Harm from blue light exposure increases with age, research in flies suggests

According to recent study from Oregon State University, the harmful consequences of everyday, lifetime exposure to the blue light emitted by phones, laptops, and home lighting get worse as people age.

The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, was used in the study, which was published today in Nature Partner Journals Aging. Drosophila melanogaster is a valuable model organism because it shares cellular and developmental processes with humans and other animals.

A team lead by Jaga Giebultowicz, a scientist at the OSU College of Science who specializes in biological clocks, examined the survival rate of flies kept in darkness and then transferred to an environment of continual blue light from light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, at increasingly older ages.

The study examined the impact of blue light on the mitochondria of the flies' cells at the ages of two, 20, 40, and 60 days during the darkness to light transitions.

Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is produced by mitochondria, which serve as the cell's power plant and serve as a source of chemical energy.

In prior studies, Giebultowicz shown that continuous blue light exposure reduced the lifetime of flies, regardless of whether the light shone directly into their eyes.

The surprising finding of this current study, according to Giebultowicz, "is that persistent exposure to blue light might affect energy-producing pathways even in cells that are not specialized in light sensing." "We found that whereas some mitochondrial processes were significantly slowed down by blue light, other responses were slowed down by aging independently of blue light. You may see it as older flies experiencing more harm from blue light exposure."

Yujuan Song, Jun Yang, David Hendrix, and Matthew Robinson from the OSU College of Science, as well as Alexander Law and Doris Kretzschmar from Oregon Health & Science University, worked with Giebultowicz on the study, which was partially supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The circadian rhythm is a person's 24-hour cycle of physiological activities, including brain wave activity, hormone synthesis, and cell regeneration, which play a significant role in eating and sleeping habits. The experts highlight that natural light is essential for a person's circadian rhythm.

But according to Giebultowicz, there is research that suggests that greater exposure to artificial light may be a risk factor for sleep and circadian problems. Humans are also exposed to growing levels of blue light due to the widespread use of LED lights and gadget screens, which generate a large proportion of blue light.

Even in the majority of wealthy nations, she claimed, "LED lighting technology has not been utilized long enough to determine its consequences over the human lifespan. "Long-term exposure to artificial light, particularly blue-enriched LED light, has raised worries that it may be harmful to people's health. While the complete consequences of blue light exposure over the lifespan in people are not yet known, the accelerated aging of short-lived model organisms should serve as a warning that this stressor may cause cellular harm."

The researchers believe there are a few things individuals may do to improve themselves in the meantime that don't necessitate sitting for hours in the dark. Amber lenses on your spectacles will block blue light and shield your retinas. Additionally, blue emissions can be blocked on phones, computers, and other gadgets.

In contrast to other visible wavelengths, daily lifetime exposure to blue light has negative effects on the brain, motor skills, and longevity of the model organism, according to Giebultowicz's earlier research. We now reveal that the detrimental effects of blue light on flies are considerably age dependent; the same time of exposure to the same intensity of light shortens lifespan and dramatically speeds up neurodegeneration in older flies compared to younger ones.

In prior studies, it was shown that flies housed in daily cycles of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness had shorter lifetimes than flies kept in complete darkness or in light with the blue wavelengths filtered out.

The flies exposed to blue light exhibited reduced movement, retinal cell and brain neuron damage, and lessened capacity to climb the walls of their cages, a typical activity.

Even the eyeless mutant flies in the experiment showed signs of damage, demonstrating that flies weren't need to be able to see the light in order to be affected by it.

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Materials provided by Oregon State University. Original written by Steve Lundeberg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.