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How blue light accelerates blindness

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Washington, Aug 9: Are you addicted to your smartphones, laptops and tablets? The blue light emitting from these digital devices can affect your eye’s retina and lead to age-related macular degeneration, according to a research led by a professor of Indian-origin.

Macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that results in significant vision loss starting on average in a person in his 50s or 60s, is the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina. Those cells need molecules called retinal to sense light and trigger a cascade of signalling to the brain.

The findings showed that blue light exposure causes retinal to trigger reactions that generate poisonous chemical molecules in photoreceptor cells.

“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” said Ajith Karunarathne, Assistant Professor, University of Toledo in Ohio, US.

“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina,” he added.

Since photoreceptors, produced in the eye, are useless without retinal, one needs a continuous supply of retinal molecules to see.

“It’s toxic. If you shine blue light on retinal, the retinal kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves,” explained Kasun Ratnayake, doctoral student researcher at the varsity.

“Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good.”

In the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, when the team introduced blue light to other cell types in the body, such as cancer cells, heart cells and neurons, they died as a result of the combination with retinal. Blue light alone or retinal without blue light had no effect on cells.

“The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type,” Karunarathne said.

To protect your eyes from the blue light, wear sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light outside and avoid looking at your cell phones or tablets in the dark, he suggested.

IANS

Health

Diabetes could contribute to infertility, warn experts

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New Delhi, Feb 16: Diabetes, commonly described as a “lifestyle disease”, can contribute to infertility in both women and men, warn health experts.

“Diabetes can cause infertility in both men and women. Both sexes are at equal risk of infertility,” S.K. Wangnoo, endocrinologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, told IANS.

Infertility affects up to 15 per cent of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), the overall prevalence of primary infertility in India is between 3.9 per cent to 16.8 per cent.

“Diabetes in men damages DNA of the sperm and leads to reduced number of sperms and reduced motility of sperms which leads to infertility. Although having diabetes does not necessarily make men infertile, it could make them less fertile,” added Roopak Wadhwa, Consultant at Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

On the other hand, diabetes in women is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other autoimmune diseases that can lead to infertility.

“Diabetes causes a lack of glucose control in the body which, in turn, can make the implantation of the fertile egg in the uterus difficult. Therefore, the chances of miscarriage in diabetic women increase between 30-60 per cent,” Wadhwa explained.

Another WHO report had stated that India had 69.2 million people living with diabetes in 2015.

By 2030, nearly 98 million people in India may have Type-2 diabetes, according to a study published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal last year.

While diabetic patients can always try parenthood, the risk of passing on the sugar disease to the child is approximately 50 per cent high, Wangnoo stated.

“It can also cause intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) and congenital anomalies. IUGR is a condition where an unborn baby is smaller than it should be because it is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb,” Wadhwa added.

Furthermore, he noted that diabetic mothers are at high risk of premature deliveries, abortions and perinatal (during birth) complications.

High diabetes can be risky for both mother and child. The experts suggest that maintaining a good lifestyle, an ideal body weight, keeping sugars within target range, avoiding smoking and alcohol and excessive work related stress are some of the preventive measures.

Besides infertility, diabetes can also raise the risk of cardiovascular and lung disease, arthritis, osteoporosis. An estimated 3.4 million deaths are caused due to high blood sugar, according to the WHO.

The global health body also estimates that 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle-income countries and projects that such deaths will double between 2016 and 2030.

IANS

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Birth control pills could impair women’s ability to recognise emotion

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The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users. (Representative Photo)

London, Feb 12: Despite the widespread use of oral contraceptives (OCPs) by women, many are not aware that it may impair their ability to recognise others’ emotional expressions, which may have serious consequences in interpersonal contexts, suggests a new study.

The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users.

“More than 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, but remarkably little is known about their effects on emotion, cognition and behaviour,” said senior author Alexander Lischke from the University of Greifswald in Germany.

“However, coincidental findings suggest that oral contraceptives impair the ability to recognise emotional expressions of others which could affect the way users initiate and maintain intimate relationships,” said Lischke.

To investigate the effects of OCPs on women’s emotion recognition, the researchers administered a special emotion recognition task to two similar groups of healthy women: 42 OCP users and 53 non-users.

The findings, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, showed that OCP users were nearly 10 per cent less accurate on average than non-users in deciphering the most enigmatic emotional expressions.

Though the groups were equally good at recognising easy expressions, the OCP users were less likely to correctly identify difficult expressions, results showed.

The effect held for both positive and negative expressions, and regardless of the type of OCP or the menstrual cycle phase of non-users.

“Cyclic variations of estrogen and progesterone levels are known to affect women’s emotion recognition and influence activity and connections in associated brain regions. Since oral contraceptives work by suppressing estrogen and progesterone levels, it makes sense that oral contraceptives also affect women’s emotion recognition,” said Lischke.

There is a need for further studies that replicate and extend the findings of the present study before thinking about changing current guidelines regarding the prescription of OCPs, the study noted.

IANS

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The Delhi High Court seeks Delhi government response over bike ambulance controversy

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the state government to file response to a plea alleging that trained paramedics are not deployed in bike ambulance service.

On February 7, the Central Accident and Trauma Services (CATS), an entity of the state government, launched a scheme of First Responder Vehicle, popularly known as bike ambulance service, to provide timely health assistance in traffic-congested areas and small lanes.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao asked the Delhi government and CATS to file response on the plea seeking direction to deploy trained, young and energetic paramedics with requisite qualification and valid licence to drive two-wheelers.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on May 2.

The court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Satakashi Verma and Kamlesh Kumar. In the plea, the advocates said that the scheme has been launched without doing due diligence with the help of untrained manpower, who are unfit to manage existing ambulance system due to lack of technical qualification.

The scheme was launched without deploying adequately qualified and trained paramedics, they added.

In their petition, they claimed that the existing staff of Assistant Ambulance Officer was found to be unfit for operation and maintenance of the bike ambulance service.

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