Washington: Imagining a day without taking a look at your phones or laptop seems impossible today but being in front of screens for a long time has been found to affect our aging process! Continued and prolonged exposure to blue light, which emanates from your phone, computer, and household fixtures, might affect the longevity or accelerate the aging process, even when the screen isn't directly shining in your eyes.
This study, published in the journal -- Aging and Mechanisms of Disease -- suggests that the blue wavelengths produced by light-emitting diodes damage cells in the brain as well as retinas.
It involved a widely used organism, Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, an important model organism because of the cellular and developmental mechanisms, it shares with other animals and humans.
Researchers examined how flies responded to daily 12-hour exposure to blue LED light -- similar to the prevalent blue wavelength in devices like phones and tablets -- and found that the light accelerated aging.
The flies exposed to blue light showed damage to their retinal cells and brain neurons and had impaired locomotion -- the flies' ability to climb the walls of their enclosures, a common behavior, was diminished.
Some of the flies in the experiment were mutants that do not develop eyes, and even those eyeless flies displayed brain damage and locomotion impairments, suggesting flies didn't have to see the light to be harmed by it.
"The fact that the light was accelerating aging in the flies was very surprising to us at first. We'd measured the expression of some genes in old flies, and found that stress-response, protective genes were expressed if flies were kept in the light. We hypothesised 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," said lead researcher Jaga Giebultowicz, a professor of integrative biology.
"It was very clear cut that although light without blue slightly shortened their lifespan, just blue light alone shortened their lifespan very dramatically," added Giebultowicz. Natural light is crucial for the body's circadian rhythm -- the 24-hour cycle of physiological processes such as brain wave activity, hormone production and cell regeneration that are important factors in feeding and sleeping patterns, Giebultowicz noted.
"But there is evidence suggesting that increased exposure to artificial light is a risk factor for sleep and circadian disorders," she added. The researcher went on to explain that 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.
In the meantime, there are a few things people can do to help themselves that don't involve sitting for hours in darkness, the researchers say. Eyeglasses with amber lenses will filter out the blue light and protect your retinas. And phones, laptops and other devices can be set to block blue emissions.
"In the future, there may be phones that auto-adjust their display based on the length of usage the phone perceives," said lead author Trevor Nash, a 2019 OSU Honors College graduate, who was a first-year undergraduate when the research began.