- Recent research has discovered that exposing our retinas to short bursts of deep red light can assist improve declining vision.
- Glen Jeffrey, the study’s principal author, has been looking for ways to increase mitochondrial activity in the retina.
- It is hypothesized that there are unknown elements that may be impacting the efficacy of this therapy, thus further study with bigger cohorts will be required.
Brief exposure to deep red light can improve eyesight
Our eyesight normally deteriorates as we age, but recent research has discovered that exposing our retinas to short bursts of deep red light can assist improve declining vision. According to the findings, just three minutes of morning exposure to 670-nanometer (long wavelength) deep red light can improve color contrast vision by about 20%.
A team of researchers from University College London discovered last year that exposing the eye to a deep red 670-nanometer beam of light for two weeks enhanced eyesight in aged participants. This latest study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, looked into the phenomena further, examining the effect of a single three-minute red light exposure.
Increasing Mitochondrial activity
All of our cells include energy factories known as mitochondria, which create a substance known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the gas that powers our cells.
Our mitochondrial functions inevitably deteriorate as we age. Less ATP is created, resulting in reduced cellular functioning. Our retinas age quite quickly, and some estimates suggest that ATP generation by photoreceptor cells in the eye can reduce by up to 70% throughout a human lifespan.
Glen Jeffrey, the study’s principal author, has been looking for ways to increase mitochondrial activity in the retina. Previous animal studies demonstrated that specific wavelengths of light might increase mitochondrial processes, such as boosting ATP production.
“Mitochondria have specific sensitivities to long-wavelength light influencing their performance: longer wavelengths spanning 650 to 900 nm improve mitochondrial performance to increase energy production,” Jeffery explains.
Twenty volunteers were selected and subjected to three minutes of 670-nm deep red light between 8 and 9 a.m., with eyesight assessed using a “Chroma Test” designed to examine color contrast.
Several hours after the red light exposure, the researchers found a 17 percent improvement in the “Chroma Test” results. In older participants, the improvement was higher than 20%, and the advantage lasted at least one week.
Interestingly, the researchers repeated the experiment with a smaller cohort several months later, but this time the exposure was administered in the early afternoon. There was no improvement, suggesting that circadian cycles play a substantial role in mitochondrial response to deep red light.
Therapy still to be perfected
The researchers are careful to note out that there was a lot of variation in visual improvement amongst people in the trial. It is hypothesized that there are unknown elements that may be impacting the efficacy of this therapy, thus further study with bigger cohorts will be required to better tease out who this treatment may work best for and how to provide the light exposure ideally.
Nonetheless, Jeffrey believes that once the therapy is perfected, it might become a low-cost and simple technique to enhance vision in the elderly. The technology is safe, and the intervention is simple, making this a viable method of combating age-related vision loss.