Effect of NASA light-emitting diode irradiation on wound healing



Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226, USA.




OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) and near-infrared light therapy on wound healing.




Light-emitting diodes (LED), originally developed for NASA plant growth experiments in space show promise for delivering light deep into tissues of the body to promote wound healing and human tissue growth. In this paper, we review and present our new data of LED treatment on cells grown in culture, on ischemic and diabetic wounds in rat models, and on acute and chronic wounds in humans.




In vitro and in vivo (animal and human) studies utilized a variety of LED wavelength, power intensity, and energy density parameters to begin to identify conditions for each biological tissue that are optimal for biostimulation. Results: LED produced in vitro increases of cell growth of 140-200% in mouse-derived fibroblasts, rat-derived osteoblasts, and rat-derived skeletal muscle cells, and increases in growth of 155-171% of normal human epithelial cells. Wound size decreased up to 36% in conjunction with HBO in ischemic rat models. LED produced improvement of greater than 40% in musculoskeletal training injuries in Navy SEAL team members, and decreased wound healing time in crew members aboard a U.S. Naval submarine. LED produced a 47% reduction in pain of children suffering from oral mucositis.


CONCLUSION: We believe that the use of NASA LED for light therapy alone, and in conjunction with hyperbaric oxygen, will greatly enhance the natural wound healing process, and more quickly return the patient to a preinjury/illness level of activity. This work is supported and managed through the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center-SBIR Program.


Enhancement of growth promoting activity of human blood on keratinocytes after its irradiation in vivo (transcutaneously) and in vitro with visible and infrared polarized light.


[Article in Russian]


Samoĭlova KI, Bogacheva ON, Obolenskaia KD, Blinova MI, Kalmykova NV, Kuz'minykh EV.




Institute of Cytology RAS, St. Petersburg.




To stimulate wound healing, current medicine uses various methods of phototherapy. The induced activation of proliferative processes in the wound occurs due to development of not only local, but also systemic processes, whose nature remains largely uninvestigated. The present work provides evidences that as early as 30 min after irradiation of a small area of the volunteer's body surface with polychromatic visible light + infrared polarized light (400-3400 nm, 95% of polarization) at a therapeutic dose (12 J/cm2), soluble factors appear in the circulating blood, which are able to stimulate proliferation of human keratinocytes in primary culture. A similar effect was also revealed after a direct blood irradiation. A proof is provided in favor of a hypothesis that a rapid rise of growth promoting activity of the entire circulating blood may be a consequence of transcutaneous photomodification of the small amount of light-modified blood in superficial skin vessels, and of the effect of such blood on its entire circulating volume. A possibility of a release into plasma of growth factors from blood cells and complexes with alpha 2-macroglobulin is discussed.


NASA light-emitting diodes for the prevention of oral mucositis in pediatric bone marrow transplant patients.


Whelan HT, Connelly JF, Hodgson BD, Barbeau L, Post AC, Bullard G, Buchmann EV, Kane M, Whelan NT, Warwick A, Margolis D.




Department of Neurology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, USA.






The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of prophylactic near-infrared light therapy from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in pediatric bone marrow transplant (BMT) recipients.





Oral mucositis (OM) is a frequent side effect of chemotherapy that leads to increased morbidity. Near-infrared light has been shown to produce biostimulatory effects in tissues, and previous results using near-infrared lasers have shown improvement in OM indices. However, LEDs may hold greater potential for clinical applications.




We recruited 32 consecutive pediatric patients undergoing myeloablative therapy in preparation for BMT. Patients were examined by two of three pediatric dentists trained in assessing the Schubert oral mucositis index (OMI) for left and right buccal and lateral tongue mucosal surfaces, while the patients were asked to rate their current left and right mouth pain, left and right xerostomia, and throat pain. LED therapy consisted of daily treatment at a fluence of 4 J/cm(2) using a 670-nm LED array held to the left extraoral epithelium starting on the day of transplant, with a concurrent sham treatment on the right. Patients were assessed before BMT and every 2-3 days through posttransplant day 14. Outcomes included the percentage of patients with ulcerative oral mucositis (UOM) compared to historical epidemiological controls, the comparison of left and right buccal pain to throat pain, and the comparison between sides of the buccal and lateral tongue OMI and buccal pain.


RESULTS: The incidence of UOM was 53%, compared to an expected rate of 70-90%. There was also a 48% and 39% reduction of treated left and right buccal pain, respectively, compared to untreated throat pain at about posttransplant day 7 (p < 0.05). There were no significant differences between sides in OMI or pain.


CONCLUSION: LED therapy appears useful in the prevention of OM in pediatric BMT patients.


NASA Space technology shines new light on healing


Doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have discovered the healing power of light with the help of technology developed for NASA's space shuttle.


Using powerful light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, originally designed for commercial plant-growth research in space, scientists have found a way to help patients here on Earth. Doctors are examining how this special lighting technology helps hard-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic skin ulcers, serious burns, and severe oral sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation. The project, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and funded by a NASA Small Business Innovation Research contract through the Technology Transfer Department at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, includes laboratory and human trials. "So far, what we've seen in patients and what we've seen in laboratory cell cultures, all point to one conclusion," said Dr. Harry Whelan, professor of pediatric neurology and director of hyperbaric medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The near-infrared light emitted by these LEDs seems to be perfect for increasing energy inside cells. This means whether you're on Earth in a hospital, working in a submarine under the sea or on your way to Mars inside a spaceship, the LEDs boost energy to the cells and accelerate healing." Dr. Whelan's findings will be summarized in upcoming issues of Space Technology and Applications International Forum 2001 and in The Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine and Surgery. Other related peer-reviewed journals have published articles on Whelan's medical research with light-emitting diodes. Dr. Whelan's NASA-funded research has already seen remarkable results using the light-emitting diodes to promote healing of painful mouth ulcers caused by cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment is quick and painless. The wound-healing device is a small, 3.5-inch by 4.5 inch (89-millimeter by 114-millimeter), portable, flat array of LEDs, arranged in rows on the top of a small box. A nurse practitioner places the box of LEDs on the outside of the patient's cheek about one minute each day. The red light penetrates to the inside of the mouth, where it seems to promote wound healing and prevent further sores in the patient's mouth. "Some children who probably would have had to be fed intravenously because of the severe sores in their mouths have been able to eat solid food, " said Dr. David Margolis, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and an oncologist at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Dr. Margolis continued, "Preventing oral mucositis improves the patients' ability to eat and drink and also may reduce the risk of infections in patients with compromised immune systems." Dr. Whelan's collaboration with NASA began when Ronald Ignatius, owner of Quantum Devices Inc. in Barneveld, WI, learned about Dr. Whelan's brain cancer surgery technique using drugs stimulated by laser lights. Laser-light surgical probes are costly and cumbersome in the operating room because they are heavy, with refrigerator-size optical, electrical and cooling systems. Ignatius originally designed the lights for plant growth experiments through the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics, a NASA commercial space center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "The LEDs needed to grow plants in space produced the same wavelengths of light the doctor needed to remove brain tumors," said Ignatius. "Plus, when we developed the LEDs for NASA, they had to be lightweight to fly aboard the shuttle and have small cooling systems. These traits make the LED surgery probes easier to use in the operating room and thousands of dollars cheaper than laser systems." Quantum Devices altered the surgical probe to emit longer wavelengths of red light that stimulate a photodynamic drug called Benzoporphyrin Derivative. Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin recently completed the first-ever surgery with the improved probe and medicine. The drug also has fewer side effects after surgery. The ongoing brain surgery study is described in a 1999 peer-reviewed journal article in Pediatric Neurosurgery.

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