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How blue light accelerates blindness

12 August 2018

A new study has shown how blue light can cause macular degeneration - one of the leading causes of blindness.

THE BLUE light emitted from smartphones, laptops and a wide variety of digital devices not only damages your vision but can actually speed up blindness.

More generally this blue light can gradually cause lasting damage to the eyes due to the fact it works on a shorter wavelength and contains more energy than other coloured lights.

It kills photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate.

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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", says Ajith Karunarathne, one of the researchers on the new study. For their study, the researchers made a decision 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".

Macular degeneration, sometimes referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, is a condition that results from the breakdown or thinning of cells in the macula - a part of the eye's retina that's important for seeing fine details. Because of this, in the cytoplasm, sharply increasing the concentration of calcium, which can eventually lead to cell death.

The researchers found that introducing retinal molecules to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons, caused them to die off when exposed to blue light.

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Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student at the University of Toledo who was involved in the study, said: "If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves". When exposed to blue light, retinal turns on the eye, killing vital light-sensing cells.

"By learning more about the mechanisms of blindness in search of a method to intercept toxic reactions caused by a combination of retinal and blue light, we hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world", he concluded.

Normally, there's a molecule in our eyes called alpha tocopherol, which is a natural antioxidant, and it stops photoreceptor cells from dying. But as we age, or if the immune system is suppressed, we lose the ability to fight against attacks by retinal and blue light. "We know how it happened because there are multiple paths that lead to the cell death", said Karunarathne.

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

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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.

How blue light accelerates blindness