In "people becoming superhuman" news, a
small independent research group has figured out how to give humans
night vision, allowing them to see over 50 meters in the dark for a
Science for the Masses, a group of biohackers based a couple hours north of Los Angeles in Tehachapi, California, theorized
they could enhance healthy eyesight enough that it would induce night
vision. To do this, the group used a kind of chlorophyll analog called
Chlorin e6 (or Ce6), which is found in some deep-sea fish and is used as an occasional method to treat night blindness.
"Going off that research, we thought this would be
something to move ahead with," the lab's medical officer, Jeffrey
Tibbetts, stated "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
To do so, team biochem researcher Gabriel Licina became a guinea pig.
How it happened: With what's basically a
really fine turkey baster, Tibbetts slowly dripped 50 microliters of
Ce6, an extremely low dose, into Licina's speculum-stretched eyes,
aiming for the conjunctival sac, which carried the chemical to the
"To me, it was a quick, greenish-black blur across my vision, and then it dissolved into my eyes," Licina told stated.
And then they waited. From the patent they read,
the effects start kicking in within an hour. Licina and Tibbetts had
done their research, going so far as to post a paper called "A Review on Night Enhancement Eyedrops Using Chlorin e6."
But they are, after all, a bunch of guys working out of a garage. So
they went out to a dark field and tested Licina's new superpowers.
Did it work? Yes. It started with shapes,
hung about 10 meters away. "I'm talking like the size of my hand,"
Licina says. Before long, they were able to do longer distances,
recognizing symbols and identifying moving subjects against different
"The other test, we had people go stand in the
woods," he says. "At 50 meters, we could figure out where they were,
even if they were standing up against a tree." Each time, Licina had a
100% success rate. The control group, without being dosed with Ce6, only
got them right a third of the time.
Hacking the human body: Biohacks like these
are a perfect example of where science and biology can go, and
something like providing temporary night vision could be used for more
than just a really serious Doctor Mid-Nite costume. Imagine search-and-rescue teams being able to see in the dark in forested areas or hostage situations.
It doesn't have to be done with a colossal budget,
either. With the amount of information freely available, pursuing
science can be more about curiosity than resources.
"For us, it comes down to pursuing things that are
doable but won't be pursued by major corporations," Tibbetts says.
"There are rules to be followed and don't go crazy, but science isn't a
mystical language that only a few elite people can speak."
What's next? For the lab's night vision
experiment, there are other tests they need to do, with hard science
with actual lab equipment and getting real numbers on the electrical
stimulation in the eye. But for now, it's fair to say it worked.
"Once you get the hard numbers, that's
it," Licina says. "You take it and quantify it and write it down, and
release it. ... This is how science works. It isn't flashy. But it makes
it more accessible. It shows it can be done. If we can do it in our
garage, other people can, too."