When I was a teenager, one of the greatest joys of my life was watching Star Trek. I didn’t watch so much for the weapons, the blue alien girl, or the cool ship designs. More than anything, I loved watching the medical equipment that McCoy used to heal people. The tricorder was and still is in my opinion, the coolest gadget on the ship. McCoy, for all of you who are not initiates of the School of Star Trek, was the Chief Medical Officer of the Star Ship Enterprise. To this day, not a day goes by in my medical practice that I don’t wish that I had one of those babies in my lab. Imagine, diagnosing any disease in seconds with the push of a button. Heaven.
McCoy, and a number of the medical staff on the show also had a device that could heal using something that looked like light energy. On the show, they held the device over wounds and the wounds would heal instantly. Some races even had devices that could scan the body and heal almost any ailment. I love the idea of treating illness without surgery or pills. Until now, we have not had anything that even comes close to bridging the gap between science fiction and science fact in the healing industry; until now.
Doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have discovered the healing power of light with the help of technology developed for NASA’s Space Shuttle. Using powerful light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, originally designed for commercial plant growth research in space, scientists have found a way to help patients here on Earth.
Doctors are examining how this special lighting technology helps hard-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic skin ulcers, serious burns, and severe oral sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation. The project includes laboratory and human trials, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and funded by a NASA Small Business Innovation Research contract through the Technology Transfer Department at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
NASA has found wounds heal slower in outer space due to its microgravity environment. Astronauts endure many physical ailments while in space, including both muscle and bone atrophy (partial or complete wasting away of a part of the body).
Leaving astronauts with various minor injuries that do not heal until landing back on Earth. To help sooth these issues in space NASA has incorporated QDI LED (light emitting diode) therapy into their space program to help heal minor wounds while the astronauts are in space.
QDI LED technology is also used as part of cancer treatment and in Military Special Operation Units. Where the LED arrays have been used for improving wound healing to speed up de-conditioned personnel, helping them return to service faster. NASA states that, “LED usage for wound healing has been approved by the Naval Special Warfare Command.”
“So far, what we’ve seen in patients and what we’ve seen in laboratory cell cultures, all point to one conclusion,” said Dr. Harry Whelan, professor of pediatric neurology and director of hyperbaric medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “The near-infrared light emitted by these LEDs seems to be perfect for increasing energy inside cells. This means whether you’re on Earth in a hospital, working in a submarine under the sea or on your way to Mars inside a spaceship, the LEDs boost energy to the cells and accelerate healing.”
Dr. Whelan’s findings were summarized in The Space Technology and Applications International Forum 2001 and in The Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine and Surgery. Other related peer-reviewed journals have published articles on Whelan’s medical research with light-emitting diodes.
Dr. Whelan’s NASA-funded research has already seen remarkable results using the light-emitting diodes to promote healing of painful mouth ulcers caused by cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment is quick and painless.
The wound-healing device is a small, 3.5-inch by 4.5-inch (89-millimeter by 114-millimeter), portable flat array of LEDs, arranged in rows on the top of a small box. A nurse practitioner places the box of LEDs on the outside of the patient’s cheek about one minute each day. The red light penetrates to the inside of the mouth, where it seems to promote wound healing and prevent further sores in the patient’s mouth.
“Some children who probably would have had to be fed intravenously because of the severe sores in their mouths have been able to eat solid food, ” said Dr. David Margolis, an oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Margolis, whose pediatric cancer patients are participating in the study, explained that, “Preventing oral mucositis improves the patients’ ability to eat and drink and also may reduce the risk of infections in patients with compromised immune systems.”
Dr. Whelan’s collaboration with NASA began when Ronald Ignatius, owner of Quantum Devices Inc. in Barneveld, Wis., learned about Dr. Whelan’s brain cancer surgery technique using drugs stimulated by laser lights. Laser-light surgical probes are costly and cumbersome in the operating room because they are heavy, with refrigerator-size optical, electrical and cooling systems.
Ignatius originally designed the lights for plant growth experiments through the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics, a NASA commercial space center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
“The LEDs needed to grow plants in space produced the same wavelengths of light the doctor needed to remove brain tumors,” said Ignatius. “Plus, when we developed the LEDs for NASA, they had to be lightweight to fly aboard the shuttle and have small cooling systems. These traits make the LED surgery probes easier to use in the operating room and thousands of dollars cheaper than laser systems.”
Quantum Devices altered the surgical probe to emit longer wavelengths of red light that stimulate a photodynamic drug called Benzoporphyrin Derivativeä . Doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin recently completed the first-ever surgery with the improved probe and medicine. The drug also has fewer side effects after surgery. The ongoing brain surgery study is described in a 1999 peer-reviewed journal article in Pediatric Neurosurgery.
“At NASA, we work with companies like Quantum Devices to take technologies developed for use in space and bring the benefits back home to Earth,” said Helen Stinson of Marshall’s Technology Transfer Department. “NASA is proud to support a program that helps children with brain cancer — and promises to help even greater numbers of people with technology to accelerate the healing process.”
In the laboratory, Whelan and his team have shown that skin and muscle cells grown in cultures and exposed to the LED infrared light grow 150 to 200 percent faster than ground control cultures not stimulated by the light. Scientists are trying to learn how cells convert light into energy, and identify which wavelengths of light are most effective at stimulating growth in different kinds of cells.
To expand the wound healing study, Whelan — a commander and diving medical officer in the U.S. Navy reserve assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command (Naval Special Warfare Group TWO) — is working with doctors at Navy Special Warfare Command centers in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, Calif.
They reported a 40 percent improvement in patients who had musculoskeletal training injuries treated with the light-emitting diodes.
A wound-healing device was placed on the USS Salt Lake City submarine and other subs belonging to Submarine Squadron ELEVEN, where doctors are currently studying the effects of LED light on crewmembers’ injuries in the unique submarine environment.
When you look at the LED healing devices that have been created around this research, they look a lot more like science fiction than science fact. A great deal of NASA funded research has shown that certain frequencies of light have the power to heal. The practical application of this technology has already begun to take shape.
Some of the devices look like they would be right at home on the Starship Enterprise. One of them even looks like a miniature tricorder, and ironically, the technology is based in space flight. My inner teenager could not be happier.
Dr. Mitchell Gibson is the author of The Enlightened Perspective. He is
bestselling author of Your Immortal Body of Light, Nine Insights for a Happy and
Successful Life, and The Human Body of Light. Gibson received his
medical degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed
his residency training at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. More than
3.4 million people have downloaded his YouTube videos and millions of people have visited his website http://www.tybro.com The Enlightened Perspective was launched in late January 2013 and in a few short months has grown to attract almost 200,000 views.
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