Sometimes the science is about doing patient, deliberate research for years. And sometimes the science of splashing dangerous chemicals into your eyes so you can see in the dark.

Introducing Science to the Masses (SFM), a group of biohackers. and independent researchers dedicated to human empowerment through biotechnology.

Screenshot 2015-03-26 at 12/15/36.

In the sci-fi films «Riddick», the most memorable element of future technology is the protagonist’s surgically modified eyes («brilliant work»). A reflective layer at the back of the eye allows it to see in the dark (creating a spectacular eye-shiny film effect).

SFM achieved a similar effect through the use of protein Ce6 which is used to increase the sensitivity of cells to light. Previously, Ce6 has been used to treat night blindness and also as an experimental chemotherapy. In his research, SFM used a mixture of Ce6, insulin and DMSO and dropped it into the eyes of his volunteers. The mixture diffused into the retina and significantly improved low light vision in guinea pigs within a few hours.

eyeballinjection Within a few hours, the experimental subjects were able to select targets along a tree line fifty meters away on a dark night with 100% accuracy. The untreated control group could only excrete about a third. This can be useful in a number of real world scenarios, from special forces to search and rescue.

However, there are several reasons for caution.

Risks and Dangers

Let’s go back to the chemical cocktail the researchers used. Insulin is probably fine, but what about Ce6 and DMSO? DMSO is a mutagen and was banned from medical use during the 1960s due to the risk of causing irreparable damage to the eyes.

Also, Ce6 itself isn’t exactly sunshine and roses either. It is used in chemotherapy because it serves to increase the effect of light on tissues, so much so that it kills cells that are directly exposed to light. When administered to a cancer patient with Ce6, light can be used as a non-invasive way to burn tumors from However, saturating your eye with this risks that regular exposure to light can destroy the retina.

The solution to this problem was light-blocking contact lenses (similar to the dark welding goggles that Riddick wore in film).

black eyes

However, they can only be used for planned exposure to light. If the researchers were to encounter an unexpected source of light (such as an unplanned conversation with police wielding flashlights), they could go blind.

This type of biohacking is very cool, but also very dangerous. It seems irresponsible to use therapy for both eyes: the experiments could only be designed for one eye, with both the subject and the control group wearing eye patches over the other. Thus, even if the drugs cause retinal damage or eye cancer, the subject will not be completely blind.

On the other hand, I have to admit that this research clearly has practical applications and probably wouldn’t happen in academia or industry. While mainstream medicine refuses to conduct such transhuman research, there will still be significant value that crazy people will get off the mainstream by using themselves as guinea pigs. So I applaud these people for their input and hope they start to be more careful.

Unfortunately, this is not in the cards. Their website features another project that is supposed to try to see infrared (among other things) while eating a diet completely devoid of vitamin A. Despite this, it will be interesting to see if mainstream science is doing further experiments on human night vision on the basis of their work.

Are you interested in such transhuman research? Worried about the risks? Could you benefit from better night vision? Discuss in the comments!

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