Even with perfect vision, we’re actually blind in some ways. For example, many birds can see in the UV spectrum, and snakes can detect infrared But researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and China’s University of Science and Technology are showing that (willing) humans can have an extra-normal vision, too. The research may also lead to vision-restoring therapies for people suffering from a variety of retinal diseases.

Mice see with nanoantennas

The researchers enabled a group of mice to see infrared light, a rarity among animals. The feat was accomplished by injecting tiny “nanoantennae” into the eyes and attaching them to photoreceptors with a lectin protein conjugated nanoparticle developed by the researchers.

The nanoantennae are fluorescent particles that glow green when illuminated by infrared light and the mice were able to see this glow as normal light. It’s important to note that the animals didn’t really see infrared light, but only green light and therefore their normal vision was not affected. This allows the animals to see the visible spectrum and also “image” in infrared at the same time.