Blue light from smartphones may accelerate 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

But the blue light by itself had no effect on the cells, neither did retinal that hadn't been exposed to blue light.

Scientists from the University of Toledo in the United States examined the role of a molecule within the retina called retinal. These molecules killed the cells when exposed to blue light. Researcher Ajith Karunarathne said that "We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens can not block or reflect it". "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".

Macular degeneration vision loss presently affects a small proportion of the adult population and is commonly found among those in their 50s and 60s.

Unfortunately, there's now no cure for AMD, although certain treatments like eye injections can help slow down its progression.

Blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina. Those cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger a cascade of signalling to the brain.

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The light waves of blue color in everyday life reflections from the computer monitors. 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. The damage is permanent. 'Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. They looked at photoreceptor cells, neurons, and heart cells. Dr Karunarathne says that blue light can be filtered with sunglasses which filter both UV rays as well as blue light.

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. 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.

Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, an author on the study, said in a press release that not all types of light are unsafe, as "no activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light".

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. Any medicine would appear to help or delay macular degeneration, a condition that sees about 2 million new cases reported per year.

"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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