Under the spotlight: mechanisms of photobiomodulation concentrating on blue and green light

Hannah J Serrage, Vladimir Heiskanen, William M Palin, Paul R Cooper, Michael R Milward, Mohammed Hadis, Michael R Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Photobiomodulation (PBM) describes the application of light at wavelengths ranging from 400–1100 nm to promote tissue healing, reduce inflammation and promote analgesia. Traditionally, red and near-infra red (NIR) light have been used therapeutically, however recent studies indicate that other wavelengths within the visible spectrum could prove beneficial including blue and green light. This review aims to evaluate the literature surrounding the potential therapeutic effects of PBM with particular emphasis on the effects of blue and green light. In particular focus is on the possible primary and secondary molecular mechanisms of PBM and also evaluation of the potential effective parameters for application both in vitro and in vivo. Studies have reported that PBM affects an array of molecular targets, including chromophores such as signalling molecules containing flavins and porphyrins as well as components of the electron transport chain. However, secondary mechanisms tend to converge on pathways induced by increases in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Systematic evaluation of the literature indicated 72% of publications reported beneficial effects of blue light and 75% reported therapeutic effects of green light. However, of the publications evaluating the effects of green light, reporting of treatment parameters was uneven with 41% failing to report irradiance (mW cm−2) and 44% failing to report radiant exposure (J cm−2). This review highlights the potential of PBM to exert broad effects on a range of different chromophores within the body, dependent upon the wavelength of light applied. Emphasis still remains on the need to report exposure and treatment parameters, as this will enable direct comparison between different studies and hence enable the determination of the full potential of PBM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1877 - 1909
Number of pages32
JournalPhotochemical and Photobiological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • photobiomodulation
  • low-level light therapy
  • Blue light
  • mitochondria
  • opsin


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