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Seeing red for better vision

Staring at a red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight for those over 40, British scientists recently reported.

They believe their discovery could lead to new and affordable eye therapies, potentially helping millions of older people improve their naturally declining vision using a simple, safe technology at home.

After about age 40, cells in the human retina begin to deteriorate, when their energy-producing mitochondria begin to decline. “To try to stem or reverse this decline, we sought to reboot the retina’s aging cells with short bursts of longwave light,” said Professor Glen Jeffery, an ophthalmologist and lead author of the study. 

His research team built on their previous findings in mice, bumblebees and fruit flies, which all showed significant improvements in the function of the retina’s photoreceptors when their eyes were exposed to long wavelength (670-nanometer) deep red light.

They recruited a small group of people between the ages of 28 and 72, none of whom had any existing eye disease, to participate in their first human trial. After vision testing, all participants were given a small LED 670nm flashlight and asked to look continuously at its red beam for three minutes, once a day for two weeks.  

Although the light had no impact on the vision of younger participants, those over 40 showed significant improvements of up to 20% in both color contrast vision and the ability to see in low light conditions.

“Our study shows that it is possible to significantly improve vision that has declined in aged individuals using simple brief exposures to light wavelengths that recharge the energy system…rather like recharging a battery,” Jeffery said.

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