Beaming red light at animals soon after they've drunk methanol partially protects their eyes against that chemical's blinding effects, research on rats suggests. Such light therapy might find applications in people who accidentally ingest methanol or who suffer from other forms of acquired blindness, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, says Janis T. Eells of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Strong, red light is high-intensity, low-frequency radiation. Eells and her colleagues chose to experiment with such radiation because other studies had shown that it can protect cells' energy-producing parts, the mitochondria, from some forms of chemical and metabolic injuries.
Methanol harms sight mainly by damaging mitochondria in cells in the eye's retina and optic nerve. People and animals can go blind within 2 days of ingesting methanol, an alcohol used in windshield-wiper fluid and other solvents.
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