Visible light therapy : molecular mechanisms and therapeutic opportunities


Felix Garza, Z.C., Born, M., Hilbers, P.A.J., van Riel, N.A.W. & Liebmann, J. (2017). Visible light therapy : molecular mechanisms and therapeutic opportunities. Current Medicinal Chemistry,

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Visible light is absorbed by photoacceptors in pigmented and non-pigmented mammalian cells, activating signaling cascades and downstream mechanisms that lead to the modulation of cellular processes. Most studies have investigated the molecular mechanisms and therapeutic applications of UV and the red to near infrared regions of the visible spectrum. However, considerably less effort has been dedicated to the UV-free blue part of the spectrum. In this review we discuss the current advances in the understanding of the molecular photoacceptors, downstream signaling mechanisms and the corresponding therapeutic opportunities in the context of inflammatory skin conditions of blue light photoreception in mammalian cells. At a molecular level, blue light is absorbed by flavins, porphyrins, nitrosated proteins and opsins, and induces the release of reactive oxygen species, nitric oxide, and activation of G protein coupled signaling, respectively. Limited and contrasting results have been reported on the downstream cellular effects of blue light induced signaling. Some investigations describe a regulation of cellular proliferation and differentiation or a modulation of inflammatory parameters while others show growth inhibition and apoptosis. Regardless of the elusive underlying mechanism, blue light has been shown to be beneficial in treating inflammatory skin conditions, which are characterized by sustained inflammation and hyperproliferation of skin cells. However, to strengthen the use of UV-free blue light for therapeutic applications, further in depth studies of the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms and their translation into clinical applications are clearly needed.