Role of Creative Discovery and Chance, and iPBM
Before delving into a seemingly esoteric subject of intranasal photobiomodulation (iPBM), it makes sense to acknowledge the process of creative discovery.
Every invention started with an idea. Some ideas were products of lucky accidents, leading to a discovery. Ultimately, a few happy flukes ended up spearheading innovations, often very important ones. These serendipitous discoveries usually happened to those who were prepared to recognize and to understand them. For example, the principle of the microwave oven was discovered by accident. Thus, during an experiment a chocolate bar melted in the researcher’s pocket, triggering a series of scientific ideas and conclusions.
In some cases, time was critical in gaining knowledge of the subject matter to make the idea work. Consequently, some inventions took a long time to develop. From an idea to execution of a functional product, years, decades, sometimes centuries, could pass. Such was the case with the helicopter and sewing machine concepts, which Leonardo da Vinci envisioned during Renaissance.
However, what does it all have to do with intranasal photobiomodulation, you may ask? The only commonality is the principle of creative discovery. Interestingly, the idea of intranasal photobiomodulation concept came first, and the strongest support for that idea came years later.
Validating Intranasal Photobiomodulation Concept
In the summer of 2019, a group of French researchers from IRCM, Institut de Recherche en Cancérologie de Montpellier, INSERM U1194, Université de Montpellier, Institut régional du Cancer de Montpellier, Montpellier, France, published an important research article. Entitled, “Blood contains circulating cell-free respiratory competent mitochondria”, this article presents important new findings. This research study drastically departs from the previous assumptions and confirms the presence of mitochondria in the blood.
Potentially numerous, implications and applications of this finding can have significant impact. Meanwhile, it answers an important question regarding the delivery and effects of the systemic iPBM technique. Furthermore, unintendedly, this study provided strong scientific explanation and validation of the systemic effects of intranasal photobiomodulation.
Notably, it is important not to confuse systemic intranasal photobiomodulation (iPBM) with brain-focused iPBM, which is a form of transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM). On the one hand, systemic intranasal photobiomodulation delivers visible red light to the systems of the body via blood. On the other hand, transcranial-intranasal PBM delivers a more powerful, invisible near infrared (NIR) light to the brain transcranially via the nasal passage. The principles of photobiomodulation applied to both of these processes are the same and based on mitochondrial and cellular functions. However, the effects of these two types of PBM on the body are different and variable.
Principles of Intranasal Photobiomodulation and Systemic Applications
The data from the previous years of research was pointing to the fact that the blood absorbed red light energy. This was the initial stage in the blood PBM process. Following the absorption, the blood delivered the energy of the light throughout the body. It is during this delivery stage that stimulation of and increase in mitochondrial activity happened. Consequently, following the latter stage, systemic effects of intranasal photobiomodulation presented themselves. Later studies supported the hypothesis of increased cellular functions and, ultimately, gene transcription.
Research Supports the Benefits of Photobiomodulation
Numerous research studies have been published over the last decade supporting the benefits of photobiomodulation in various applications. For example, in the paper published in the Photobiomodulation, Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, by Ann Liebert et al, the authors state: “It is generally accepted that the single most important chromophore in the red and near infrared (NIR) regions of the spectrum is cytochrome c oxidase (CCO). CCO is unit IV of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. When CCO absorbs light, the enzyme activity increases. Consequently, it leads to increased electron transport, more oxygen consumption, higher mitochondrial membrane potential, and increased ATP production.1 Signaling molecules are produced, including a brief burst of reactive oxygen species (ROS), nitric oxide, cyclic AMP, and movements in intracellular calcium.
These signaling molecules result in activation of transcription factors. Furthermore, changes in the expression of a multitude of gene products, including structural proteins, enzymes, and mediators of cell division and cell migration occur.” (Ann Liebert et al, 2019 Nov 1; 37(11): 681–693. Published online 2019 Nov 12. doi: 10.1089/photob.2019.4628).
Furthermore, AMIS Press published an important paper entitled Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation (M. Hamblin 2017). There, Dr. Hamblin notes: “… One of the most reproducible effects of PBM is an overall reduction in inflammation, …”. Overall reduction in inflamation is a factor that speaks to general systemic effect that photobiomodulation can induce. This finding warrants more studies in order to examine further this systemic effect and its implications.
The Anatomy of Systemic iPBM
The hypothesis is that the blood is the primary carrier of the light energy absorbed during PBM sessions. This assumption triggered anatomic research to pinpoint areas with a good access to the bloodstream. The rational was that placement of a PBM source in such areas could provide the best setup for blood PBM to induce systemic effects.
One such area was the nasal passage with its dense capillary network. The capillaries provide the required access to the bloodstream. Thus, the nasal passage offered a good access point option for the light to enter the blood. However, the question regarding the placement of the light source and delivery method of the light remained.
At this point it makes sense to revisit the creative discovery principle. The process of new and imaginative thinking guided and helped to formulate the idea of a nasal applicator. Thus, the nasal applicator was a simple and elegant solution for the PBM delivery method and the light source placement.
Connecting more dots, the research by French scientists, who found free-floating mitochondria in the blood, validates the intranasal PBM concept. Putting aside the complexities of the science behind this discovery, its importance is undeniable. In terms of PBM, the free-floating mitochondria helps to explain the systemic effect nature of the intranasal photobiomodulation approach.