Light and wound healing

I recently came across a very interesting journal called “Recent Patents on Biomedical Engineering to keep me up to date with recent development in this field and read a very interesting article on a new device which I would like to share with the readers of this blog.

This has nothing to do with training and athletic performance, however, considering that in contact sports unfortunately athletes do get injured and may suffer from wounds, I thought this could be something of interest for may of the readers.

The device in question is used to perform a form of therapy called Phototherapy. Phototherapy, the use of light for healing, has in recent years been a field of advanced multidisciplinary research. This modality has been shown to be beneficial in a wide and diverse array of maladies including the healing of chronic and acute wounds, as demonstrated in the use of laser light and LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology. Many in-vitro studies and animal models have shown the promising effects of phototherapy on wound healing. Human studies with laser light have demonstrated greater amounts of epithelialization for wound closure and stimulation of skin graft healing (Conlan MJ, Rapley JW, Cobb CM. Biostimulation of wound healing by low-energy laser irradiation. J Clin Periodont 1996; 23: 492-496; Whelan HT, Smits RL Jr, Buchman EV, et al. Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on wound healing. Clin Laser Med Surg 2001; 9: 105-14).

Visible and near IR light can be absorbed by cellular photosensitizers such as cytochromes and flavins/riboflavins . Absorption of light by these photosensitizers causes their excitation and relaxation by transferring electrons to O2, thereby generating reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are probably best known in biology for their ability to cause oxidative stress. They can damage DNA, cell membranes and cellular proteins and may lead to cell death. However, low ROS fluxes play an important role in the activation and control of many cellular processes, such as the release of transcription factors, gene expression, muscle contraction and cell growth (Rhee SG. Redox signaling: hydrogen peroxide as intracellular messenger. Exp Mol Med 1999; 31: 53-59). Therefore, it makes sense that an appropriate does of phototherapy could be beneficial for wound healing (and I would like also to add…if specific light wavelengths can be reach deep enough muscle healing?).

Various devices have been implemented in phototherapy, especially in wound healing. The most prevalent to date are low level lasers (~10mW/cm^2) and LEDs which typically produce low energy intensities (10-50 mW/cm^2) at a band width of around 10 nm. Broadband light emitting systems with visible-range and near IR only were neglected until recently due to the potential of broadband stimulators (400-800nm) to determine photobiostimulation.

In the paper presented by Lubart et al. (2008)  a new device consisting of a halogen lamp with appropriate filters for the UV and IR wavelengths, and emitting light only in the visible and near IR region, 400-800 nm was tested on diabetic patients and patients with chronic ulcers.The authors state that the ability to irradiate large areas is very important for wound-healing and for killing bacteria, in contradistinction to the narrow laser or LED beam. Another advantage is its low cost, which will enable patients to purchase it for home use.

The results are quite impressive (images from Recent Patents on Biomedical Engineering 2008, 1, 13-17):



Also, this light setup was capable of sensibly capable of eradicating bacteria on the wound.

Interesting field, I definitively need to read more about this as I am sure there are new ways to speed up tissue repair which may benefit athletes!

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