Nanoparticles in the eyes allow mice infrared night vision

A nanoparticle-based technology that could perhaps one day allow humans an integrated night vision within their visual system has been developed by a group of researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts. Gang Han, the main author of the research, is in fact performing several experiments on mice by injecting into their eyes a special nanomaterial made from nanoparticle conversion (upconversion nanoparticles, UCNP).

These are organic particles that contain traces of rare earths, erbium and ytterbium that can convert the photons of infrared light into high-energy green light, i.e. light that mammals’ eyes can intercept.

The special nanoparticles have been attached to the photoreceptors of mice’s eyes with a protein bound in turn to a sugar molecule on the surface of the photoreceptors. After this first stage, they injected them behind the retinas.

They then started to test to see if the eyes could see infrared light. In the first phase, the mice were trained to swim towards a visible light that signaled the escape route. In a second phase, the visible light was replaced by infrared light.

Mice with special nanoparticles in their eyes could also see the escape route signal, unlike other mice that had not been injected.

After 10 weeks, the nanoparticles had not yet caused any obvious side effects, although Han himself admits that the level of biocompatibility is not yet completely clear at this stage and that further research will also have to be done to consider possible use in humans.

Breathalyzer invented that detects marijuana in the breath

Marijuana is becoming increasingly legal in the United States, but there are limits on its use, just as there are limits on alcohol when driving, for example.

Unlike marijuana, however, there is no quick device for marijuana to check, for example by breathing, the amount taken, as is done with a breathalyzer for alcohol. This is a real problem for the police force and for those in charge of controls in general.

A team of researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh has therefore built one. It is a device that can measure the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active compound present in marijuana itself, by breath alone.

Currently, to check the presence of this compound in the body, analyses of blood, urine or hair samples must be carried out, processes that cannot be carried out naturally, for example, at a checkpoint or at a checkpoint.

The device is constructed with carbon nanotubes capable of capturing the THC molecules present in the breath. Once captured, the surface of the nanotubes changes its electrical properties, which signals the presence of the compound.

These nanotechnological sensors detect THC with a degree of accuracy comparable or even better than mass spectrometers.

In addition, as Sean Hwang, one of the authors of the study as well as the manufacturers of the device, explains, automatic learning technique was also used to “teach” the device to recognize the presence of THC even when there are other imperceptible substances in the breath.

Externally it is similar to a classic breathalyzer: it boasts a plastic casing and mouthpiece plus a small digital display indicating the measurement.

New ultrasound technique for transcranial stimulation improves brain performance

After a six-year development, a team of researchers from the Department of Neurology at the Vienna Medical University announces a new ultrasound technique that can significantly improve brain performance, especially for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. In these diseases, brain neurons are constantly lost and this leads to memory loss, speech and movement disorders, mood swings and classic Parkinson’s tremors.

The researchers, led by Roland Beisteiner, have developed a new method that would be, as described in the press release published by the Viennese University’s own website, “a world first.” The ultrasound technique is non-invasive and can reach all areas of the brain to activate neurons and regenerate functions otherwise lost. The method, called transcranial ultrasound pulse stimulation (TPS), allows to penetrate and stimulate all areas of the brain with ultrasound pulses that are delivered directly into the skull.

The procedure is painless and can be performed with the patient fully conscious. The pulse emitted by the device has a wavelength between 3 and 5 mm and a length of approximately 3 cm. The method requires an accurate map of the brain previously performed by magnetic resonance imaging.

Thanks to this “navigation system”, during the procedure the neurologist can identify on the screen where the impulse is to be delivered and generally perform the entire procedure very precisely, as Beisteiner himself states.

Unlike transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), this new method provides greater precision for deep brain activation.