September 27, 2013

Saving the sight of premature babies

Posted in: Latest News, Research and Developments

Researchers at Australia’s Vision Centre have announced that treatment with near-infrared (NIR) light can prevent the development of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Using animal models that mimic the disease, Vision Centre researchers report that shining gentle near-infrared light (NIR) at 670 nanometres (nm) is a potential treatment that is less invasive, inexpensive and less risky than surgery or laser application.

Dr. Riccardo Natoli of the Vision Centre and The Australian National University explains that “While there were still some vessels that grew out of bounds in the experimental animals, they were far fewer than in animals that did not receive NIR treatment…We don’t fully understand the process of how the NIR light protects the eyes, but we suggest that the light sends a signal to the mitochondria – the ‘powerhouse’ of every animal cell – to use oxygen more efficiently, resulting in fewer free radicals and less damage.”

The researchers have started a trial to treat newborns with NIR at the Canberra Hospital, with Associate Professor Alison Kent of The Australian National University.

The study, “670nm Photobiomodulation as a Novel Protection against Retinopathy of Prematurity: Evidence from Oxygen Induced Retinopathy Models” by Riccardo Natoli et al, may be read here.

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