With the drastic increase in the use of screens in the current day and age, we cannot deny that we are exposed greatly to blue light. Apart from the screens, our fluorescent and LED lights also give off blue light. However, blue light exposure has many problems and scientists and researchers have begun talking about these problems. Blue light is known to be bad for our eyes and repeated exposure to it, can hurt our vision and hamper our ability to have a good night’s sleep.
One of the problems that has been brought up by scientists in relation to blue light is that even if blue light is not directly shining into our eyes it can affect us, especially our longevity. This is based on the research entitled “Daily blue-light exposure shortens lifespan and causes brain neurodegeneration in Drosophila” in the Aging and Mechanisms of Disease journal. According to this research, blue light definitely has cumulative damaging effect. However, that damage can be stopped if it is removed and does not accumulate beyond an irreversible threshold. Furthermore, according to the research (quoting the research), “blue-light damage affects flies differently across their lifespan with vulnerability to this part of the visible spectrum increasing with age. In other words, blue-light-induced damage seems to accumulate faster with advancing age.”
The study referred to above was done with experiments on common fruit flies – the Drosophila melanogaster. The reason that this insect was picked was because it is a very important model organism for us since its cellular and developmental mechanisms are shared with other animals as well as humans. In this study, it was shown that the brain cells of these flies deteriorated with prolonged exposure to the blue light. It was noted that the damage also happened to flies that had a mutation that didn’t allow the development of their eyes (essentially, blind flies). Therefore, the flies did not need to ‘see’ the light to be negatively impacted by it. The study therefore seems to raise questions about the impact of artificial light on health.
Human beings are subjected to more and more blue light every day, especially since the use of fluorescent lights and LEDs has increased. However, these lights have not been used enough to know what kind of effect it has across the human lifespan.
In the study, the fruit flies were exposed to different forms of light by the researchers. They spent twelve hours in the light and twelve hours in the dark as part of the daily cycle. On the other hand, another group of flies was kept in darkness only.
The flies with blue light exposure showed damage to the neurons in the brain and had shorter lifespans in comparison to those kept in dark. It also reduced the climbing ability of the flies, which is a way to recognize ageing.
The lifespan of the blind flies was also reduced by the blue light, thus indicating to the researchers that “brain damage and locomotor impairments do not depend on the degeneration in the retina”.
Even though light without blue can also shorten the lifespan of the flies, blue light alone shortens their lifespan much more dramatically.
However, it must be kept in mind that it is not necessary to straight away apply this result to human beings as well. Human brains receive significantly less light than the brains of flies. While this study does suggest that there is some damaging effect on cells, it does not explain to what extent this damage done. The extent of the damage cannot be understood from this study alone. More studies definitely need to be done.
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