Pre-conditioning with low-level laser (light) therapy: light before the storm

Dose Response. 2014 Sep 22;12(4):619-49. doi: 10.2203/dose-response.14-032.Agrawal. eCollection 2014 Dec.


Pre-conditioning by ischemia, hyperthermia, hypothermia, hyperbaric oxygen (and numerous other modalities) is a rapidly growing area of investigation that is used in pathological conditions where tissue damage may be expected. The damage caused by surgery, heart attack, or stroke can be mitigated by pre-treating the local or distant tissue with low levels of a stress-inducing stimulus, that can induce a protective response against subsequent major damage. Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) has been used for nearly 50 years to enhance tissue healing and to relieve pain, inflammation and swelling. The photons are absorbed in cytochrome(c) oxidase (unit four in the mitochondrial respiratory chain), and this enzyme activation increases electron transport, respiration, oxygen consumption and ATP production. A complex signaling cascade is initiated leading to activation of transcription factors and up- and down-regulation of numerous genes. Recently it has become apparent that LLLT can also be effective if delivered to normal cells or tissue before the actual insult or trauma, in a pre-conditioning mode. Muscles are protected, nerves feel less pain, and LLLT can protect against a subsequent heart attack. These examples point the way to wider use of LLLT as a pre-conditioning modality to prevent pain and increase healing after surgical/medical procedures and possibly to increase athletic performance.

Keywords: LLLT; Mitochondria; Photobiomodulation; Pre-conditioning; Reactive Oxygen Species; Remote Ischemic Pre-conditioning.