Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

Scientists reveal how blue light from smartphones accelerates blindness

Scientists reveal how blue light from smartphones accelerates blindness

For the study, researchers examined what would happen to retinal, a molecule in the eye that's crucial for a person's vision, if they exposed it to the same blue light that is often present in electronic screens.

Blue light emitted from smartphone and laptop screens speeds up blindness by transforming vital molecules in the eye's retina into cell killers, according to new research. Retinal is a molecule in the eye that sends visual information to the brain.

You may have heard that blue light that emits from phones and other electronics can disrupt your regular sleep patterns. The recently published study found that when exposed to blue light retinal can turn against the body, generating the types of chemicals that destroy photoreceptor cells.

Researchers noted that once a photoreceptor cell is dead, it's gone for good.

Blue light has both a shorter wavelength and a greater amount of energy when compared with other colours, and can cause gradual damage to the eyes.

In the lab, the researchers combined retinal with various cells from the body, including photoreceptor cells, neurons, and heart cells. In order to see, Ajith detailed that "You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see".

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"If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves".

From cellphones to laptops to tablets, screens are all around us - and for many, it's hard to look away. "Photoreceptors are useless without retinal, which is produced in the eye". When exposed to blue light, these cell types died as a result of the combination with retinal.

"We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect it", said Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and one of the authors of the study. But as we age, or our immune system takes a hit, we lose the ability to fight against the toxic retinal attack - and that's when the damage occurs. "It can kill any cell type", said Dr Karunarathne, "No activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light".

Dr. Karunarathne urged anyone concerned to wear sunglasses that filter UV and blue light and to avoid browsing on digital devices in the dark.

Our cell phones are practically connected to us.

The study, carried out by optical chemistry researchers at the University of Toledo, explains how exposure to blue light can cause age-related macular degeneration - one of the leading worldwide causes of blindness.

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