Who Wants Night Vision Eye Drops?

A team of adventurous biohackers have successfully played with an interesting type of chlorophyll, called Chlorin e6 by putting it in their eyes… and the result? Well, they kind of obtained night vision.

Say what? Chlorin e6 is a chlorophyll analog that is found in deep-sea fish, and has been used to treat night blindness in humans (patent). There’s actually lots of research done with the substance, and it has even been used to treat different cancers — but most of the research was performed on lab rats.

So the team decided to take the next step — [Gabriel Licina] volunteered, and they squirted 50uL of e6 into his wide-stretched eyes. It kicks in after about an hour, so they headed outside at night to test his vision capabilities. They started by identifying basic shapes at 10 meters away, no larger than the size of his hand. Then they tried even larger distances. They had people stand at a tree line in different places, and [Gabriel] standing 50 meters away was able to point them out. The control group could barely identify them even a third of the time.

They’ve published a research paper on their findings, and it’s quite the interesting read. Perhaps in the future this can be manufactured in eye drop form for special use cases like hunting, military, or even search and rescue.

[via reddit]

79 thoughts on “Who Wants Night Vision Eye Drops?

        1. I have always wondered if the first sign of a robot invasion will be the internet filling up with “people” who seem to know a lot of facts, without having any sense of humour.

          1. I’m convinced that I actually work with a terminator. He was in the marines, has no sense of humor, seems to have a bit of apprehension about water, and can outwork 10 normal men. Seriously.

      1. Stuff that treats cancer can cause *surprise* also cause cancer.
        E.g. vitamin E. Despite of it being anti-oxidant. Taking too much will increase probability of cancer due to (AFAIK) the fact that body uses oxidants to ditch the mutated cells. Google ncbi for proof, I’m too lazy.

    1. “Other porphyrinoid compounds [besides Photofrin] that have received approval from US FDA and regulatory authorities in other countries include benzoporphyrin derivative monoacid ring A (BPD-MA), meta-tetra(hydroxyphenyl)chlorin (m-THPC), _N-aspartyl chlorin e6_ (NPe6), and precursors to endogenous protoporphyrin IX (PpIX): 1,5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA), methyl aminolevulinate (MAL), hexaminolevulinate (HAL).”

      Source: http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/6/3/817

      PDT has been around for a while…

      1. And people were putting it in their eyes?

        Cellphones have been around for a while now too, and approved yet there is speculation that they cause brain tumors.

        Take any approval with a grain of salt. It’s not what you know it’s who you know.

        1. Speculation is exactly that. “Hard Evidence” is not 100% trustworthy or accurate either, but conversely, speculation is hardly a valid contraindication without such evidence itself.

          1. If “Hard evidence” isn’t trustworthy or accurate it doesn’t really qualify as Hard evidence now does it? It is possible to rig trials or accidentally include bias in a trial but by definition these are not “hard evidence” and should be recognized for the biased work they are.

            Evidence should accurately reflect the state of reality. Otherwise there’s no point using it.
            Conclusions from it need to be unbiased and ideally falsifiable.Those with vested interests tend to have a problem when it comes to drawing conclusions and using unbiased trials.

          2. Hard evidence can be open to interpretation, and in some cases the less likely explanation can be the correct one. In this case you might have a theory which conforms perfectly to the evidence, but is still inaccurate because it interprets that evidence incorrectly

        2. There is also speculation that the CIA is putting implants in peoples head to control them. What’s your point?

          There is no evidence that cellphone usage causes cancer. If anything, the incidence of brain cancer is LOWER in cell phone users. The ONLY study that came up with a positive correlation was a) a small sample size, b) poorly controlled, and c) barely made a 0.05 p value. Of the hundreds of studies, we would expect MANY MANY more to show a positive correlation at a 0.05 level if there is a correlation. Random chance says that 5% of the time there will be a positive at that level without a correlation (oversimplified, but….) That the number of positive is much less than this is damning to the claim in the extreme.

          I don’t know about this substance in particular, but saying that it is approved means that is is approved for a particular purpose or purposes, and in the approved use(s), it shows efficacy that exceeds known risks. That does NOT mean no harm ever in all circumstances, or, for that matter, in the indicated circumstances. Used out of the bounds can be quite likely to cause harm. For example, many OTC drugs are quite effective and relatively harmless used appropriately. But take a few times the recommended dose of Tylenol, for example, and you WILL pay a price (in this case, your liver).

          I personally wouldn’t try it, but it appears that the dosage is in the accepted range, and this is not far from normal usage, though normally it would be used for correction when a patient is deficient, rather than to enhance a normal function.

        3. Ugh… people try and try to FIND correlation between cell phones and cancer, and studies struggle to find that. Since correlation isn’t causation, it could be the plastics of the cell phone covers increase the chance for cancer (at least there are physically possible vectors for DNA damage via chemical means). What drives me nuts is, there isn’t a way for cell phones to cause DNA damage that would lead to cancer, it’s NON ionizing radiation. You can cook a cell, but you can’t mutate it with non-ionizing radiation. Hair loss is more possible than cancer from a cell phone. Hell, I’d even give postulations of brain damage possibility before it’s the cell phone radiation causing cancer.

          Jumping to conclusions like cancer and tumors is silly, it’s a very specific kind of damage. More likely they get cataracts earlier or something of a more general damage to the tissue. ;)

    2. No Joke. If this is like every other chemo drug, it destroys cells. When you destroy cells, you invite fungus and other parasites to grow, which is what cancer drugs are notorious for doing.

  1. Safer to snack on carrots regularly. Dosing both eyes seems like a pretty foolish way to do this. And if this low dose was absorbed into his retinas, why the black sclera. Photo editing for impact?

      1. Exactly, it’s in the paper, the ce6 is a black powder. The dilluted version apparently turned transparent within seconds after covering with the scleral lens, also it might have been the lens itself that’s black

      1. I would have sworn that story was mentioned in a HAD article at one point, but search fails me. Yeah, a few darkroom tricks, a little yellow dye, and the Germans didn’t learn that the British had radar for a little while longer.

        Bet they would have killed for these eye drops back then, though.

      2. IIRC, I read an article about a military experiment from WWII, where they tested people for near IR vision, and found a number with better than average capability. They did manage to improve the lot of them through “diet” and other “still classified” ways. But the training/testing ended when radar became good enough to “see” ships in the night.

    1. Dosing one eye only would have:

      A) Prevented damaging both eyes in the event there are unforeseen long-term effects.
      B) Provided a better control group than other random onlookers.

  2. How can something dripped on the Iris have an effect on the retina? If it seeps to the right place after an hour, then you could just as well take a larger dose as a pill.

    Practical uses: -Turn down my screen even more to conserve battery power
    -Catch ducks and swans in the park at night with your bare hands
    -Come home at night with headlights off so the neighbours won’t have their bedrooms flood lit
    -Checkout underwear in the bus, (ups sorry, that’s x-ray vision)

      1. And if you didn’t watch it back in the 90s, now is a good time to start. They’re broadcasting a re-mastered HD version of the show. Copies with English audio pops up in the usual places a bit later.

    1. It wasn’t just dripped, it was injected inside the eyeball, with some other stuff to increase penetration into the retina (DMSO and insulin). That’s why they use a needle, by the way.

    1. You misread. DMSO isn’t remarkably dangerous by itself. It’s listed as an eye irritant on the MSDS.
      The amount they used probably wouldn’t do much more than temporary discomfort. The danger they focus on is that DMSO works -too- well as a carrier. Everything in the solution went into this guys eye and blood. If any sterilizing steps went wrong or it wasn’t mixed properly it’s not the DMSO that would cause damage but everything else in the solution. Not only did it enter his blood and retina, but every other cell in between.
      Their other gripes were mainly along ethical lines and how you couldn’t get a review board to approve this.

      1. I’m not sure “sterilizing” is an entirely accurate word as it gives the impression DMSO might carry whole bacteria/virii, which it can’t. But it will carry many chemicals, including any unwanted contaminants. It could also get very nasty if you were allergic to one of the ingredients. Sometimes a significant exposure to a new chemical causes the body to develop an allergy, which can suddenly become apparent on subsequent exposures. Since the method of exposure here is rather intrusive and dramatic, I wonder if it might increase the probability of that happening. And the immune system isn’t perfect, sometimes when challenged it can misidentify something that’s supposed to be there as a foreign substance; for example, should Chlorin E6 and rhodopsin (a photoreceptor naturally present in your eye) share some molecular similarity, and you were to develop antibodies to both, you’d be really screwed..

        I’ve put DMSO on myself dozens of times, either alone or as a carrier, for joint pain relief or to decrease the severity of burns. Still, I’m not foolhardy enough to go as far as Gabriel Licina did.

        1. The treatment were applied via metered eye drops (150microL/eye split over 3 doses), no more intrusive than getting atropine drops at the eye doctor. Though they went a little clockwork orange using speculae to keep his eyes open.

          Rhodopsin is a comparatively gigantic protein vs Ce6’s single molecular size, any /competetitive or destructive intereference seems unlikely. Complications from the insulin used to aid in transport seems much more likely.

          Unrelated:
          A study of 5 people isn’t scientific, especially when only one was the positive case for a very subjective hypothesis.

  3. Eye-shine anyone??? Hackers get crazier every year…
    I am sure they researched this well and all, but I don’t think I would ever risk my sight on a ‘fun’ hack. I don’t really see a practical future use for this, unless shadow run replaces the Skynet take over….

  4. Whats the cost? First you gotta kill a few people, then you 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.

  5. A friend of mine used to do occasional clinical trials for new pharmaceuticals, usually testing for side effects rather than efficacy by the time they get to that stage. A couple of years ago the clinical trial was for eye drops to treat erectile dysfunction. It worked great initially, but the side effects left him cockeyed.

  6. “They’ve published a research paper on their findings”

    There is a significant gap in the amount of scientific rigor required for publication in a journal and releasing a pdf on your own website. The disclaimer at the end of the document seems to indicate that the methods described therein would not meet that rigor but for that same reason should be deemed scientifically valuable. This is absurd.

    1. It is what it is. They’re not aiming to release it as a therapy, or a prescription drug. They’ve published what info they have, for purely, at this stage, research value. They aren’t trying to prove a particular principle, just “if you put Chlorin e6 in your eyes, does it give you night vision?”. All science starts that way, and this is just a start.

      As for “publish” and “publish”, if you know the difference, you probably can figure out that this is just “publication” and not “publication” for yourself.

  7. The CIA experimented with this during the cold war, look up the long term effects on the guinea pigs. They also shot sheep wearing Russian coats with rifles to see how the bullets penetrate.

  8. Surprised I see only one call-out on the hunting comment; At least in this part of the world (Canada) hunting is forbidden at night, with “hunting light” being a regulated time of day, approximately 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset. The idea being (surprise) one should be able to clearly see and identify what one is shooting at.

  9. Saw this a couple of days ago so its not April Fools – but its pure BUNK. The molecule can’t penetrate from the cornea/sclera to the retina. We’ve been trying a long time to do that with actual real pharmacological agents and the molecules were much smaller than this. It is possible that the DMSO/insulin could lead to solvent drag or co-transport into the bloodstream but then you could just as easily have put the agent in the mouth or any other thin membrane (just illustrates that these guys haven’t the faintest idea what they are doing)

  10. I wonder how this can help people with retinopathy of prematurity/retrolentilfribroplasia.
    Since I suffer from this, it would be interesting to see how night vision would improve, but
    I doubt it would help with visual acuity. What I would like to see is a real bionic eye that
    ties into the optic nerve that can restore some vision to a person who is blind.
    Ever since I saw the Six Million Dollar Man in the 1970’s, it’s 43 years later and still no bionic eye.

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