As neurotech research and innovation continues to advance, photobiomodulation (PBM) using infrared light shines through as a promising solution for athletic performance and general health. This week, the Wall Street Journal featured Vielight as a leader in this emerging field, with a well-researched story that touched on some applications for photobiomodulation among elite athletes and its potential for broader health benefits. Some of the highlights of the WSJ coverage included:

Photobiomodulation: The Science

At its core, photobiomodulation leverages specific wavelengths of red or near-infrared light of a sufficiently high power density (>75 mW/cm2) to promote healing and offer other benefits. Red light sits on the longer end of the visible light spectrum, between 630 and 700 nanometers, while near-infrared light lies in the invisible spectrum, with wavelengths ranging from 800 to 2,500 nanometers. The treatment is believed to work through mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells, by triggering repair mechanisms and increasing blood flow to damaged areas, such as the brain.

One of the world’s leading researchers in the field, Dr. Margaret Naeser, a research professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and researcher at the Boston VA Medical Center, provided background for the article, using Vielight neurotechnology in her study for TBI and CTE, citing how Photobiomodulation is believed to work through cell components known as mitochondria— our body’s battery packs that give us energy.”  Dr. Naeser further explained that “red or near-infrared light at specific wavelengths can increase blood flow to the brain and help repair damaged cells.”

Early Origins in NASA Research

This technology isn’t new but has evolved over decades. Originally applied for stimulating hair growth in the early 1960s, NASA took interest in the 1980s to counter muscle atrophy in astronauts. Recent studies have broadened its application to include benefits like collagen growth, inflammation reduction, and even improved cognitive function.

Pro Sports Teams Are Paying Attention

A growing number of elite athletes are turning to photobiomodulation as a part of their training regimens. For instance, the NovoThor red-light therapy bed from Thor Photomedicine, retailing for a hefty $130,000, is utilized for 15-minute sessions to expedite recovery and enhance performance. Vielight offers a more portable solution: a headband-and-nose-clip combination that ranges from $1,800-$2,400. The device emits pulsed near-infrared light waves, targeted towards the brain via the nostril, to enhance performance and recovery.

Could ‘Photoceuticals’ be the Future?

Praveen Arany, an associate professor of oral biology at the University at Buffalo, cautions the rapid adoption of photobiomodulation for every conceivable application. He predicts that future advancements will likely see doctors prescribing “photoceuticals” in specific personalized doses, or light wavelengths, for particular periods to maximize the benefits.

As photobiomodulation techniques gain traction among elite athletes and medical researchers, the real promise lies in its potential application to the general population for improved health and longevity.  Using the power of light, we are tapping into the body’s natural abilities to heal itself and tap into the next frontier in optimizing human health and performance.

Check out the WSJ article (subscription required):