As we age, our firm skin and gray-less hair aren’t the only things we lose. The five senses can also diminish with age. While it takes a bit more than some box dye to reverse this aging process, it isn’t impossible.
A new study discovered a shockingly simple new treatment that could help eyesight that has declined with age.
How Our Eyes Get Old
Eyes can age in several ways. However, the most common symptom of old eyeballs is a less flexible lens. This makes it difficult to focus on close objects, which is why many people over the age of 45 need reading glasses.
A lifetime of living in the elements can cause our eyes to produce fewer tears, leading to dry eyes. Our optic nerves can fail, and cataracts can form.
The retina, a nerve layer lining the back of the eye, is largely responsible for our vision. There are more mitochondria in retinal cells than anywhere else in the body. That’s because our eyes need a lot of power to process visual stimuli every second we’re awake. The mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell (shout-out to my 10th-grade biology class).
So, these tiny organelles are essentially batteries we use to keep the lights on. And it’s these small structures that laid the foundation for the groundbreaking UK study that might have discovered a solution for declining eyesight.
What Happens When The Powerhouse Fails
Research suggests impaired mitochondria contribute to declining eyesight with age. Cellular dysfunction also causes other diseases unrelated to age, like Leber’s and LHON.
And although they supply most of the power, mitochondrial cells are the most prone to damage. This is because they aren’t equipped with certain protective systems that prevent oxidation.
A lifetime of exposure to light, oxygen, and tobacco smoke speeds up the oxidation process. While the UK study didn’t find a way to stop the aging process altogether, they did find a cellular pick-me-up.
The Power Of Infrared
The “power” behind the mitochondria is ATP. ATP synthase pumps rotate within the watery environment of the mitochondria. The faster the ATP rotates, the more energy is produced.
Researchers used deep red or near-infrared light to access these retinal mitochondria directly. As the water absorbs the light, the water molecules gain more energy.
This makes the watery environment less thick, allowing the ATP to rotate faster. “It’s like heating jam to make it easier to stir,” Glen Jeffery, a scientist on the UK study, told New Scientist.
The study found that one short exposure to infrared light could improve vision performance for several days. The influence of infrared was greater in the morning, during which the mitochondria produces the most ATP.
Though more research is needed, scientists believe this is another step toward treating macular degeneration, Parkinson’s, and degradation related to diabetes or stroke.
Because if we can’t see anything, what’s the point of hiding a few gray hairs, anyway?