Looking at Deep Red Light for Just Minutes a Day Significantly Improves Declining Eyesight

Eye Close Up Red Light

Staring at a deep red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight, finds a new UCL-led study, the first of its kind in humans.

Scientists believe the discovery, published in the Journals of Gerontology, could signal the dawn of new affordable home-based eye therapies, helping the millions of people globally with naturally declining vision.

In the UK there are currently around 12 million people aged over 65: in 50 years this will increase to around 20 million and all will have some degree of visual decline because of retinal aging.

Lead author, Professor Glen Jeffery (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) said: “As you age your visual system declines significantly, particularly once over 40.

“Your retinal sensitivity and your color vision are both gradually undermined, and with an aging population, this is an increasingly important issue.

“To try to stem or reverse this decline, we sought to reboot the retina’s aging cells with short bursts of longwave light.”

Hand Held LED Flashlight

This is an example of hand held LED flashlight used in study. Credit: UCL

In humans around 40 years-old, cells in the eye’s retina begin to age, and the pace of this aging is caused, in part, when the cell’s mitochondria, whose role is to produce energy (known as ATP) and boost cell function, also start to decline.

Mitochondrial density is greatest in the retina’s photoreceptor cells, which have high energy demands. As a result, the retina ages faster than other organs, with a 70% ATP reduction over life, causing a significant decline in photoreceptor function as they lack the energy to perform their normal role.

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

“Mitochondria have specific light absorbance characteristics influencing their performance: longer wavelengths spanning 650 to 1000nm are absorbed and improve mitochondrial performance to increase energy production,” said Professor Jeffery.

The retina’s photoreceptor population is formed of cones, which mediate color vision and rods, which provide peripheral vision and adapt vision in low/dim light.

For the study, 24 people (12 male, 12 female), aged between 28 and 72, who had no ocular disease, were recruited. All participants’ eyes were tested for the sensitivity of their rods and cones at the start of the study. Rod sensitivity was measured in dark adapted eyes (with pupils dilated) by asking participants to detect dim light signals in the dark, and cone function was tested by subjects identifying colored letters that had very low contrast and appeared increasingly blurred, a process called colour contrast.

All participants were then given a small LED flashlight to take home and were asked to look into* its deep red 670nm light beam for three minutes a day for two weeks. They were then re-tested for their rod and cone sensitivity

Results

Researchers found the 670nm light had no impact in younger individuals, but in those around 40 years and over, significant improvements were obtained.

Cone color contrast sensitivity (the ability to detect colors) improved by up to 20% in some people aged around 40 and over. Improvements were more significant in the blue part of the color spectrum that is more vulnerable in aging.

Rod sensitivity (the ability to see in low light) also improved significantly in those aged around 40 and over, though less than color contrast.

Professor Jeffery said: “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 that has declined in the retina cells, rather like re-charging a battery.

“The technology is simple and very safe, using a deep red light of a specific wavelength, that is absorbed by mitochondria in the retina that supply energy for cellular function.

“Our devices cost about £12 to make, so the technology is highly accessible to members of the public.”

###

Reference: “Optically improved mitochondrial function redeems aged human visual decline” by Harpreet Shinhmar, MSc, Manjot Grewal, BSc, Sobha Sivaprasad, MBBS, PhD, Chris Hogg, Victor Chong, MBBS, PhD, Magella Neveu, PhD and Glen Jeffery, D.Phil, 29 June 2020, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.
DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glaa155

This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

15 Comments on "Looking at Deep Red Light for Just Minutes a Day Significantly Improves Declining Eyesight"

  1. Gaodise Johannes Borh | July 2, 2020 at 12:44 am | Reply

    MY right eye have cataract

  2. Curtis Lee Johnson | July 2, 2020 at 6:48 am | Reply

    Where can I buy the light?

  3. Steve Nordquist | July 2, 2020 at 8:45 am | Reply

    …western skies, before twilight. Eastern ones, after. Stage fx ‘bonfire.’ Try Digi-Key selection page if not Cree looking for that 650nm-ish deep red peak. Then thread needles I suppose.

  4. Interesting for sure. BUT, every company selling the 670 nm wavelength bulbs does not recommend looking directly at the light source. What wattage did the scientists use? Thank you.
    Any chance I could get an answer???

  5. Bonnie Davis | July 2, 2020 at 11:44 am | Reply

    Not all red light is equal. If this concept product does work out then it will be advertised by reputable sources asap.

  6. Sirvisual Degradation | July 2, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Reply

    Is a red colored bulb from my home improvement store comparable?

  7. The study had 24 total subjects. Save your money and buy a face mask.

  8. This sounds like some hair-brained idea Trump would come up with.

    • Clyde Spencer | July 5, 2020 at 12:32 pm | Reply

      Oss
      Is your hatred so deep that you feel a compulsion to insult Trump? If so, I pity you. The president is human and most people know his failings. They don’t need you to appoint yourself to confirm what they already know. There is an old saying, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

      • Mark Keller | July 6, 2020 at 9:56 am | Reply

        Jim was referring to Trump’s pronouncement on using light as a cure/treatment for COVID-19. You can’t be that enamored of Trump where you didn’t know this. There’s a newer saying that goes like this, If you don’t speak up and out against the lies, then why have truths to begin with.

  9. I get similar results with the ‘FINALLY’ lightbulb. Founded on the kickstarter site. Then it appeared in lots of places.

  10. Frank Samora | July 4, 2020 at 10:32 am | Reply

    Is there anywhere where you can currently purchase this 670 nanometer red long-wave light?

  11. Anthony Carter | July 9, 2020 at 8:06 am | Reply

    Hi
    Where can I buy one of these 670 nm torches?
    Please email me.

    Best wishes Anthony

  12. Don Alexander | July 13, 2020 at 8:51 pm | Reply

    UV light blood therapy is an old, established, and useful tool. People are too lazy and opinionated to investigate before opening their big mouths. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29124710/

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.