This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the laser. The development of lasers for medical use, which became known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, followed in 1967. In recent years, LLLT has become an increasingly mainstream modality, especially in the areas of physical medicine and rehabilitation. At first used mainly for wound healing and pain relief, the medical applications of LLLT have broadened to include diseases such as stroke, myocardial infarction, and degenerative or traumatic brain disorders. This review will cover the mechanisms of LLLT that operate both on a cellular and a tissue level. Mitochondria are thought to be the principal photoreceptors, and increased adenosine triphosphate, reactive oxygen species, intracellular calcium, and release of nitric oxide are the initial events. Activation of transcription factors then leads to expression of many protective, anti-apoptotic, anti-oxidant, and pro-proliferation gene products. Animal studies and human clinical trials of LLLT for indications with relevance to neurology, such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, degenerative brain disease, spinal cord injury, and peripheral nerve regeneration, will be covered.
Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.