Shining a Light on PBM & The Health Care Innovation Ecosystem

November 01, 2018

By Ms. Hannah M Clark, Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist, with support from Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, Executive Director Global NetGeneration of Youth

Recently, I was honored to be invited by Dr. Robert Boege, Executive Director of ASTRA to join ASTRA’s Futurist Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, and serve as a NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist covering a Congressional Briefing held in the Rayburn House Office Building on October 11, 2018 entitled, “Ending Opiod Use: A New Hope”.  The event was co-sponsored by ASTRA, The World Association for Laser Therapy, NetGeneration of Youth, The Optical Society of America, and thirteen other science and medical organizations.  What an opportunity to learn about PBM, “photobiomodulation,” an innovative medical technology, as well as, to be exposed to the organizational stakeholders who advocate for support of America’s ‘science and technology innovation ecosystem.’

What is PBM and What does it Promise?
When I first heard the term photobiomodulation (PBM) I was confused—initially the word sounded like a lighting technique for theater productions. Then as I started researching, it seemed more like a tool for physics experiments involving light. Only when I attended the Congressional Briefing and heard the first-hand testimony of people who miraculously benefitted from using this medical technology did I begin to grasp its far-reaching implications for both revolutionizing health care and for serving as an alternative solution to the prescription opiod crisis.

Technically, ‘Photobiomodulation’ describes visible red and near infrared light energy that stimulates cells to undergo self-repair. Since receptors of pain are light sensitive, a concentrated Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) delivered at the right wavelength, intensity and time can impact cells rapidly, alleviate pain and promote fast healing. PBM Therapy has been shown to reverse the disease process of a growing number of medical conditions. The delivery of light to the hundreds of mitochondria that exist in every one of our body’s 37 trillion cells, provides an energy boost that helps cells repair and operate at peak performance.

Such therapeutic effects of PBM, initially developed in 1967, were actually dramatized in STAR TREK TV series. Since then, PBM has been scientifically researched and documented in case studies spotlighting its multiple uses around the world.

Impressive research in the United States is being conducted at several prestigious universities:

  • Harvard University’s Medical School is exploring use of  PBM to reverse Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, to treat depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Boston University is working with the Veterans Administration (VA) on the use of PBM for  depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and PTSD.
  • University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Center and New York University’s Medical College are proving that PBM Therapy reverses and even prevents the side effects of cancer radiotherapy, especially oral mucositis.
  • Shepherd University School of Nursing is the first nursing school in America to formally include PBM Therapy in their curriculum. Shepherd U is leading the way on revolutionizing medical protocols to support patients and their families.

Congressional Briefing Shining Light on PBM as a Medical Innovation with Potential to Revolutionize Health Care
Appreciation is extended to Mr. Scot Falkner, a national expert in strategic transformation and change, who convened an esteemed panel of PBM experts for the Congressional Briefing:

  • James Carroll, CEO of THOR Photomedicine who provided an overview of PBM and highlighted the global evidence on the effectiveness of PBM for treating pain as an alternative to opiod addiction;
  • Dr.Praveen Arany, Professor at U of Buffalo, NY, who provided the medical context for how and why PBM works; and
  • Oncology Nurse Annette Quinn, RN Program Manager Radiation Oncology, University  of Pittsburgh Cancer Center, who shared her first hand experience in using PBM in treating over 854 patients with Oral Mucositis.

After being impressed by the three panelists’ depth of research, case studies, and clinical practice, we in the audience were treated to powerful testimony from a variety of healthcare professionals and patients all asserting the benefits of the medical technology to address pain, acute trauma and a variety of degenerative diseases.  Not only did each individual testimonial underscore how the use of PBM can reduce pain and facilitate the reduction of opioid pain medication, but the testimonials collectively suggested that PBM has the potential to transform modern health care.

Six of the remarkable presenters were:

  • Mr. Douglas Johnson, Vice President for Scientific Affairs for Multi Radiance Medical (a Solon, Ohio medical device company) shared “Revelations: A Compendium of Research from Multi Radiance Medical” – and demonstrated a hand held consumer device that can be used in the home.
  • Dr. Mel Burchman, champion of high tech dentistry who not only practices the skills in Pennsylvania, but champions Laser Dentistry in professional association work, eg., serving as Chair of the Certification and Testing Committee at the Academy of Laser Dentistry.
  • Dr. Claudia Cotca, an international lecturer and expert in Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry, who has impacted public policy and served as expert to federal legislators.
  • Professor Kelly Huffer, at the Department of Nursing Education at Shepherd University in West Virginia, described partnership with PBM Therapy Foundation (James Carroll) to pioneer the integration of PBM technology in nursing curriculum as an alternative treatment to reduce dependence on addictive and dangerous medications.
  • Dr. Robert Bowen private practice specialist in Cosmetic Medicine who also serves as a Professor of Medicine at WVU Medical School. He asserts that ‘Light Based health treatments are the wave of the Future.’
  • MaryEllen Ammons who opened the Infinity Healing Center in Southern Maryland to share the miraculous experiences she has had with light based healing in dealing with the ravages of Lyme Disease;

After such persuasive testimony, we were all shocked to learn that while PBM therapy is mainly used for cosmetic reasons in the United States, in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil and Australia, PBM is more widely available. Additionally, its use is not simply for pain relief, but also for treating the underlying causes and impacts of medical conditions, from chronic muscular pain, diabetic wounds, dental and cancer therapies (ie., Oral Mucositus), vision issues, dermatology, Traumatic Brain Injury, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Heart Attack, and Spinal Cord Injuries.

So questions loomed: Why is PBM standardized practice in other countries but, in our country, this therapy with so many claimed benefits is unsupported by most health insurance plans, is still under scrutiny by the FDA, and is not readily available to patients throughout the United States?

Going Forward
Following powerful panel and personal testimony, a brief discussion was held that raised the questions of what congressional policies could harness the power of PBM, especially as it relates to the Opiod Crisis.  Aiming to gain momentum from the recently passed Opioid Crisis Response Act (2018), the experts discussed policies needed to foster PBM adoption; specifically identified were the needs for policies providing public and private health insurance reimbursement, and for grants to support research on the technology innovation, its therapeutic dosage, and large multicenter clinical trials.

As an emerging NetGeneration of Youth leader committed to science and technology innovation, I hope events like this briefing can continue to raise awareness about PBM and other medical technology innovations. It is important that we in America ‘see the light’ and ensure a healthcare ecosystem that makes patient comfort the priority!  Additionally, I encourage individuals and organizations to join ASTRA as it advocates for the science, technology research policies that will cultivate America’s innovation capacity.

See related article on ASTRA’s website: Photobiomodulation Therapy Event - Briefing Materials

New Hope for Cancer Patients Through Photobiomodulation (PBM)

TV News Story- Video and Article highlighting Dr. Robert Bowen’s ‘LIGHT THERAPY PRACTICE'  in West Virginia

NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist Hannah M Clark




Click Image below to view photos from the event.

“Poster heralding the Congressional Briefing “ Ending Opiod Use:A New Hope,” held in the Rayburn Office Building On October 11,2018 and Co sponsored by ASTRA, the Global NetGeneration of Youth and 15 other Science and Medical Organizations