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The blue light from electronics could cause premature aging, study finds

Posted at 2:09 PM, Oct 21, 2019

As computers, tablets and cellphones have become a growing part of our lives, the exposure to blue light emitted from these devices increases. While blue light exposure has been known to cause strain in eyes, Oregon State University researchers studied the effect of blue light exposure on aging.

Based on to their findings, exposure to blue light could cause aging to accelerate.

For their study, researchers used common fruit flies and exposed them to 12 hours of blue LED light and 12 hours of darkness. To compare, researchers kept a group of flies in total darkness, as well as a group of flies that were exposed to light that had the blue wavelengths filtered out. The researchers said they chose fruit flies because their cellular and developmental mechanisms are similar to humans.

The researchers said that flies exposed to blue LED light sustained damage to their retinal cells and brain neurons and had impaired locomotion. Even more stunning, some of the flies, which exhibited some brain damage, were mutants that did not develop eyes.

"The fact that the light was accelerating aging in the flies was very surprising to us at first,” said Jaga Giebultowicz, a professor of integrative biology at Oregon State. “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.”

There has been some research that indicates blue light emitting from LEDs can cause eyestrain as well as a disruption to human sleep patterns.

Now, the question becomes for scientists is whether the effect on flies can be replicated with humans.

Part of that research also involves ways to decrease blue exposure to humans from LED devices.

“Human lifespan has increased dramatically over the past century as we’ve found ways to treat diseases, and at the same time we have been spending more and more time with artificial light,” said Eileen Chow, an Oregon State faculty research assistant. “As science looks for ways to help people be healthier as they live longer, designing a healthier spectrum of light might be a possibility, not just in terms of sleeping better but in terms of overall health.”

For more info on Oregon State's research, click here.