ce6 into Licina’s eyes, which were stretched open by a speculum. Tibbetts’ objective was to aim for the eyes’ conjunctival sac, which would transfer the compound to the retina.
“To me, it was a quick, greenish-black blur across my vision, and then it dissolved into my eyes,” Licina told Science Mic.
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Rigid clinical methodologies would have dictated that the researcher perform a series of standardized assessments of their subject’s vision. But, the dudes at Science for the Masses ain’t got time for all that.
“We had people go stand in the woods,” Licina said. “At 50 meters, we could figure out where they were, even if they were standing up against a tree.”
According to Science Mic, Licina had 100 percent accuracy when it came to spotting people in the dark, in the woods standing in front of a tree. Other control participants were said to only have “a third” of that success rate.
The whole thing sounded a little like an episode of Duck Dynasty to us, so we contacted Dr. James Reynolds, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology in the University at Buffalo, who said we were right to be wary.
“Night vision is a property of rod photoreceptor sensitivity,” Reynolds wrote via email. “Rods are designed to detect shape, movement, shadows, etc. but not form vision. Cones detect form vision and that is dependent on the visible light that reflects from the object into the eye. A chemical could not increase the actual light entering the pupil. Even dilating the pupil chemically does not allow significantly more photoreceptor light capture.”
“So this makes no reasonable sense,” he added.