Effects of water-filtered infrared A irradiation on human fibroblasts

Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Jan 1;48(1):153-60. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2009.10.036. Epub 2009 Oct 21.


Infrared radiation is a substantial part of the solar energy output reaching the earth surface. Therefore, exposure of humans to infrared radiation is common. However, whether and how infrared (IR) or infrared A acts on human skin cells is still under debate. Recently the generation of reactive oxygen species by water-filtered infrared A (wIRA) irradiation was postulated. wIRA shows a spectral distribution similar to that of solar irradiation at the earth's surface. Thus, the need for protection of human skin from both solar- and artificially generated infrared A irradiation was concluded. Here we demonstrate that in human dermal fibroblasts this reactive oxygen species generation is dependent on heat formation by infrared A and can be reproduced by thermal exposure. On the other hand wIRA irradiation had no detectable effect if the temperature in the cells was kept constant, even if irradiance exceeded the extraterrestrial solar irradiance in the IR range by a factor of about 4 and the maximum at noontime in the tropics by a factor up to about 6. This could be demonstrated by the measurement of oxidant formation using H(2)DCFDA and the determination of protein carbonyls. In additional experiments we could show that during thermal exposure the mitochondria contribute significantly to oxidant production. Further experiments revealed that the major absorbance of infrared is due to absorption of the energy by cellular water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Fibroblasts / radiation effects*
  • Filtration
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Water