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Sunday

 
Researchers help reveal how specific wavelengths of light can heal 

Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes progressive paralysis by destroying nerve cells and the spinal cord. It interrupts vision, balance and even thinking.

On a suggestion from a colleague, Jeri-Anne Lyons decided to test how the disease responded to a radical therapy – exposure to a certain wavelength of light called near-infrared (NIR).
“Never in a million years did I think it would help,” says Lyons, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), who studies the role of the immune response in MS.

But it did. In rodent models, early MS-like symptoms were treated with exposure to NIR light for a week, alternating with a week of no light. The clinical condition of the mice improved.
Professor Janis Eells, who shared the idea with Lyons, had the same initial reaction after she used NIR therapy on rats to treat blindness caused by poisoning, a condition thought to be permanent. Repeating experiments again and again, she found that certain doses of NIR light allowed lab animals to regain their sight.

Scientists have known for years that certain wavelengths of light in certain doses can heal, but they are only now uncovering exactly how it works, thanks in large part to three UWM faculty researchers, including Chukuka S. Enwemeka, dean of UWM’s College of Health Sciences who is internationally known for his work in phototherapy.

Enwemeka researches the effects of both NIR and blue light in the visible range on healing wounds. Among his discoveries is that some wavelengths of blue light can clear stubborn infections – even MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant “superbug” form of Staphylococcus aureus.

Together, the UWM cluster has found that NIR and blue light repair tissue in dramatically different ways, but both act on the same enzyme in the cell’s energy supply center: the mitochondria.
The studies have revealed key information about managing the effects of aging and disease.
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