Researchers at the University of Buffalo have published a study demonstrating that light therapy reduces heart disease in mice. If these results hold true in human trials, this could be an extremely important finding. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S. One in five Americans dies of heart disease. A simple, low-cost, light therapy without pharmaceutical side effects could make light therapy mainstream medicine.

The researchers studied older mice and found photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy slowed down cardiovascular aging and delayed the onset of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. The researchers employed light therapy in middle-aged mice to reduce age-related heart deterioration. The PBM therapy was very effective. The mice with the therapy showed:

  • improved heart function
  • improved cardiac wall thickness
  • better running on the treadmill
  • improved neuromuscular coordination.

The mice were exposed to near infrared (NIR) light from an overhead LED source for only two minutes daily, five days per week. A set of mice were genetically altered to develop severe heart disease. The normal survival rate would be 43%. The PBM treatment group did not have their heart disease progress and had a survival rate of 100%.

In light therapy, wavelength, intensity, and exposure time are all important. The PBM produces transforming growth factor beta, which regulates stem cell activity, inflammation, immune function, and age-related health and disease. The researchers want to progress to a controlled human trial.

“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.

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.