A group of biohackers calling themselves “citizen scientists” say they’ve had success trialing a serum which enables them to see in the dark.
Science for the Masses is based a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. They’re “an independent team of research-minded individuals dedicated to making the tools and resources of science more available to the layperson”.
Their mission is to make as much scientific research freely available as they can. They say they are professionals in research, health care and technical design and publish all their results and methodology for free.
“We drive these bodies around for up on a century,” biochem researcher Gabriel Licina writes. “Everyone should know how to change the oil, tweak the engine and rotate the tires.”
Or, as Licina experienced recently, see in the dark.
Noting experiments on rats with a kind of chlorophyll analog found in deep-sea fish called Chlorin e6 had produced some positive results, yet not been tested on humans, Licina took on the role of guinea pig:
If it looks painful, it was.
“This is me with protective lenses in my eyes to block out some of the light. As the solution starts to work, the light intensity would increase over the course of 2 hours. I ended up putting sunglasses on soon as well.”
Licina says the pain was from the speculum stretching his eyes though, not the Chlorin e6, also known as Ce6. He took an extremely low dose in his conjunctival sac, which transported it straight to his retina.
Ce6 has light amplification properties and has been used in some cancer treatments. The team mixed it with insulin and dimethlysulfoxide to enhance its ability to absorb into the chamber of the eye.
The effects were noticeable after an hour, and after two hours, Licina and four control subjects were taken to a dark room for three types of tests – symbol recognition by distance, symbol recognition on varying background colors at a static distance, and the ability to identify moving subjects in a varied background at varied distances.
For the symbol recognition tests, the group was asked to identify markings on objects from 10 metres.
For subject recognition, the group was taken outside to a small grove of trees, where some other assistants were hiding within a 25-50m range. Licina and the four controls were given a laser pointer and asked to point out the assistants.
The Ce6 subject consistently recognized symbols that did not seem to be visible to the controls. The Ce6 subject identified the distant figures 100% of the time, with the controls showing a 33% identification rate.
Initial success, it seems, although the team admits a lot more testing is required. “However, given the current results and the previous body of work on the technique, it seems fair to say that this technique is successful in it claims for low light amplification in the human eye,” it notes.
Licina’s eyes were desensitized by morning and as of 20 days later, no adverse effects were noted.
Obviously, there’s absolutely no condoning anyone without proper specialist knowledge attempting this kind of biohack.
But Science for the Masses believes it’s important that citizen scientists and DIY biologists have a go at making their work and research freely available.
“Citizen scientists and “DIY biologists” are under no pressure to reach or hold a position of tenure and often do not have the need to produce for monetary reasons,” they say.
“It is possible that this will allow for less bias in publishing and a more open release of work due to the lack of external motivators.
“By making information accessible, one can preempt ‘scooping’ and instead focus on collaboration.”
You can find a full breakdown of the experiment and other trials at their website here.
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