red light mitochondria

by Glen Jeffery, February 16, 2 p.m.
invited by Angelo Arleo

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Humans have evolved for millions of years under natural sunlight, but recently are mainly exposed to artificial lighting that has a very different spectrum. Light has a direct effect on the retina (and the body) intendent of vision, as it influences mitochondria that are primary energy sources for metabolically demanding retinal cells. Mitochondria regulate ageing as well as metabolism. Long wavelengths (660-900nm) improve mitochondrial function and the flow of energy to retinal cells, while short wavelengths (420nm) restrict mitochondrial function.

Hence, aged and damaged retinal function across species, from flies to humans, improves with long wavelength light exposure in a highly conserved pattern. Aged insects not only have improved ERGs but also improved mobility and cognition follow red light exposure and significantly increased lifespans. Aged humans have improved colour contrast and dark adaption times. A worrying feature of modern life is the absence of natural sunlight and our increased exposure to short wavelengths that challenged mitochondrial function. This may have long term consequences for our health.

Glen Jeffery Biosketch

Glen under took his first degree in Experimental Psychology at Sussex University and his doctorate at Oxford University. He spent time at University College London, University of Chicago and Oxford as a post doc before taking up his post at The Institute of Ophthalmology at UCL. He has a range of interests in vision spanning from comparative vision in animals that live in visually stressful environments such as the Arctic, through to retinal function in ageing. Currently he has a keen interest in environmental light and its impact on the ageing process.