Non-invasive NIR treatment could restore vision

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) are working on a non-invasive treatment that may restore the sight of individuals whose vision has been badly damaged by over-exposure to bright light.

The Australian researchers at the university’s vision centre say that the method involves shining near-infrared light (NIR) into damaged eyes to invoke a natural process that encourages the eye to heal itself.

’The use of NIR in healing eyes stressed by bright light has now been established in animals,’ said Dr Krisztina Valter from ANU and a chief investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Vision Science.

’Now work has begun on the use of red light in human patients. Testing the effect of the light treatment is one aspect of this work; the other is to develop devices that are more accessible, more convenient and cheaper for patients to use.’

Dr Valter said that red light at a wavelength of 670 nanometres is best as it is absorbed by an enzyme that is key to the energy production of the cell. ’It enhances the genes and processes needed to produce energy and fight against the activation of genes potentially lethal to vision cells,’ she said.

The research has brought new hope for people whose eyes have been damaged by sun, as it is shows that some of the damage may be reversible using NIR treatment.

Dr Valter and her team are in the process of establishing human trials to test the use of NIR light in human patients. They anticipate that the treatment will be used as a supplement or, in some cases, even as an alternative to surgical treatment.