Avoiding blue light exposure for a healthier lifespan
Image credit: Nash et al. 2019 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41514-019-0038-6#Fig2
Jamila Dec 10, 2020
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Avoiding blue light exposure for a healthier lifespan.
Nash reported that daily exposure to blue light reduced the lifespan of Drosophila and induced neurodegeneration. In the study, flies exposed to 12 hours of blue light and 12 hours of darkness (B:D) had reduced lifespans than flies kept in full darkness (D:D) and flies kept in the blue light but with a blue light filter (W–B:D). Furthermore, there were signs of retinal cell damage and impaired locomotion in the flies exposed to blue light. Therefore, daily blue light exposure advanced aging in the flies. The impact of blue light on lifespan was not sex-specific as females and males were equally impacted.
Due to Nash's study, I'm wondering whether the same phenomenon could be seen in humans. We already know that blue light can disrupt the circadian rhythm, and thus sleep in humans but does it also impact our lifespan too? I know humans are far more complex than flies, but it would be interesting to explore this.
If blue light does impact the human lifespan, then technology would change. People would want laptops and phones without blue light or use blue light filters. Many people are already using blue light filters to get better sleep at night time.
Does blue light exposure reduce the human lifespan?
Researchers should determine whether those exposed to blue light are more prone to age-related diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer's?
We are surrounded by technology emitting blue light in this day and age, like our phones and laptops. A comparison should be made between people exposed to blue light and those that use a blue light filter! Are there any differences in their health?
What do you think? Have you got any further ideas?
Nash, Trevor R., et al. "Daily blue-light exposure shortens lifespan and causes brain neurodegeneration in Drosophila." npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease 5.1 (2019): 1-8.
Zerbini, Giulia, Thomas Kantermann, and Martha Merrow. "Strategies to decrease social jetlag: Reducing evening blue light advances sleep and melatonin." European Journal of Neuroscience (2018).
Not only have researchers confirmed that long-term exposure to blue light can speed up ageing (figure below), but they found the underlying mechanisms behind it. They compared metabolites in Drosophila exposed to blue light with the ones kept in darkness (very similar to the paper Jamila cited). Two metabolites came out as the most important - succinate and glutamate. Levels of succinate, a molecular fuel, were increased, meaning the metabolism was faster, leading to increased cell exhaustion and stress. On the other hand, glutamate is known to be a key constituent of GABA, which acts as an anti-stress neurotransmitter. Its levels in Drosophila exposed to blue light were reduced, leading to reduced stress control.
Another important aspect of the study was a comparison of Drosophila metabolites with humans. The highlighted metabolites have the same function in humans and could therefore be compared. Blue light levels were of high intensity, but considering the short lifespan of flies (3 months), the amount of light could be similar to decades of exposure in humans.