Last month, a California-based biohacking collective called Science for the Masses did something outrageous—they synthesized a chlorphyll analog called Ce6 and applied the drops to a test subject’s eyes in the hopes of giving him night vision. Crazier still, the stuff worked: In the test, the volunteer (and fellow lab member) Gabriel Linica was placed in a pitch-black field where he was asked to spot people hiding about 50 meters away from him. While the effects of the drops didn’t last, his 100 percent success rate outperformed a control group, which hadn’t applied Ce6 and only saw one-third of the figures.
I’m fascinated by the idea of these superpower eyedrops—that a little squirt of this magic liquid will help people see in the dark. But Science for the Masses didn’t just come up with the idea on their own. Ce6 occurs in nature; it can be found in deep-sea dwellers who need the substance to see in murky waters. And while scientists have played with this solution in the past to treat people with night blindness, it hasn’t seen much use outside of the lab.
In fact, that’s part of the group’s mission. Science for the Masses tends to look at medical research and play in the margins where drugs and medical technologies get abandoned. As the group’s chief medical officer Jeffrey Tibbets told Mic.com, “For us, it comes down to pursuing things that are doable but won't be pursued by major corporations.” The hackers operate by a strict ethical code, but they also believe that science and experimentation shouldn’t just be restricted to those in ivory towers. As Tibbets explains, "There are rules to be followed and don't go crazy, but science isn't a mystical language that only a few elite people can speak."
It’ll be interesting to follow how the biohacking movement evolves, and also whether or not these eyedrops will ever be over-the-counter. I’m hoping so—I’m tired of putting on night vision goggles every time I have to look for monsters under my kid’s bed.