Humans navigate the world predominantly by sight. And yet there are colors and worlds we cannot see. Infrared light—light whose wavelength is longer than our eyes can detect—exists all around us. But we do not see it. Yet. Scientists have engineered some proteins to “see” infrared.
Colour vision in nearly all animals depends on specialised chemicals called chromophores, which sit inside proteins and absorb different wavelengths of light. Specific protein structures are thought to determine the absorption spectrum of the chromophores within. Babak Borhan at Michigan State University and his colleagues engineered a series of mutations which altered the structure of human chromophore-containing proteins.