Red light therapy has come a long way since it was discovered by NASA almost thirty years ago. However, research into the benefits of this form of therapy, also known as low level laser therapy LLLT, shows no signs of slowing down.
Low level laser therapy uses light emitting diode devices to emit near infrared and red light. This light has multiple beneficial effects on the human body. The main mechanisms through which it affects the human body is mitochondrial support and melatonin regulation.
On a cellular level, red light emitting diode therapy boosts the formation and functioning of mitochondria, which are the energy producing parts of the cells. This leads to more energy, better oxygenation, decreased inflammation and overall improved cellular health.
When it comes to hormones, red light therapy regulates the secretion of melatonin, a hormone which governs the sleep and wake cycles, and consequently influences most other metabolic and hormonal processes in the body.
The effects of red light therapy are numerous and sometimes surprising. Some of them stem from these two mechanisms, but others have their own unique mechanism of action. Scientists keep discovering new, promising and exciting uses of low level light therapy.
Here are some of the most exciting recent red light therapy studies and developments.
Red Light Therapy Enhanced RNA Tumor Suppression
RNA interference is one of the most promising treatments for cancer, but unfortunately, the research keeps hitting obstacles that lower its efficiency. In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a group of scientists from China have proposed a red light activated RNA modification to fight tumors.
Their study has proven what they suspected: they were able to detect and target liver carcinoma tumors. However, they found another, surprising discovery. Under the influence of red light irradiation, their genetic therapy caused significant mitochondrial damage and, subsequently, cell death in the tumor cells. There is still a way to go, but these findings could open up a completely new direction in anti-cancer gene therapy.
Bone And Tooth Tissue Regeneration with Red Light Therapy
Red and near infrared light treatment is well known for its stimulative properties. So far, this has mostly been used for wound healing and skin conditions.
A new controlled trial is going a step further, proving that these stimulative properties can have more widespread applications. This recent clinical study has been researching the effects of photobiomodulation on bone regeneration.
The researchers irradiated human bone marrow stem cells and human umbilical vein cells with red and near infrared light wavelengths, both continuous and pulsed.
The goal was to see whether the irradiated mitochondria of the cells would trigger bone regeneration. The scientists found a significant difference in all of the measured parameters such as AP energy production and cellular ROS compared to the control group, indicating that photobiomodulation is capable of triggering bone regeneration.
Another, separate clinical trial is researching the same effects of combination LED light therapy with both near infrared and red light spectrum irradiation, but this time on tooth and periodontium tissue. Their findings were just as promising, but, interestingly, they found they got better results with near infrared light as compared to red light only spectrum, and the results were even better with intense pulsed light.
Both of these studies show that photobiomodulation has great promise in bone and tooth regeneration. Regrowing bones and teeth sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but it looks like this reality might be just around the corner.
Red Light Therapy for Covid 19 and Long Covid Treatment
When the Covid 19 pandemic hit the globe in early 2020, life as we know it came to an abrupt stop. Now, 3 years later, doctors and scientists have more information available to make corona treatment more efficient, but it seems like the world will never be completely rid of this illness.
A pilot clinical study with 12 month follow-up is now proposing a new protocol for the treatment of Covid 19. This protocol includes the local use of methylene blue orally and nasally, in combination with low power laser therapy with red light.
Methilene blue is a chloride salt which is most commonly used as medication for a blood condition called acquired methemoglobinemia. It has also been used to treat malaria, and as a urinary tract antiseptic.
In this study, unvaccinated individuals were treated for Covid 19 using methylene blue and application of red light therapy. The light was applied using light emitting diodes. The light emitting diode LED irradiated the treatment groups' mucosal surfaces with 660 nm LED visible light in a continuous emission mode.
All of the subjects had the delta variety of the virus, and despite their high viral loads, numerous significant co-morbidities and relatively severe symptoms, they responded well to treatment. None of the patients had significant side effects, and none of them were hospitalized.
Most of them experienced a significant improvement after a day of the treatment, followed by a rapid decrease in their viral loads. On average, they tested negative after 4 days.
The one-year follow-up found that no one in the treatment group had long Covid symptoms, and no one had a Covid re-infection. This suggests that red light therapy could be an efficient supplementary tool in Covid treatment.
Low Level Laser Treatment for Neuroprotection
Interestingly, another review suggests that the same treatment combination of methylene blue and photobiomodulation using low power laser irradiation could have merit in protection against brain disease.
This particular study posits that the combination of these two treatments can support mitochondrial health, as both have been shown to improve cell respiration, inhibit inflammation and decrease oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the brain. This could be a breakthrough in the prevention of various brain diseases.
Red Light Therapy as a Cure for Allergies?
It is well known that red light therapy acts as a stimulant for the immune system. So far, this property of red light has mostly been used as a general immune system booster. However, a recent study in Turkey has proven that this can be useful in more locally precise allergy treatment as well.
The study investigated the effects of both visible red light and infrared light applied intranasally, over four weeks, to patients with allergic rhinitis. They measured both symptoms and relevant cell counts weekly.
The treatments resulted in both improved cell counts (eosinophil, neutrophil and granulocyte cell counts were measured), and a decrease in symptoms such as throat, nose, ear and eye itchiness, discharge, congestion and sneezing.
Does this mean that locally applied red light therapy could replace nasal sprays and allergy medication? It sounds like there is a good chance for that.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to smell the spring flowers without sneezing and stuffiness? According to science, with red light therapy, that might be easier than you think. And we always trust science!