UToledo Chemists Discover How Blue Light Speeds Blindness

Blue Light Emitted By Smartphones Could Be Causing Blindness

That's the warning being offered up by researchers from the United States who found that prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to the generation of poisonous molecules in the eye's light-sensitive cells.

Macular degeneration is essentially the death of the retina's photoreceptor cells.

The researchers are also investigating the light emitted from televisions as well as smartphones and tablet screens, to better understand how cells in the eyes are affected by everyday blue light exposure.

A new study has shown how blue light can cause macular degeneration - one of the leading causes of blindness. They looked at photoreceptor cells, neurons, and heart cells. No other visible spectrums of light such as green, yellow or red triggered the same retinal process as blue light. For their study, the researchers chose to target retinal molecules that photoreceptor cells need in order to sense light and send signals to the brain.

"We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect it", said Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor at University of Toledo in the US.

It kills photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate.

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Now, thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Toledo, we know how blue light causes this damage, meaning we might also be on track to preventing it.

You may have heard that blue light that emits from phones and other electronics can disrupt your regular sleep patterns. "Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop", said Karunarathne. When exposed to blue light, these cell types died as a result of the combination with retinal. Dr Karunarathne says that blue light can be filtered with sunglasses which filter both UV rays as well as blue light.

The researchers did find a molecule called alpha-tocopherol that can stop the cells from dying, but the natural antioxidant fails to protect older users who are more susceptible to macular degeneration.

"You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see", researcher Ajith Karunarathne said in a press release. But as a person ages or the immune system is suppressed, the patients loses the ability to counteract the harmful combination.

Dr Karunarathne said: "That is when the real damage occurs".

"Some cell phone companies are adding blue-light filters to the screens, and I think that is a good idea", said John Payton, visiting assistant professor at University of Toledo.

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