Aim: To examine light-emitting-diode (LED)-induced retinal neuronal cell damage and its wavelength-driven pathogenic mechanisms.
Methods: Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to blue LEDs (460 nm), green LEDs (530 nm), and red LEDs (620 nm). Electroretinography (ERG), Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), and immunohistochemical (IHC) staining, Western blotting (WB) and the detection of superoxide anion (O2-·), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), total iron, and ferric (Fe3+) levels were applied.
Results: ERG results showed the blue LED group induced more functional damage than that of green or red LED groups. H&E staining, TUNEL, IHC, and TEM revealed apoptosis and necrosis of photoreceptors and RPE, which indicated blue LED also induced more photochemical injury. Free radical production and iron-related molecular marker expressions demonstrated that oxidative stress and iron-overload were associated with retinal injury. WB assays correspondingly showed that defense gene expression was up-regulated after the LED light exposure with a wavelength dependency.
Conclusion: The study results indicate that LED blue-light exposure poses a great risk of retinal injury in awake, task-oriented rod-dominant animals. The wavelength-dependent effect should be considered carefully when switching to LED lighting applications.
Keywords: LED light injury; blue light injury; iron; light injury mechanisms; oxidative stress; retinal light injury.