Light therapy could slow heart aging and fend off deadly disease
Light therapy has shown promise in everything from helping burn wounds heal faster to killing tumors and helping guide antibodies to their cancerous targets. Now, the next in its beam looks to be the heart.
A University at Buffalo study on older mice found that photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy could slow down cardiovascular aging and significantly delay the onset of diseases such as heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
Nearly 20% of Americans over 65 have diagnosed heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US.
“The idea was to see if intervention in middle age could enable people to avoid further age-related heart deterioration,” said Praveen Arany, associate professor of oral biology in UB School of Dental Medicine, who collaborated with Dr Edward G Lakatta of the National Institute on Aging, on the research.
Middle-aged mice (14 months old) responded well to PBM therapy, showing improved heart function and cardiac wall thickness. The mice also had good gait symmetry on the treadmill, hinting at improved neuromuscular coordination.
“As muscle thickens, it becomes stiffer, and the pumping action of the heart is less effective,” said Arany.
Mice were exposed to near-infrared (NIR) light from an overhead LED source five days a week for just two minutes a day. In a set of mice genetically altered to be susceptible to develop severe heart disease, their survival rate would normally be 43%. After PBM treatment, not only did their heart disease not progress, they had a survival rate of 100%. In addition to this, the eight-month trial even lost three months of study due to pandemic restrictions.
Arany, also a dentist, became interested in light therapy after seeing how it assisted in healing tissue and believes its potential goes far beyond what we know so far.
“After a tooth extraction, we have to wait for the wound to heal before we can proceed with treatment,” said Arany, who started his career as a dentist. “I became interested in how to improve and hasten healing.”
Light therapy relies on a specific wavelength, intensity and exposure time. PBM is linked to the production of transforming growth factor beta, which regulates stem cell activity, inflammation and immune system function, and it plays a key role in age-related health and disease.
The researchers are hoping to take their findings into a controlled human trial.
The study was published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.
Source: University at Buffalo
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