Biohackers trying to modify the human eye to see infrared spectrums

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Sep 12, 2014

Art, beauty, the new Star Wars movie -- we can see a lot of cool things with our eyes, but if a team of biohackers get their way, we might be able to see a whole lot more.

Jeffrey Tibbetts and a few other would-be biohackers are winding down a 25-day experiment in which they have attempted to alter their vision to the point where they can see in infrared. Which, yeah, is not something we humans can typically do. 

So how does it work? Basically, as Tibbbetts told Popular Science, they crafted a nutritional protocol designed to modify their vision, utilizing their backgrounds in anatomy and molecular biology to work out the specifics. But if one of them doesn’t follow the protocol explicitly, they could go blind. In a nutshell, they replaced their consumption of Vitamin A with Vitamin A2 (something humans don’t typically consume).

By changing their diet and consuming no Vitamin A, which binds to proteins in the eye and helps convert light into chemical signals we can understand, they hypothesized that all the extra Vitamin A2 would lower the range of wavelengths that the eye can absorb, hopefully extending from visible light all the way down to the infrared spectrum.

They’re still parsing through the findings, but those who finished the experiment (six started, but only three made it the full 25 days) would eventually describe seeing “strange reddish colors, losing blue/green definition,” and gained the ability to point out things in the dark to others “who can't see them at all,” fellow researcher Gabriel Licina said.

But not everyone thinks this concept has much traction. The experiment has its fair share of skeptics, with University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology senior scientist Jim Ver Hoeve saying it “blurs on the insanity” to think they can use Vitamin A2 to alter their photoreceptors. Other peers were a bit more receptive, but most agree the experiment is extremely dangerous and could cause damage to a person’s vision.

But, risky or not, it’s extremely cool to see people pushing the boundaries of what the human body is capable of doing. What do you think?

(Via Popular Science)