Biohackers Created Night Vision Eye Drops

September 30, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

A city seen through night vision goggles.
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Night vision goggles are so last season. 

Imagine being able to simply squeeze a couple eyedrops in your eyes and then take on the world after sundown. Gabriel Licina and Jeffrey Tibbetts, biohackers who once created a group called Science for the Masses, designed homemade night vision eye drops that they created with their own formula.

The drops contain a chemical called Chlorin e6 (ce6) which has been used in cancer treatment for years but can also make people’s eyes more sensitive to red light. After about six months of reading through scientific papers and tweaking their formula, Licina and Tibbetts decided they were ready to test it — and Licina would be the guinea pig.

SEE ALSO: Woman sees for first time in 16 years, thanks to bionic eye.

It’s worth noting that Licina has worked in a number of molecular biology labs and Tibbetts is a registered nurse. They weren’t just two curious guys trying out a random solution they concocted — so this eye drop experiment is definitely a “don’t try this at home” type of deal.

However, Licina bravely offered up his eyes in the name of science, and Tibbetts squeezed several drops of the carefully designed liquid into his eyes. They let the drops sink in before heading outside to explore a dark field, and it was clear Licina had an advantage over everyone else who hadn’t used the drops. But he told The Atlantic that it wasn’t a dramatic effect: “It was more like, ‘Oh hey look I can see this thing that I didn’t see previously. Why is everybody tripping, can’t you look at that thing right there?’”

He admits they weren’t anything spectacular, and that the results were somewhat surprising but expected at the same time. “This is something that we’ve noticed in multiple projects now, it’s like, there’s a huge difference between what you want it to be and actual biological reality,” he said.

While Licina and Tibbetts’ discovery wasn’t groundbreaking, it highlights how much actually goes into the process of testing an idea in clinical trials. The concept of night vision eye drops is certainly an intriguing one that could benefit people in a number of different ways, but biohackers simply don’t have the means to take their work as far as researchers can. Most doctors and scientific researchers steer clear of biohacking projects for fear of lawsuits, but clinical trials cost millions of dollars to fund. Even though biohackers may have some of the coolest ideas out there, their projects are usually terminated when they’re just short of amazing.

In the meantime, we’ll have to wait for the idea of night vision eye drops to make it to a legitimate research lab. The product could serve a number of practical applications, like making it safer to drive at night. But then again, who needs practicality when we could use temporary drops to turn us into fierce nightcrawlers?

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