Light therapy safe and may benefit patients with TBI, study shows — ScienceDaily

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Light therapy is safe and has measurable effects in the brain, according to a pioneering study by researchers from the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Senior investigators Rajiv Gupta, MD, PhD, director of the Ultra-High Resolution Volume CT Lab at MGH and Benjamin Vakoc, PhD, at the Wellman Center led the study, which was supported by a grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) and published in JAMA Network Open September 14th.

This study is one of the first, if not the first, prospective, randomized, interventional clinical trials of near-infrared, low-level light therapy (LLLT) in patients who recently suffered a moderate brain injury. If further trials support these findings, light therapy could become the first widely-accepted treatment for this type of injury.

TBI is the leading cause of traumatic injury worldwide, and an estimated 69 million people experience such an injury every year. However, there are no treatments for this condition yet, largely because the underlying biological mechanisms are not well understood and it is so challenging to do studies with actual patients in the acute stage of trauma.

“The Gulf War put TBI in the headlines,” says Gupta, “because body armor had been greatly improved by then. But there were still brain injuries caused by the shock waves from high powered explosives.” For a variety of reasons, the number of TBIs has increased around the globe since then, but effective treatments are still sorely needed.

For this study, a special helmet had to be designed specifically to deliver the therapy, an undertaking that required a mix of medical, engineering and physics expertise. This multidisciplinary team included Gupta, a neuroradiologist, Vakoc, an applied physicist, and others specializing in the development and translation of optical instrumentation to the clinic and biologic laboratories. Both Gupta and Vakoc are