What is Light Therapy/Photobiomodulation (PBM)?

Want to know more about what PBM is and how it works? Below are some excellent videos/podcasts and links to some recent and relevant research publications.  If you are new to PBM, we strongly encourage you to start with the first two video/podcast links to get a better foundation before proceeding to the linked publications below.

This video features Dr. Juanita Anders who is a pioneer and expert in the field of PBM. This is a great overview of the science and concepts in PBM. While the talk does get pretty technical and involved in places, a full understanding of all of the biological mechanisms that Dr. Anders discusses isn't necessary to get a high level understanding of the science and benefits of light therapy.

This link is an audio interview with Dr. Michael Hamblin (an associate professor at Harvard Medical School) and is an informative podcast type of interview regarding the latest in PBM research.

General health related studies:

The following is a very small sample of some relevant research papers regarding the efficacy of light therapy/PBM for a small subset of health/wellness issues. For an exhaustive list of research on PBM, please consult the
 spreadsheet linked here

Phototherapy as a Rational Antioxidant Treatment Modality in COVID-19 Management; New Concept and Strategic Approach: Critical Review
Conclusions: This review highlighted that PBMT can deactivate viruses and reduce viral load. This potential therapy could be a way forward via trans-tracheal or trans-dermal PBMT approach in the management COVID-19 patients. Equally, new innovative laser technologies have emerged such as LVAs and USP laser. The latter modality is well documented in the literature for its ability to selectively inactivate viruses by utilising femtosecond laser pulses. On the other hand, LEDs PBM of single or multiple wavelengths, delivered via clustered probe, can enhance immune responses and improve functionality of inflamed lungs. Nevertheless, utilisation of precise laser dosimetry and necessity to follow laser safety guidelines remains irrefutable. PDT is a well-documented modality in the literature for its effective photochemical reaction on eliminating the viability of SARS and MERS viruses in the blood, which ultimately eliminates the potential risk of CoVs transmission via blood products or its derivatives.

A 57-Year-Old African American Man with Severe COVID-19 Pneumonia Who Responded to Supportive Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT): First Use of PBMT in COVID-19
Conclusions: This report has presented supportive PBMT in a patient with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Respiratory indices, radiological findings, oxygen requirements, and patient outcomes improved over several days and without need for a ventilator. Future controlled clinical trials are required to evaluate the effects of PBMT on clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation
Conclusion and Future Studies: The clinical applications of PBM have been increasing apace in recent years. The recent adoption of inexpensive large area LED arrays, that have replaced costly, small area laser beams with a risk of eye damage, has accelerated this increase in popularity. Advances in understanding of PBM mechanisms of action at a molecular and cellular level, have provided a scientific rationale for its use for multiple diseases. Many patients have become disillusioned with traditional pharmaceutical approaches to a range of chronic conditions, with their accompanying distressing side-effects and have turned to complementary and alternative medicine for more natural remedies. PBM has an almost complete lack of reported adverse effects, provided the parameters are understood at least at a basic level. The remarkable range of medical benefits provided by PBM, has led some to suggest that it may be “too good to be true”. However one of the most general benefits of PBM that has recently emerged, is its pronounced anti-inflammatory effects. While the exact cellular signaling pathways responsible for this anti-inflammatory action are not yet completely understood, it is becoming clear that both local and systemic mechanisms are operating. The local reduction of edema, and reductions in markers of oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines are well established. However there also appears to be a systemic effect whereby light delivered to the body, can positively benefit distant tissues and organs.
There is a lot of scope for further work on PBM and inflammation. The intriguing benefits of PBM on some autoimmune diseases, suggests that this area may present a fertile area for researchers. There may be some overlap between the ability of PBM to activate and mobilize stem cells and progenitor cells, and its anti-inflammatory action, considering that one of the main benefits of exogenous stem cell therapy has been found to be its anti-inflammatory effect. The versatile benefits of PBM on the brain and the central nervous system, encourages further study of its ability to reduce neuroinflammation. Chronic diseases of the modern age involving systemic inflammation such as type II diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease and endothelial dysfunction are again worth investigating in the context of PBM.

MGH-led study shows light therapy is safe, modulates brain repair, and may benefit patients with moderate traumatic brain injury
Key Takeaways:
Light therapy is safe and has measurable effects in the brain.
Light therapy could become the first widely-accepted treatment for moderate traumatic brain injury

Exercise/recovery related studies:

The following is a very small sample of some recent and relevant research papers regarding the efficacy of light therapy/PBM for athletic performance/recovery.  For an exhaustive list of research on PBM, please consult the
spreadsheet linked here

Muscular pre-conditioning using light-emitting diode therapy (LEDT) for high-intensity exercise: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial with a single elite runner
Conclusion: Light-emitting diode therapy (LEDT) using a multi-diode array of LEDs with near-infrared wavelength and the dose applied in this study possibly can improve VO2 kinetics; increase time of exercise; decrease muscle damage, fatigue and renal dysfunction during intense running exercise performed on a treadmill.

The Effectiveness of Photobiomodulation Therapy Versus Cryotherapy for Skeletal Muscle Recovery: A Critically Appraised Topic
Summary of Key Findings: Three moderate- to high-quality double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trials and 2 low- to moderate-quality translational studies performed on rats were included in this critically appraised topic. All 5 studies supported the use of PBMT over cryotherapy as a treatment for postexercise muscle recovery following exercise. PBMT was superior in reducing creatine kinase, inflammation markers, and blood lactate compared with cryotherapy, following strenuous/high intensity aerobic or strength muscular exercise. PBMT was also shown to improve postexercise muscle performance and function more than cryotherapy.

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