Light therapy in the fight against COVID-19

The COVID-19 or Coronavirus has the world firmly in its grip and it is especially those with a compromised immune system that have to bear the brunt. Over the past fifty years biomodulation, also known as low-level laser therapy, LED therapy and light therapy has proven itself a value tool in strengthening and protecting the immune system.

Biomodulation contributes to the fight against the Coronavirus in a number of ways, with its effect on the mitochondria and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production the most commonly known. Why is this such a significant property of biomodulation? ATP is the main energy rich molecule that provide the necessary energy for all cellular functions and if there is a shortage of energy in the cells that make up the immune system, it cannot function optimally.

It is not only the immune system that needs sufficient energy. All the functions involved in repair, restoring and maintaining the body are in need of the necessary energy to perform their tasks optimally. We can compare this with load-shedding. Even if you have a backup generator, you still have to switch off some of your electric appliances for the duration that the power is off. This leads to the situation that you have to postpone some of your tasks and every now-and-again you simply have to cancel something. The same hold truth for the body.

When a cell has less energy available, it needs to prioritize its functions. This leads to the reduction of certain activities or even a complete halt on functions it deems non-essential. For a short period of time this is not necessary a problem, but if the situation continue the lag of non-essential functions start to compound. You can compare this compounding effect of non-essential functions with rubbish removal. If it stops for a day, nobody notices. If it stops for a week, it is an inconvenience. But if it stops for a month, it is a disaster.

It has been proven in a multitude of scientific studies that light in the range between 600nm and 940nm has a direct positive effect on ATP production, leading to an up-regulation of cellular functions.

Biological Effects of Low Level Laser Therapy.
Shirin Farivar, Talieh Malekshahabi, and Reza Shiari

“The light induced increase in ATP synthesis and increased proton gradient lead to an increasing activity of the Na+/H+ and Ca2+/Na+ antiporters, and of all the ATP driven carriers for ions, such as Na+/K+ ATPase and Ca2+ pumps. ATP is the substrate for adenylcyclase, and therefore the ATP level controls the level of cAMP. Both Ca2+and cAMP are very important second messengers. Ca2+ regulates almost every process in the human body (muscle contraction, blood coagulation, signal transfer in nerves, gene expression, etc…). Therefore the photoactivation of terminal enzymes, like Cox, plays a vital role in the activation of the diverse biological cascade observed subsequently to laser irradiation.” 

Apart from the effect on ATP, biomodulation also has an influence on a range of other biochemical pathways. Biomodulation influences the overall cell redox potential in the direction of greater oxidation. This leads to the activation of numerous intracellular signalling pathways, such as nucleic acid synthesis, protein synthesis, enzyme activation and cell cycle progression.

“The gene expression profiles of human fibroblasts irradiated by low-intensity red light show that the irradiation can affect the expression of many genes that belong to different function categories. Irradiation of LLL stimulates cell growth directly through regulation of the expression of genes related to cell proliferation and indirectly through regulation of the expression of genes related to cell migration and remodeling, DNA synthesis and repair, ion channel and membrane potential, and cell metabolism. Irradiation by red light also enhances cell proliferation by suppression of cell apoptosis.”

It makes sense that biomodulation will help you to enhance your immune system and can also help you heal quicker, but is there any reason to believe that it will have an effect on someone who attracted the coronavirus?

In a 2017 study: Beneficial effects of Red Light-Emitting Diode treatment in experimental model of acute lung injury induced by sepsis. Silvia Goes Costa, et al. The researchers found:

By using lung inflammatory models, we have shown that treatments with low level laser therapy (LLLT) have reduced the development of neutrophilic lung inflammation that was induced by formaldehyde (FA), as observed by the reduced number of leukocytes, mast cell degranulation, and MPO activities, in the lung. Moreover, LLLT also reduced the microvascular lung permeability in the parenchyma and in the intrapulmonary bronchi. Furthermore, it reduced and increased the levels of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, respectively, in the BAL, and it favored the expression of antioxidant enzymes in the lungs. Together, our results have confirmed the efficacyof LLLT on inflammation, by affecting several parameters of lung inflammation that were evoked by a pollutant.

In a 2018 study: Effect of Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) in Pulmonary Inflammation in Asthma Induced by House Dust Mite (HDM). Nicole Cristine Rigonato-Oliveira, et al. The researchers found:

We conclude in general that the use of LBI therapy in a lower dose, specifically 1J and 3J, presented significant results and better effect on the cellular profile, reduction of inflammation, and structural improvement in chronic allergic lung disease. In this way, the use of photobiomodulation acting in smaller doses for the treatment of asthma seems reasonable.
We emphasize that laser is a therapeutic option that has no side effects, is low cost and noninvasive, and may haveimportant and beneficial effects in the different phases of the disease.

In a 2018 study: Low-level laser therapy in chronic obstructive lung disease. Mahmoud A. Sayed, et al. The researchers found:

Patients in LLLT group had higher pulmonary artery systolic pressure, lower early (E′) and higher late (A′) lateral tricuspid annular velocities by Tissue Doppler echocardiography (TDE) versus control. Overall, 100% of laser patients showed improvement in mMRC scale by at least one grade versus 46% in control. In laser group, 6 min walk test was 24.4±10.4 before versus 52.9±14.7 m at the end of the study (P=0.001). In control, it was 32.4±14.9 versus 40.1±19.2, (P=0.003). No echocardiographic changes were noticed before versus after the study.

Significant clinical improvement of 6 min walk test and mMRC scale grading after LLLT therapy was observed. No detrimental effects of LLLT on left ventricle or right ventricle functions or pulmonary artery systolic pressure were seen.

From the studies noted above and many others there are clear evidence that biomodulation can play a significant role in the recovery process from diseases that affects the lungs.

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