Those cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger a cascade of signalling to the brain.
"It's no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina. Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop," said Karunarathne.
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that blue light exposure causes retinal to trigger reactions that generate poisonous chemical molecules in photoreceptor cells.
"It's toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves," said Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student researcher working in Karunarathne's group.
"Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they're dead, they're dead for good," said Ratnayak.
Karunarathne introduced retinal molecules to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons. When exposed to blue light, these cell types died as a result of the combination with retinal. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells.
"No activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light. The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type," Karunarathne said.
However, as a person ages or the immune system is suppressed, people lose the ability to fight against the attack by retinal and blue light.
"If you look at the amount of light coming out of your cell phone, it's not great but it seems tolerable," Dr. in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)