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Scientists investigate cellular impact of blue light

12 August 2018

In brief: We've known for a long time that the blue light emitted from electronic devices such as smartphones isn't good for us, harming our eyes and affecting users' ability to get to sleep.

The new study comes from a team of researchers at the University of Toledo in the USA who showed that a long term exposure to the blue light can raise the levels of certain poisonous molecules released within the light sensitive cells of the eyes leading to macular degeneration.

The eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect blue light, which has become an unavoidable constant presence for many people.

The light waves of blue color in everyday life reflections from the computer monitors. The researchers injected the retinal molecules into other cell types, including cancer cells and heart cells, and found they died off when exposed to blue light.

Since photoreceptors, produced in the eye, are useless without retinal, one needs a continuous supply of retinal molecules to see.

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"We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect it", study author Dr Ajith Karunarathne said in a statement. 'Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye.

Scientists say prolonged exposure to the light encourages cells in the eye to generate poisonous molecules that cause macular degeneration - an incurable condition that results in significant vision loss. When irradiated yellow, green or red light this phenomenon does not occur. Retinal without blue light or blue light without retinal could not kill the cells.

The team noted that a molecule called alpha tocoferol, a form of Vitamin E, a natural antioxidant found in the eye and body, can stop the cells from dying.

"If you look at the amount of light coming out of your cell phone, it's not great but it seems tolerable", the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said.

To protect your eyes from blue light, Karunarathne advises wearing sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light outside, and to avoid looking at your cellphone or tablet in the dark. "Some cell phone companies are adding blue-light filters to the screens, and I think that is a good idea".

"Every year more than two million new cases of age-related macular degeneration are reported in the United States", Karunarathne said. "Blue rays of light, which have shorter wavelengths and more energy than other colors, can damage our eyes over time â€" they contribute to macular degeneration, the primary cause of blindness.

Scientists investigate cellular impact of blue light