The brain-derived neurotrophic factor, nerve growth factor, neurotrophin-3, and induced nitric oxide synthase expressions after low-level laser therapy in an axonotmesis experimental model

Photomed Laser Surg. 2012 Nov;30(11):642-7. doi: 10.1089/pho.2012.3242. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Background data: A robust body of evidence has shown that low-level laser therapy (LLLT) improves peripheral nerve regeneration. However, the biochemical background triggered in this process is not yet fully understood.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the mRNA expression of neurotrophic factors (brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF], nerve growth factor [NGF], and neurotrophin-3, [NT-3]) and also an inflammatory marker (induced nitric oxide synthase [iNOS]) in an axonotmesis experimental model after low-level laser therapy.

Methods: Thirty-six adult male Wistar rats (250-350 g) were subjected to right sciatic nerve crush injury, and 24 h later, the animals in the three different experimental groups (n=18) were irradiated on a daily basis with helium-neon laser (collimated HeNe laser, continuous emission, wavelength: 632.8 nm, power density: 0.5 mW/cm(2), irradiation time: 20 sec, energy density: 10 J/cm(2)) during 7, 14, and 21 consecutive days, respectively. The control group (n=18) underwent the same procedures, but with the equipment turned off. At the end of the experiments, animals were killed with an overdose of anesthesia to remove samples from the sciatic nerve lesion epicenter to determine the mRNA expression of BDNF, NGF, NT-3 and iNOS enzyme.

Results: Comparisons between groups showed that HeNe laser increased the mRNA expression of both BDNF and NGF factors after 14 days of LLLT, with peak expression at the 21st day. Increase in NT-3 mRNA expression was not observed. In addition, HeNe laser produced iNOS expression reduction, which played an important role in the inflammatory process.

Conclusions: The reported data could have a relevant practical value because LLLT is a noninvasive procedure, and have revealed significant increase in neurotrophic factor expressions and inflammatory process reduction, opening the possibility of using LLLT as an important aid to nerve regeneration process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Lasers, Gas
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Nerve Regeneration / radiation effects*
  • Neurotrophin 3 / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Wallerian Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Wallerian Degeneration / radiotherapy


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neurotrophin 3
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase