Blue Light Emitted By Gadgets May Kill Brain Cells, Accelerate Aging
Black Mirror was right: technology is going to be the death of us. New research focusing on the blue light emitted by the screens of our phones and laptops suggests it could damage brain cells and affect longevity.
Blue light is a wavelength in the spectrum of light visible to the eye and often used in artificial lighting. Previous research has determined that long-term exposure to blue light can cause disturbed sleep and eye damage.
“There is evidence suggesting that increased exposure to artificial light is a risk factor for sleep and circadian disorders,” Jaga Giebultowicz, Ph.D, lead author and a professor of integrative biology at The Ohio State University’s College of Science, said in a statement. Circadian disorders are a dysfunction of the body’s circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle of processes like brain wave activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration.
“And with the prevalent use of LED lighting and device displays, humans are subjected to increasing amounts of light in the blue spectrum since commonly used LEDs emit a high fraction of blue light. But this technology, LED lighting, even in most developed countries, has not been used long enough to know its effects across the human lifespan,” Giebultowicz added.
Published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, the study explored the effects of blue light wavelengths on the common fruit fly or Drosophila melanogaster — used for the developmental and cellular mechanisms it shares with other animals and humans.
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The study involved testing how flies responded to daily 12-hour exposures of blue light similar to the wavelength of that emitted by phones and tablets. Flies exposed to 12 hours of blue light and 12 hours of darkness had shorter lives as compared to flies kept in darkness and regular light. In addition, they also experienced damage to their retinal (eye) cells and brain neurons, and had impaired movement — they could not climb up and down the walls of their containers as they usually did. The results also suggest flies don’t need to see blue light for damage to occur, due to the presence of mutant, eyeless flies who still faced the consequences of blue light exposure.
“We’d measured expression of some genes in old flies, and found that stress-response, protective genes were expressed if flies were kept in light. We hypothesized that light was regulating those genes. Then we started asking, what is it in the light that is harmful to them, and we looked at the spectrum of light. It was very clear cut that although light without blue slightly shortened their lifespan, just blue light alone shortened their lifespan very dramatically,” said Giebultowicz.