Researchers have found that looking at a dark red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve vision loss. Published in the Journals of Gerontology, the study could signal the dawn of new affordable home eye therapies, helping millions of people around the world with naturally declining vision.
“Our study shows that it is possible to considerably improve the vision which has diminished in the elderly, by using simple brief exposures to light wavelengths which recharge the lowered energy system in the cells of the retina”, said the lead author of the Glen Jeffery study from University College London in Britain.
“To try to stem or reverse this decline, we have sought to restart aging retinal cells with short bursts of longwave light,” added Jeffery.
In humans, around the age of 40, the cells of the retina of the eye begin to age, and the rhythm of this aging is caused in part by the mitochondria of the cell, whose role is to produce energy (called ATP) and to stimulate cellular function, also begins to decline.
Mitochondrial density is highest in photoreceptor cells in the retina, which have high energy requirements. As a result, the retina ages faster than other organs, with a 70% reduction in ATP over the course of life, resulting in a significant drop in the function of photoreceptors because they lack the energy to fulfill their normal role.
The researchers built on their previous findings in mice, bumblebees and fruit flies, all of which found significant improvements in the function of photoreceptors in the retina when their eyes were exposed to dark red light of 670 nanometers. (long wavelength).
For the study, 24 people (12 men, 12 women) aged 28 to 72, without eye disease, were recruited. All participants then received a small LED torch to take home and were asked to look into its deep red beam of 670 nm for three minutes a day for two weeks.
The researchers found that light at 670nm had no impact on younger individuals, but in those 40 years and older, significant improvements were achieved.
The color contrast sensitivity of the cone (ability to detect colors) has improved by up to 20% in some people aged around 40 and over. The improvements were greater in the blue part of the color spectrum which is more vulnerable to aging.
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The sensitivity of the rod (ability to see in low light) has also improved significantly in people aged 40 and older, although less than the color contrast, the researchers said.
“The technology is simple and very safe, using dark red light of a specific wavelength that is absorbed by the mitochondria in the retina that provide energy for cell function,” the authors wrote.