It may soon be possible to improve or prevent failing eyesight in old age using a combination of simple and painless treatments.
The need to protect or 'tune up' the visual system is becoming acute, says Jonathan Stone of Sydney University and ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science (Vision Centre).
The Vision Centre is reporting significant success in a major collaborative research programme which seeks to protect and possibly restore functional vision using simple therapies based on light, diet and oxygen.
These therapies include light management, anti-oxidant dietary supplements, healing of damaged eye cells using near-infra-red light and short-term oxygen therapy, and are all based on a deepening understanding of the cellular and genetic processes within the eye.
A Vision Centre team headed by Krisztina Valter has produced evidence that eyesight damage caused by exposure to very bright light can be repaired or even prevented, using doses of near-infra-red light.
A second form of treatment is simply to restrict the amount of light entering the eye, using dark glasses or other means.
"We have shown that restricting light in young eyes in animal models of retinal degeneration greatly reduces the amount of damage they sustain from ordinary bright daylight," Valter said.
In a third development at the Vision Centre, Silvia Bisti of the University of L'Aquila in Italy has discovered that a dietary supplement of the herb saffron offers potentially major benefits for protecting and repairing damaged vision, said an ARC release.
A fourth is the possible use of oxygen as a short-term therapy to improve vision. While oxidative damage is a major cause of the loss of our vision cells, it has been observed that saturating the eyes with oxygen for a very short time in a chamber can cause vision to improve, Stone said.