- Study finds that brief weekly exposure to red light can improve declining vision.
- The light âturns onâ the mitochondria in the retina.
- The discovery has broad implications, as mitochondria are the energy source of cells.
A study by researchers at University College London in the UK found that a brief application of the right kind of light can improve declining vision.
The study showed that 3 minutes of exposure to dark red light in the morning once a week can improve vision that has diminished with aging, for up to 1 week.
The researchers began their investigation with flies and mice, before work began with the human study participants. Principal author Teacher. Glen jeffery Recount Medical News Today, “No matter what the animal is or, to some extent, what the cell is, the light will have an impact.”
The dark red light used by the researchers was of a specific hue, with a wavelength of 670 nanometers.
The study appears in the journal
Professor Jeffery said the improvement in vision found by the study results from the fact that “the lights we use influence the mitochondria.” He explained their importance:
âThese are energy sources that are highly conserved in cells, these are the batteries of the cells. Light increases the load on the mitochondria and allows them to increase their energy production, which has diminished with age or disease.
The chemical source of this energy is
Eyesight decreases after the age of 40 and is linked to a 70% reduction in ATP, which means cells lack energy to function properly.
According to Professor Jeffery, the mitochondria in the eye in particular offer unique research benefits:
âThe good thing about the retina is that it has more mitochondria than any other organ because it uses so much energy. On top of that, you have easy optical access – you can direct light directly at the retinal mitochondria, which you cannot with the mitochondria in the liver or kidneys. Add to that the fact that the retina ages faster than any other organ, and you can just test its function by asking people what they see, and you have a perfect target for red light therapy.
The small cohort of women and men in the study was between 34 and 70 years old. Researchers measured improvements in participants’ vision by noting their vision for color contrast, or the ability to differentiate colors. All participants had normal color contrast vision at the start of the trial.
Some people were exposed to 3 minutes of dark red light in the morning and others in the afternoon. The red light was about one camera stop brighter, about twice as bright as the overall illumination in the test area.
Participants’ color contrast vision was tested 3 hours after exposure to red light, and again 1 week later.
The color contrast vision of participants exposed to red light in the morning improved by 17% on average.
The researchers found that the application of light must take place in the morning to have any effect.
They found no improvement in color contrast vision in participants exposed to afternoon light.
One of the likely reasons is that the mitochondria keep up with the body’s circadian rhythm and, as Professor Jeffery said of them, “they’re probably busy doing other things in the afternoon.”
Another possibility concerns the specific energy needs at the start of the day. “Maybe it’s about getting up in the morning and being ready to do things,” speculated Professor Jeffery. âIt draws energy that needs to be replaced. No matter what you do [mitochondria] don’t respond the rest of the day or night.
The study also found that 3 minutes is the optimal amount of time for light exposure and that the improvement in vision lasts up to 1 week.
Three minutes is as effective as a 45-minute exposure, “but use [it] for hours and it doesn’t work, âsaid Professor Jeffery.
The implications of the study extend beyond improving vision, according to Professor Jeffery:
âMitochondria govern many aspects of our life and we need a way to improve their health, especially as we age. The use of red light is now applied in a large number of laboratories and also in clinical trials. This will probably provide us with a very simple and economical way to do this with wide applicability. “
As an example, he noted that the red light
âTo give a larger context,â said Professor Jeffery, âwe are also