The average adult spends around 3.5 hours on their phone a day, however, in teenagers this number is significantly higher. The pandemic makes it even more difficult to control how much time we spend on our phones, and now that my screen time has reached double digits, I’ve begun to feel like there’s sadly no hope. This increase in screen time introduced me to a concept known as digit eye strain, which is when blue light that’s emitted from laptop and phone screens can directly cause damage to the retina of our eyes. We experience this feeling all the time when we stare at our screens for a while and suddenly our vision gets blurry. Although this is an issue that can be fixed by simply decreasing our screen time, the rise of modern technology will only make it more difficult to resist watching that one last episode.
For my independent investigation, I decided to research whether a supplement known as flaxseed oil could ameliorate the negative effects of blue light. Flaxseed oil has been known to reduce inflammation in the eyes, and many people who have dry eyes take this supplement as a way to produce adequate tears that provide moisture to the cornea.
In order to test this, I decided to conduct the larval light response assay on larvae that either consumed regular food or food containing flaxseed oil. After exposing them to blue light, I took each individual larva and flashed a regular light on them. If the larva turned, then that means they could sense the light and their vision was intact. If they didn’t turn, it means their vision was compromised. Interestingly enough, I found that larvae that were exposed to just blue light had compromised vision and did not turn, however larvae that consumed flaxseed oil and were exposed to blue light were able to see as well as the control group. It was so interesting seeing the larvae turn despite being under LED light for 5 to 60 minutes at a time. I was astonished at how perfectly my results aligned with my hypothesis, and it really made me feel proud of the work I accomplished!
I have nothing but positive remarks for this program. I am so grateful to the mentors and to Fox Chase for creating this opportunity in the first place, allowing passionate students as myself to engage in what we love and aspire to do in the future. Even if someone is unsure about going into research or conducting work in the lab, this program makes it possible to dive into the complexities of science in a professional environment. Although I love TRIP in every way, I’d have to say my favorite aspect of it all was the community. Dr. Purdy and Dr. Leystra ensure that every student is so comfortable in the lab that it almost feels like a second home to them (even though I still can’t navigate where anything is). Their patience and cooperation with us is something I will eternally be grateful for, and it always amazes me how they manage their TRIP lives and their work lives so effortlessly. And I of course cherish all the people I’ve met throughout these past few months, and I can’t help but say our bond is simply unique to anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. Special shout out to my friends Matt, Sheline, and Tino for making TRIP one of my favorite journeys I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of!