Blue light from smartphones may speed blindness

Blue light emitted from smartphones and other digital devices can accelerate blindness by transforming vital molecules in the eye's retina into cell killers a study has found

Blue Light From Smartphone, Computer Displays Can Accelerate Blindness: Study

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.

The new study comes from a team of researchers at the University of Toledo in the United States 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 photoreceptors can not function without the presence of the retinal molecules.

Blue light can have a worrying effect on our eyes, literally killing the cells in our retinas.

That's the warning being offered up by researchers from the U.S. who found that prolonged exposure to blue light can lead to the generation of poisonous molecules in the eye's light-sensitive cells. Instead, he said, it's just blue light, which "can kill any cell type".

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. 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.

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"It's toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves", explained Kasun Ratnayake, doctoral student researcher at the varsity. "Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye". When exposed to blue light, these cell types died as a result of the combination with retinal.

The researcher found that a molecule called alpha tocoferol, a Vitamin E derivative and a natural antioxidant in the eye and body, stops the cells from dying. 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.

"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.

"That is when the real damage occurs", Karunarathne said.The lab now is measuring light coming from television, cell phone and tablet screens to get a better understanding of how the cells in the eyes respond to everyday blue light exposure.

Our cell phones are practically connected to us. Any medicine would appear to help or delay macular degeneration, a condition that sees about 2 million new cases reported per year. Blue rays of light, which have shorter wavelengths and more energy than other colors, can damage our eyes over time - they contribute to macular degeneration, the primary cause of blindness.

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