Open Source Biohackers + Night Vision

April 7, 2015 - BIT Magazine Science fiction's Riddick franchise introduces audiences to a convict/fugitive with super human abilities, including among other things, the ability to see in the dark.  During the first movie, Pitch Black, Riddick explains to a teenager stranded on a desolate planet with him how he ended up with this night vision.

Jack: Where the hell can I get eyes like that?Riddick: Gotta kill a few people.Jack: 'Ok, I can do it.Riddick: Then you got to get sent to a slam, where they tell you you'll never see daylight again. You dig up a doctor, and you pay him 20 menthol Kools to do a surgical shine job on your eyeballs.
While no one is sure whether Riddick was telling the truth or not, he suggests he received this special ability via a surgical procedure.

Today, if one wants to see in the dark, they need either thermal imaging systems or passive image intensifiers (or, of course, a flashlight). But a biohacking group in California may be onto another option, introducing a chemical into the eye that temporarily increases its ability to see in the dark.


In a published open source study titled A Review on Night Enhancement Eyedrops Using Chlorin e6, Chlorin e6, a substance found in many deep sea creatures enabling them to find their way in the dark abyss, is introduced into human eyes conferring upon them with the ability to see in the dark. Their ability to recognize people and symbols at a distance between 25-50 meters was vastly imporoved, with accuracy ranging as high as 100% compared to 33% for test subjects who did not receive the treatment.  Eyesight returned to normal the next day, and 20 days after the experiment, no ill effects have been noticed.

Upon Biohacking's Cutting Edge 

Tests like this can be incredibly dangerous for those who do not undertake the proper precautions, research, and preparations before conducting them. However, understanding the risks and undertaking them, while not appealing to everyone, is in fact how many of the medical breakthroughs we take for granted today have been achieved.

Like test pilots and other dangerous occupations, professionals who take the time to properly prepare experiments operate within the conditions of controlled risk, and form the foundation of a very necessary, adventurous segment of the population. As biohacking and synthetic biology continues to increase in accessibility, the need for such groups who possess both the knowledge and courage to conduct such experiments will increase as well.

The comment section under the published report, on the group's website Science for the Masses (SfM) included comments from professionals in various fields offering their perspective. Even comments critical of the experiment raised ideas either for SfM or readers who might otherwise not have thought of them.

This openness, while absent in corporate, university, and government R&D, helps raise awareness of risks and redundancy for all others working on similar or related projects. In the future, as the biohacking community tackles increasingly complex and important research, this openness will pay off in dividends.

The Pink Army Cooperative, named so after the pink ribbons associated with the battle against cancer, seeks a similar open source, collaborative, decentralized research and development model for personalized treatments not unlike gene therapy already successfully treating otherwise doomed patients with leukemia. While we still have a way to go before biohackers are curing cancer in their local labs, what SfM is doing, and what Pink Army Cooperative has proposed to do, gives us a viable roadmap and foundation to build on in creating this promising future.

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