Michael R. Hamblin, PhD, a principal investigator at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, recently wrote an article in Photonics Media detailing the potential of a light-based therapy called photobiomodulation (PBM) to treat disorders of the brain. Here are five things to know:
1. Scientists have had difficulty developing effective pharmaceutical treatments for degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss. Brain damage resulting from strokes, chronic head injuries and heart attacks, psychological disorders include depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD, and neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD also impact millions of people each year.
2. Photobiomodulation (PBM), formerly known as low level laser therapy (LLLT), is a therapeutic light treatment that has been shown to stimulate healing, prevent tissue death and relieve pain and inflammation. But can it also help with these disorders of the brain?
3. The research so far suggests that it can. Dramatic improvements in treating head injuries and strokes can sometimes be seen after only a few 20-minue applications of PBM to the head, Hamblin writes.
4. There are now several companies designing light-emitting helmets to treat brain disorders, and the development of new LED-based technologies has made the treatments safe for home use.
5. Hamblin says that to realize the potential of this technology, “We need a better understanding of the mechanisms, convince a skeptical medical community and overcome competition from pharmaceutical companies. However, the potential rewards for patients and society make the effort worthwhile.”
- Visit Dr. Hamblin’s lab website
- Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders (Journal article by Dr. Hamblin)
- Interview with Dr. Hamblin on SelfHacked YouTube channel
About the Mass General Research Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States. Research at Mass General takes place in over 30 departments, centers and institutes and is supported by federal and state funding, foundations, industry partners and philanthropic donations.