Mitochondria play key roles in regulating the ageing process. When their membrane potential and function declines, their production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) reduces and they can signal cell death. This is particularly marked in the energy demanding central nervous system, where the neurons and glia, undergo some key structural and functional changes during ageing. Over the years, many have sought ways to alter the course of these cellular changes, to slow the ageing process and improve quality of later. From genetic manipulations to changes in diet and from using pharmaceuticals and antioxidants to incorporating more exercise and lowering cardiovascular risk factors, all have attempted to extend life and reduce the adverse impact of age.
The precise mechanisms used by photobiomodulation are unclear. Mitochondrial and physiological functions are improved, but increased ATP production alone is unlikely to underpin the physiological improvement, as this is relatively temporary. Hence, there are likely to be Editorial cascades of signalling between mitochondria and other structures including the nucleus and endoplasmic reticulum that have a wide-ranging impact on metabolism that sustain long term positive changes. For the neurons, several studies have reported that photobiomodulation activates various transcription factors leading to the expression of stimulatory and protective genes related to beneficial cellular features, for example neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and an increase in neurotrophic growth factors.
In conclusion, photobiomodulation has been shown to alter the course of ageing in the central nervous system, by improving the survival and function of neurons and reducing gliosis and inflammation. These results in the laboratory are ripe for translation to the clinic, to determine whether this treatment effectively slows ageing in humans. Some of the key advantages of photobiomodulation therapy relate to its economy and safety, as it can be delivered with commercially available light emitting devices at energies well within the human safety range. Moreover, a major strength of this therapy is that it can offer a potential clinical application where there is little alternative available.
Mitrofanis J, Jeffery G. Does photobiomodulation influence ageing? Aging (Albany NY). 2018 Sep 15;10(9):2224-2225. doi: 10.18632/aging.101556. PMID: 30219804; PMCID: PMC6188498.