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Proceedings Paper

Cellular chromophores and signaling in low level light therapy
Author(s): Michael R. Hamblin; Tatiana N Demidova-Rice
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Paper Abstract

The use of low levels of visible or near infrared light (LLLT) for reducing pain, inflammation and edema, promoting healing of wounds, deeper tissues and nerves, and preventing tissue damage by reducing cellular apoptosis has been known for almost forty years since the invention of lasers. Originally thought to be a peculiar property of laser light (soft or cold lasers), the subject has now broadened to include photobiomodulation and photobiostimulation using non-coherent light. Despite many reports of positive findings from experiments conducted in vitro, in animal models and in randomized controlled clinical trials, LLLT remains controversial. This likely is due to two main reasons; firstly the biochemical mechanisms underlying the positive effects are incompletely understood, and secondly the complexity of rationally choosing amongst a large number of illumination parameters such as wavelength, fluence, power density, pulse structure and treatment timing has led to the publication of a number of negative studies as well as many positive ones. In recent years major advances have been made in understanding the mechanisms that operate at the cellular and tissue levels during LLLT. Mitochondria are thought to be the main site for the initial effects of light and specifically cytochrome c oxidase that has absorption peaks in the red and near infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum matches the action spectra of LLLT effects. The discovery that cells employ nitric oxide (NO) synthesized in the mitochondria by neuronal nitric oxide synthase, to regulate respiration by competitive binding to the oxygen binding of cytochrome c oxidase, now suggests how LLLT can affect cell metabolism. If LLLT photodissociates inhibitory NO from cytochrome c oxidase, this would explain increased ATP production, modulation of reactive oxygen species, reduction and prevention of apoptosis, stimulation of angiogenesis, increase of blood flow and induction of transcription factors. In particular, signaling cascades are initiated via cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-&kgr;B). These signal transduction pathways in turn lead to increased cell proliferation and migration (particularly by fibroblasts), modulation in levels of cytokines, growth factors and inflammatory mediators, and increases in anti-apoptotic proteins. The results of these biochemical and cellular changes in animals and patients include such benefits as increased healing in chronic wounds, improvements in sports injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome, pain reduction in arthritis and neuropathies, and amelioration of damage after heart attacks, stroke, nerve injury and retinal toxicity.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 February 2007
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 6428, Mechanisms for Low-Light Therapy II, 642802 (8 February 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.712885
Show Author Affiliations
Michael R. Hamblin, Wellman Ctr. for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (United States)
Harvard Medical School (United States)
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (United States)
Tatiana N Demidova-Rice, Wellman Ctr. for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (United States)
Tufts Univ. School of Medicine (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6428:
Mechanisms for Low-Light Therapy II
Michael R. Hamblin; Ronald W. Waynant; Juanita Anders, Editor(s)

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