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Light therapy might be the first traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment to go mainstream thanks to medical research pushing the frontier of potential treatments for this type of injury.

Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Wellman Center for Photomedicine launched a study to explore the use of light therapy as a therapeutic approach to TBI. The study led by Dr. Rajiv Gupta, was reportedly funded through a grant provided by the U.S Department of Defense. The findings of the study were published in a journal called JAMA Network Open.

The researchers found that light therapy is a safe approach to treating TBI and measurable outcomes. The study explored near-infrared, low-level light therapy (LLLT) in clinical trials exploring the treatment of patients with moderate brain injury. Roughly 69 million people experience TBI annually. However, no approved treatment methods address this condition, mainly because the underlying mechanisms were previously not understood.

“For a variety of reasons, the number of TBIs has increased around the globe since then, but effective treatments are still sorely needed,” stated Dr. Gupta.

How researchers conducted the light therapy study

The researchers developed a special type of helmet that they used to deliver light therapy, and this meant that they had to leverage physics, engineering, and medical prowess. There were also some significant challenges along the way. Dr. Lynn Drake, one of the co-authors of the study, stated that near-infrared LLLT wavelength optimization was one of the major challenges because they did not know how much light was necessary results.

They decided to use length of exposure, timing of delivery, and dosing so that they could achieve desirable results. The recent study is not the first study in which Near-infrared LLLT took center stage. It has previously been used in other studies, but this is the first time researchers explore its use as a potential TBI treatment. The Near-infrared LLLT study demonstrated that light affects the cells, but the researchers were not sure whether the light would penetrate the skull so that it could reach the repair substrates.