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Deep red light therapy can improve failing eyesight

Scientists from University College London have developed a novel method for treating declining eyesight. The researchers have shown how staring at a deep red light for a period of around three minutes each day has a positive effect. The data demonstrates that the method can majorly improve declining eyesight (the consequence of retinal aging). The novel method represents the first occasion that red light has been used with humans in this way.

By applying deep red light, the scientists aimed to reboot the retina’s ageing cells through the application of short bursts of longwave light. This form of red light therapy uses wavelengths of light roughly between 620 nm and 700 nm. The specific wavelength used in the study was 670 nm.

With the research, 24 individuals (12 male, 12 female), aged between 28 and 72, who had no previously identified ocular disease, took part. The eyes of each person were assessed, looking at the sensitivity of their rods and cones. Rod sensitivity was assessed in dark adapted eyes (pupils dilated); whereas cone function was tested by subjects identifying coloured letters under conditions of very low contrast (a colour contrast test).

Following this, each participant was given a small LED torch and were asked to look into its deep red 670nm light beam for three minutes a day for two weeks. After this, each person was re-tested for their rod and cone sensitivity. It was found that with people aged 40 years and over, significant improvements were obtained. This is thought to relate to the red light boosting photoreceptor function.

The implication of the study is that it could pave the way for a new form of therapy, of a type that is portable and which could even be used by people at home. The researchers describe the process as something akin to ‘re-charging a battery’.

The supporting study has been published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A. The research paper is titled “Optically improved mitochondrial function redeems aged human visual decline.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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