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Human Vision Enhancement

It may be a stretch... it might also be possible.
  (+3, -2)
(+3, -2)
  [vote for,

Mantis Shrimp (Order: Stomatopoda) see light differently to almost any other creature on Earth. Their photoreceptors can perceive 12 different pigment ranges and 4 separate filter ranges, including ultraviolet and polarised light.

It would take a fair bit of tinkering but it should be possible with gene technology to splice the relevant gene segments into human stem cells and apply those stem cells to existing human retinal surfaces, giving us the ability to see wavelengths and light effects we can currently only imagine.

Yes, vision is not mechanical so much as it is neurological. The brain's vision centre can readily adapt to tinkering, as has been found in experimentation in the past.

This could open up new worlds of sight and colour for those willing to try it.

UnaBubba, Apr 12 2012

Colour_20hearing My take on this - map wavelength onto hearing, which already has fine spectral discrimination. [spidermother, Apr 12 2012]

3D Colour Wheel http://en.wikipedia...ectrum_locus_12.png
Why do red and violet look so similar? [Wrongfellow, Apr 12 2012]

//In vivo human genetic modification// http://onlinelibrar...sCustomisedMessage=
[mouseposture, Apr 13 2012]

In vivo human retinal genetic modification http://www.nejm.org....1056/NEJMoa0802268
[mouseposture, Apr 13 2012]

In vivo primate retinal genetic modification \\giving them the ability to see wavelengths they formerly could only imagine\\ http://www.nature.c...bs/nature08401.html
[mouseposture, Apr 13 2012]

Vacuum Dirigible Service Tech in the Library incident Wanted_3a_20Vacuum_...le_20Service_20Tech
[sqeaketh the wheel, Apr 14 2012]


       [marked-for-deletion] Pretty much the textbook (i.e. help page) definition of "magic" (make any organic matter do anything—just add genetics!)
ytk, Apr 12 2012

       No, not quite magic. [ubie] is suggesting a definite genetic modification (insert new pigment genes into stem cells) rather than a simple "by GM, make us all see more colours".
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 12 2012

       So the difference is that rather than saying we should come up with some technique to implement the medically implausible idea, he specified which medically implausible technique we should (probably) be able to use? Even in the tagline [Uba.] admits this technique "may be a stretch". Seems to me that if you're not fairly sure this sort of thing is possible, it might as well be magic. Just throwing a few scientific buzzwords into your idea doesn't make it any more realistic.   

       If the idea were to set up a video camera with a series of filters that capture light in ways the human eye cannot, and take that signal and feed it directly into the brain, that would at least be a technique supported by existing research; I might even bun that. But until there's substantially more research into what is and isn't possible with genetic modification and stem cells in human beings, the idea as stated treads well beyond the boundaries of plausibility.
ytk, Apr 12 2012

       // if you're not fairly sure this sort of thing is possible, it might as well be magic.// Well, on that basis, most HB ideas are out...   

       It's not completely implausible. Human tetrachromats have four colour pigment genes, not three, and allegedly see four distinct "primary" colours. (There is some debate over this, but it's considered at least possible.) This suggests that the retina's and brain's wirings adapt to the additional receptor type.   

       Hence, adding additional pigment genes is not completely far fetched.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 12 2012

       What would be possible would be a sort of "false colour" range compression.   

       The human eye perceives wavelengths from 400 to 700 nm.   

       If you take that signal and "compress" it via digital processing to 500-600nm, you can then use IR and UV sensetive cameras to "see" the regions above and below your species normal visible spectrum. IR would appear as red, UV as purple/violet. Most "normal" colours would display as shades of yellow/green.   

       No GM involved; just some digital cameras, VR goggles, and a few DSPs.
8th of 7, Apr 12 2012

       I've always wondered exactly why, visually, red and violet are so near eachother in hue, but so distant from eachother in wavelength.
RayfordSteele, Apr 12 2012

       Because they both stimulate the cone cells to a similar degree, that is, "not very much, because they're miles from the peak".   

       I've added a link which shows the familiar "colour wheel" plotted as a line in 3D space, where the co-ordinates correspond to the degree of activation of the 3 different types of cone. Notice how red and violet meet each other near the origin of the graph?
Wrongfellow, Apr 12 2012

       I suspected it was something like that.   

       So which end does burgundy belong to?
RayfordSteele, Apr 12 2012

       [ytk], a key piece of NON-magic, in this Idea, is that the genes actually do exist, which direct biological machinery to make the types of photoreceptors that [UnaBubba] is talking about. And gene-splicing is also an existing technology (Monsanto is routinely moving genes from one species to another, for example).   

       So where is the "magic" that you complained about? In the hoped-for results? Well, this IS the HalfBakery, remember!
Vernon, Apr 12 2012

       In vivo human genetic modification is not currently possible, for a variety of reasons. You can't just apply stem cells to human tissue like spackle and expect the body to just magically integrate the new genetic material. Most likely, the modified stem cells would simply be rejected, and destroy healthy tissue in the process.   

       Never mind the fact that mantis shrimp, being arthropods, have compound eyes, and their ability to broadly perceive light is due to the specialization of thousands of individual ommatidia within the eye, each of which only has the ability to perceive a narrow range of color, partly through the use of selective filtering. So unless you intend to spackle on a few dozen extra eyeballs while you're at it, you're going to have to find some way of filtering light before it reaches each individual photoreceptor cell, without filtering it out from other photoreceptor cells in the same retina. I don't see any way to do that—barring, well, magic.   

       This idea is nothing more than "Whoa, check out those mantis shrimp. Wouldn't it be cool if we could do that too?" You might as well use stem cells to justify grafting on gills so we could breathe underwater, or wings so we could fly.
ytk, Apr 12 2012

       Did [Ubie] mention stem cells? It's reasonable to imagine that we could genetically modify humans with the same success rate (low but finite) that we can modify other species.   

       Whether this would..hang on... I can't believe I'm defending [Ubie].   

       Anyway, it's no more magic than graphene spaceships or inflatable orreries.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 12 2012

       (interesting - the spillchecker highlights "graphene". I wonder how long it takes to update?)
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 12 2012

       //Did [Ubie] mention stem cells?//   

       //It would take a fair bit of tinkering but it should be possible with gene technology to splice the relevant gene segments into human ***stem cells*** and apply those ***stem cells*** to existing human retinal surfaces//   

       Even if you grant this as a possibility—which it's currently not—it doesn't address the fact that mantis shrimp and human eyes are so fundamentally different in their function that there's no way this could conceivably work.
ytk, Apr 12 2012

       Ah - so he did. Point prenée.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 12 2012

       Geez guys... I'm not a genetic engineer, I'm an accountant or something similar. I leave all the Frakenstein shit to people like [Max] to sort out.   

       It wasn't so much a "wouldn't it be cool" as it was "I wonder whether adding a salmon gene to tomatoes, to stop them freezing, is more or less difficult than doing something similar with genes to correct colour blindness, as suffered by my son's best friend? Wait! Why stop at colour blindness if you could transfer genes from a species that sees in different regions of the EM spectrum?" moment.
UnaBubba, Apr 12 2012

       Alternatively, ingesting certain (albeit illegal) pharmaceuticals can cause you to see all the colours there are, plus a few extra ones ...
8th of 7, Apr 12 2012

       Adding this or that protein to a genetic line is doable. In such a case, you'd actually modify the seeds before planting them, such that the plant would grow with the desired gene. Modifying genetic material in vivo (that is, replacing the genes already present in a living body) is a much dicier prospect. Doing it as you describe using stem cells is impossible. And thank God for that—think of the horrifying biological weapons you could produce if you could modify people's genes by simply exposing them to genetically engineered stem cells.   

       //I know enough about how this place works to (probably) write a book on the subject. Eleven years ago, when I first joined the HB, this was in the realm of "magic". Now, it is probably feasible, though unlikely to attract any significant funding or interest.//   

       Don't sell yourself short. I bet you could sell at least a dozen copies of "UnaBubba: A Life On (and Off) the Halfbakery". Though I'm not sure what would have been so magical about it 11 years ago, but I guess I didn't know you then.
ytk, Apr 13 2012

       //In vivo human genetic modification is not currently possible// <link1>, <link2>   

       //You can't just apply stem cells to human tissue like spackle// It isn't necessarily stem cells that are applied, in gene therapy, but applying stem cells like spackle isn't all that far fetched. It's been done with fetal tissue, in the brain -- stem cells should be easier really: the problem there is obtaining the cells. But that difficulty now appears to be solved.
mouseposture, Apr 13 2012

       right the two of you: choose something appropriate from the "weapons" or "sex toys" categories (*not* one of [8/7]'s), go to opposite corners of the Klein bottle and wait for the bell.
FlyingToaster, Apr 13 2012

       That doesn't constitute in vivo genetic modification. The genes to specific lymphocytes are modified in vitro, and then reintroduced into the body. New lymphocytes produced by the body will still have the original genetic code, and once the introduced lymphocytes die off there will be no trace left of the genetic modification.   

       Nobody is saying that genetic modification doesn't play a role in medicine. I'm just saying that using "genetic modification" to grant superpowers is the stuff of comic books, not science.
ytk, Apr 13 2012

       Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio was the stuff of comic books once, too <link3>.
mouseposture, Apr 13 2012

       I'm curious about the potential for stem cell therapy and how apoptosis affects the results down the track. Has anyone in this discussion got knowledge of that?
UnaBubba, Apr 13 2012

       Dammit, you're both right. The poster of an idea is entirely entitled to delete comments. But doing so can offend people. If you're sufficiently offended, stop commenting, and vent elsewhere. I've never deleted someone else's comment, but I respect the right to do so. It's all just etiquette and opinion (IMHO). It's really not worth making such a fuss about it. (Feel free to delete this, now orphaned, comment, UB)
spidermother, Apr 13 2012

       //right the two of you: choose something appropriate from the "weapons" or "sex toys" categories (*not* one of [8/7]'s), go to opposite corners of the Klein bottle and wait for the bell.// .. [FlyingToaster] you are my HB spiritual teacher, ever since the Vacuum Dirigible Service Tech in the Library incident.
sqeaketh the wheel, Apr 13 2012

       Thankyou but I can't take credit for serendipity: the juxtaposition was totally coincidental.   

       (and in case anybody reads that who knows me, I *was* actually job-hunting, despite taking a break over here)   

       hmm... after browing the "product:weapon" categories, there's a few more names to add to the "too much collateral damage" list.
FlyingToaster, Apr 13 2012

       Weird... I posted this on Thursday and on Saturday night I see Jay Neitz on TV, showing red-green colourblind squirrel monkeys being given gene therapy treatment using a genetically modified virus as the vector by which it is carried out. Then I check [mousepostire]'s link and find it's about Jay Neitz's work.   

       Now I'm feeling just a little freaked.
UnaBubba, Apr 14 2012

       Ain't it grand?   

       Similar to the Vacuum Dirigible Service Tech in the Library incident. <link>
sqeaketh the wheel, Apr 14 2012

       //Now I'm feeling just a little freaked.//   

       If you get any inklings about asteroids or supervolcanoes, you will mention it?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 14 2012

       This actually does fall enough into good science that it stops being genetic magic. As far as I know, retinal pigments actually are a single-gene sort of thing; in fact, I recall a success a while back in curing red-green colorblindness in rats by inserting a gene for a red eye pigment, allowing them to distinguish between red and green colors. (Sadly, I cannot recall the study name, although I believe I read it in Science News.)   

       If this is true and eye-receptor colors really are a single-gene thing, it is not at all implausible to propose implanting new colors into human retinas. After all, that level of genetic manipulation actually is within our ability.
Hive_Mind, Apr 15 2012

       It would be interesting to see whether the human brain can cope with the extra colours and filters. Vision is a brain/neurological function, rather than an eye/mechanical function, after all.
UnaBubba, Apr 15 2012

       Also, the chitinous toe growths would be good stub protection.
wjt, Apr 15 2012

UnaBubba, Apr 15 2012


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