Restoring light sensitivity using tunable near-infrared sensors

Science. 2020 Jun 5;368(6495):1108-1113. doi: 10.1126/science.aaz5887.


Enabling near-infrared light sensitivity in a blind human retina may supplement or restore visual function in patients with regional retinal degeneration. We induced near-infrared light sensitivity using gold nanorods bound to temperature-sensitive engineered transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. We expressed mammalian or snake TRP channels in light-insensitive retinal cones in a mouse model of retinal degeneration. Near-infrared stimulation increased activity in cones, ganglion cell layer neurons, and cortical neurons, and enabled mice to perform a learned light-driven behavior. We tuned responses to different wavelengths, by using nanorods of different lengths, and to different radiant powers, by using engineered channels with different temperature thresholds. We targeted TRP channels to human retinas, which allowed the postmortem activation of different cell types by near-infrared light.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • Blindness / therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / radiation effects
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Gold*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nanotubes*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / radiation effects
  • Retinal Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / radiation effects
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / radiation effects*
  • Snakes
  • TRPC Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPC Cation Channels / physiology*
  • TRPV Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPV Cation Channels / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / radiation effects*
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology
  • Visual Cortex / radiation effects


  • TRPC Cation Channels
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Trpv1 protein, rat
  • Gold