A new study finds that staring at a deep red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight. This study, led by University College London (UCL) and published in the Journals of Gerontology, is the first of its kind and scientists believe it could possibly lead to affordable home-based therapies for millions of people worldwide with naturally declining vision.
At around 40 years old, cells in the human eye’s retina begin to age, in part, because the cell’s mitochondria start to decline. Mitochondria are responsible for the production of energy (known as ATP) in the cell. Mitochondrial density is highest in the photoreceptor cells of the retina. As a result, the retina has high energy demands causing it to age faster than other organs. Aging of the retina causes diminished retinal sensitivity and color vision. The UCL-led study sought to reverse this visual decline by rebooting the retina’s cells with short bursts of longwave light.
Previous research in mice, bumblebees, and fruit flies found significant improvements in the function of photoreceptors when their eyes were exposed to longwave deep red light. The new study builds on these findings.
The study included 24 people (12 male and 12 female), between the ages of 28 and 72 with no ocular disease. They were given a small LED torch to take home and look into for three minutes a day for two weeks. Cone and rod sensitivity for all study subjects were tested before and after treatment. Researchers found that the longwave red light therapy had no impact on younger individuals but showed significant improvements in both cone and rod sensitivity in those 40 years and over.

By: Samuel Won, PharmD Candidate 2021
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