Dentist Praveen Arany had an idea to make tooth extraction easier on the patient and on his treatment plan. Dr. Arany investigated different ways that he could speed up a patient’s healing following tooth extraction so he could proceed with further treatment sooner. His research led him to a solution that worked – expose the wound to light.
So began the dentist’s fascination with light therapy and today, years later, he’s a University of Buffalo expert in a specific form of light therapy called photobiomodulation.
The value of this treatment for healing goes well beyond your teeth to include multiple health conditions, however whether photobiomodulation was strong enough to hold back age-related diseases was anybody’s guess.
Dr. Arany decided to take a closer look, and what he discovered may one day help all of us stay younger longer…
Science shows that photobiomodulation (PBM), a form of low-dose light therapy, reduces pain, lowers inflammation, and heals tissue. It’s effective in a broad range of musculoskeletal and neurodegenerative diseases.
To test its ability to slow down aging, the Dr. Arany’s Buffalo team focused their attention on a very common disease diagnosed in one fifth of American seniors… heart disease.
“The idea was to see if intervention in middle age could enable people to avoid further age-related heart deterioration,” explained Dr. Arany.
The results were exciting…
Six Measures of Heart Function Improved
For their study Dr. Arany and his team experimented on mice which they divided into four groups. Two groups were genetically engineered (GE) to develop heart disease at an accelerated pace, but only one group received PBM.
Another two groups were composed of wild type mice but only half received PBM. The research team started PBM therapy when the mice reached 14 months of age to target the most dramatic phase of accelerated cardiac aging.
They were exposed to a dose of near-infrared light by using an overhead LED light source for two minutes each weekday for 3.5 months, followed by a rest period of three months, and then further light exposure for another 1.5 months.
The results showed that in the first three months, six measures of heart function improved in the light-exposed mice, including a reduction in thickness in the wall of the aorta, the body’s largest artery. “As muscle thickens, it becomes stiffer, and the pumping action of the heart is less effective,” explained Dr. Arany.
Gait symmetry — observing how mice performed comfortably on a treadmill — also improved, suggesting enhanced neuromuscular coordination. Even after the rest period, all improvements were maintained. But perhaps the most exciting finding was the survival rate for the treated mice.
100 Percent Survival!
By the end of the study survival in PBM-treated genetically engineered mice was said to be “striking” at 100 percent. That’s right, every treated mouse with advanced heart disease survived – compared to only 43 percent in untreated genetically engineered mice.
In addition, researchers found total TGF-β1 levels had significantly increased in the circulation of genetically engineered mice following PBM treatments. This is important because TGF-β1 is a growth factor that plays an important role in human health and disease, especially in age-related diseases. It works by regulating stem cell activity, inflammation, and immune system function.
Researchers believe the increased levels of TGF-β1found in the study suggest PBM triggers its activation.
Light Plays a Central Role in Human Health
In their paper, published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine in February, the authors wrote: “The simplicity, safety, and effectiveness of PBM in human health and wellness are promoting its popularity as an emerging new therapy.
“While the precise biological mechanisms responsible for [its effectiveness] remain to be fully investigated, these observations further highlight the central roles of light in human health and wellness that is gaining much attention.
“[L]ow dose light treatments raise exciting future possibilities for nonobtrusive PBM delivery with ambient lighting fixtures, timed illuminations within lamps, digital phone apps, and electronic (tablets, computer or television) displays.”
Of course, the restorative powers of sunlight are not news to natural healers who’ve relied on it as a healing therapy for centuries.
The Healing Power of Sunlight
In looking over the research into the healing powers of sunlight, I found an article in a medical journal from the 1800s that observes how “the sunlight cure” could be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions.
And since then, modern medicine has shown that various forms of light can do everything from strengthen the immune system to support healthy blood sugar. For example, science on various forms of light revealed they:
- Improved movement of immune cells called T-cells. A study at Georgetown indicates sunlight energizes T-cells and enables them to fight infection more efficiently.
- Help people maintain a healthy weight. Tests in Australia demonstrate that sunlight may help keep weight under control and reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Promote better blood sugar and cholesterol. Intense light lowers the level of triglycerides (fats) in the blood. If you’ve been to a doctor in the last 30 years you probably know a high triglyceride level is unhealthy. A reduced level indicates improved insulin sensitivity.
- Protect against heart damage. Scientists found that a circadian protein in the heart called Period 2 is activated by strong daylight in ways that boost the metabolism of glucose in the heart so that damage to the heart in the event of a heart attack is minimized.
- Heal cancer. In a clinical study published in the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy, scientists studied infrared light’s effects on human cancer cells in vitro and on cancer cells in mice. In the studies, the research team used far infrared light (FAR) to reduce tumor volumes 86 percent in 30 days. What’s more, in a separate study, Dr. Mohammad Khan, a leading British consultant oncologist and Principal Investigator in many pioneering research trials, points to near-infrared (NIR) light and it’s cancer-healing powers.
The future certainly looks ‘bright’ for photobiomodulation, but as Dr. Arany points out, some types of light are ineffective and can even be harmful. To be effective and safe, it’s important to use specific light wavelength (color), intensity (dose) and length of exposure.
And of course, these studies were on laboratory mice. Controlled clinical trials will be required to determine the right wavelengths, intensity, and length of exposure in humans.
All this (and more) leads me to agree with traditional naturopaths who have long argued that sunbaths make for great medicine for fighting the diseases of aging. As a medical article from 1892 concludes, “Everybody should make the fullest possible use of our somewhat limited supply of sunshine, both by living in the open air, and by exposing every room in his house to the direct rays of the sun as much as possible.”
The Aging Defeated Team