Quirks and Quarks

Exposure to deep red light could help offset age-related vision declines

Three minutes of exposure to a deep wave red LED can improve vision in patients with declining eyesight for about one week.

The red light helped retinal cells be more efficient at making energy

Dr. Pardis Kaynezhad (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) holds a deep red light over her eye. A new study suggests the light can help stimulate the mitochondria in retinal cells. (UCL)

Researchers at University College London have demonstrated that three minutes of exposure to a red light at a specific wavelength can improve vision in patients with declining eyesight for several days.

Dr. Glen Jeffery from the Institute of Opthamology at UCL has been investigating how to improve eyesight as it declines with age. One of the more common issues is failing colour contrast vision. This starts to happen at around the age of 40 as the energy producing mitochondria in the photoreceptor cells of the retina start to decline. 

Jeffery began his study on flies, bees and mice several years ago by exposing them to low frequency, deep red light, which is absorbed by the photoreceptors in the retina.

Dr. Glen Jeffery in the lab at UCL with optical engineer Dr. Pardis Keynezhad (Submitted by Glen Jeffery)

Red light exposure gets the green light

The success of his animal work prompted Jeffery to move on to human subjects for a new study. Twenty people between the ages of 34 and 70 were exposed to red light once a week, for three minutes in the morning. The morning was chosen because mitochondria are more receptive to absorbing light at that time because they get 'busier' as the day progresses. 

On average there was a 17 per cent improvement in colour contrast vision. The improvement lasted at least one week.

The retina begins to decline around the age of 40 (Shutterstock / BLACKDAY)

Produced and written by Mark Crawley