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The effects of ultra-narrow band LED light on the scalp and skin draw a great deal of attention from various circles.

The common treatments for thinning hair include treatment by light with a single wavelength as well as oral drugs and topical drugs.
As phototherapy, laser treatment has so far been mainstay, while laser is difficult to deal with and it requires a large-size laser system.
Under these circumstances, Dr. Masahiro Ogasawara has developed ultra-narrow band LED light and has put it into practical use, which attracts broad attention.
Especially, ultra-narrow band red LED light exerts hair growth and hair restoration effects. ―We had an interview with him to learn the latest research on ultra-narrow band LED light.

It was May, 2005 when Dr. Masahiro Ogasawara, Director of Mignon Belle Clinic, who is a radiologist and aesthetic dermatologist, was successful in the development of equipment for irradiating LED light (common half-width: 20 - 40 nanometer) in ultra-narrow band of wavelength (half-width: less than 10 nanometer). In 2008, he gave a presentation on his LED research at the Annual Meeting on the Japanese Society of Aesthetic Dermatology as follows: ultra-narrow band LED light has effects on hair growth and beautiful skin and especially, ultra-narrow band red LED light is excellent in penetrating into the deeper layer of subcutaneous tissue and activating a variety of cells including dermal papilla cells. It was Dr. Shigeki Inui belonging to the Department of Dermatology, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in page 9 of this issue who was in the venue to listen to Dr. Ogasawara’s presentation. This encounter led to a joint research of ultra-narrow band LED light in hair science between Dr. Ogasawara and Dr. Inui. Moreover, ultra-narrow single color LED lights, not only red LED but also green and blue LED lights with a different band of wavelength, attract much attention from researchers involved in the fields of optical science as well as hair science.

Effects of ultra-narrow band red LED light which activates dermal papilla cells

What effects does each ultra-narrow band LED light, that is, red, green and blue have?

Masahiro Ogasawara:What we know at present is that red LED light is most effective for hair growth and restoration. We use LED light aiming at beautiful skin at my clinic. For green LED light, it is effective for moisturizing facial skin in middle-aged and older. Blue light is effective for restful sleep. This is what we know now.

Red light penetrates the deepest into the body. Green light has a shallow skin penetration. Blue LED light only penetrates the surface of the skin. Red light feels warmest, which is similar to infrared ray; green light feels somewhat warm; and blue light feels least warm. However, irradiating all lights on the body at the same time is not effective, because all lights are mixed causing interference. This mechanism is similar to that of sunlight. As sunlight consists of various wavelength bands and interferes with one another, it causes no effect.

How do you irradiate LED light in ultra-narrow band of wavelength?

Ogasawara:What I used for pulling out light with various bands of wavelengths in ultra-narrow band which was close to laser was a laser bandpass filter. Of course, I requested a company specializing in phototherapy to create equipment which enabled light to be irradiated in a straight line. Letting light through a bandpass filter results in a fraction of light energy from original one but creates ultra-narrow band light. Next, by enlarging the light by concave lens, we made it possible to irradiate the light on “objects with steric structure” uniformly as well “irradiating the larger area” at the sametime.

You conduct a clinical study in order to investigate the effects of ultranarrow band LED light irradiation on hair restoration in patients with AGA.

Ogasawara:I irradiated ultra-narrow band red LED light on the scalp of 10 male patient monitors for 20 minutes once to three times a week for 3 – 8 months. Looking at the effects on hair growth, the efficacy rate is 100%. Of all, it was almost cured in two patients; 7 had complete response; and 1 had partial response. The hair loss was decreased in most patients. When irradiating it for a long time, hair started growing in the substantial proportion of the patients.

Does ultra-narrow band red LED light activate dermal papilla cells?

Ogasawara:It may activate not only dermal papilla cells but also many different types of cells. Presumably, narrowband red LED light may be associated with many different types of cells, resulting eventually in decreased hair loss and new hair growth.

What joint research on medical application of ultra-narrow band LED light such as cell activation by the light are you involved in?

Ogasawara:I conduct joint research on molecular biological assessment of hair restoration and wound healing together with Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine. Also, I am engaged in joint research on optical characterization of ultra-narrow band LED light and the assessment of its usefulness with Kyoto University Graduate School of Engineering. Moreover, I am involved in research on ultra-narrow band blue LED light and hypnotic effect. I have received a large number of inquiries from the planning department of lighting equipment company and others.

Research on “interaction between light and cells” from the engineering viewpoint

Fortunately, we had an interview with Professor Shizuo Fujita of Kyoto University Graduate School of Engineering as well as Dr. Takashi Hirao, researcher (Doctor of Engineering, Doctor of Philosophy, and Professor Emeritus of Kochi University of Technology) who are engaged in research on “interaction between light and cells”.

Why is ultra-narrow band LED light effective but is wide band LED light ineffective?

Takashi Hirao:We plan to make biochemistry experiments in which wavelength range of irradiating light is varied in the future. We think that ultra-narrow band LED light is effective based on the two reasons at present.

One reason is that light intensity used in clinical practice is weaker than that in the natural world. When you stay in the sun for 1 hour, the amount of red light irradiation is much higher than that used in clinical practice. When a person is exposed to the lower amount of light than that in the natural world “by venturing to select ultra-narrow wavelength”, the person can get effects. On the contrary, if wide band light is effective, you do not need to be exposed to “narrow band light”, because you should get sufficient effects with light in the natural world.

Another reason is that red laser light irradiation has been found to be effective for hair restoration and growth. Of course, it cannot be said that wide band red light is not effective, but laser irradiation is generally known to be effective. Thus, it would be important to consider whether it can penetrate into the deeper layers of skin, that is, cells and moreover effects of wavelength.

Regardless of LED or laser, there is no difference between the two methods because semiconductor materials are used and light is emitted by rebinding an electron with an electron hole*1. In short, when light reaches a cell, electrical signals are generated by photoreceptors. An example is an eye which you can understand most easily. When light reaches the eye, video signals and light and dark signals are generated by photoreceptor cells in retina leading to the transmission of video signals corresponding to RGB to the primary visual area. This is the interaction between light and cells.

At any rate, the wavelength dependence of penetration depth of light into the body is important. Light with long wavelength can reach the deeper layer of the skin. In short, blue light with shorter wavelength only penetrates the surface of the skin, while red light with longer wavelength can penetrate deeper into the skin.

As other possibilities, resonance effects in which dermal papilla cells are stimulated by light may have some effect. This is a mechanism in which resonance effects in light stimulate cells to change a specific m-RNA*2 or secrete protein, by which you can imagine that protein is released from hair matrix cells (refer to the upper table on the left page).

Hair grows in hair matrix cells which exist at a depth of 3 - 5 mm from the scalp surface. Hair matrix cells form hair by cell division repeatedly. Hair papilla at the edge of the hair matrix cell receives neurotransmitters and nutrition and activates hair matrix cell. Thus, it is necessary to stimulate and activated hair matrix cells for hair restoration. Blue light penetrates into the skin only by 0.5 mm and does not reach dermal papilla cells. On the other hand, red light can penetrate deeper into the skin, dermal papilla cells. It is considered that red light can contribute to hair restoration.

※1:In semiconductor (or insulator), it is the lack of an electron at valence band which electrons should are filled in.

※2:RNA (ribonucleic acid) which has base sequence information and structure which can be translated to protein.

What do you think the future prospects of LED research?

Hirao:The interaction between light and cells may have some impacts on the cells. I explained the effects of LED light on hair restoration and rowth and wound healing this time. In addition, I think that LED light has effects on the process of cell culture or differentiation (refer to lower table on the left page). There is a study report showing that blue LED light can suppress growth of cancer cells. Regarding the application of LED light in various ways, I expect that researchers of materials science including semiconductor materials and biochemistry as well as medicine may get together to create an academic field called as “photomedicine”in the future.

In order to investigate the effects of LED light irradiation at cellular level, we continued to culture normal human dermal papilla cells in 10% FCS-DMEM in 35-mm Petri dish at 37 °C under the environment of 5% carbon dioxide until cells would proliferate to occupy the half portion of the dish. Cells, normal human fibroblast, 37 °C, under the environment of 5% carbon dioxide, was used as the cell culture in 10% FCS-DMEM. After the mid-term of cell proliferation of the state that entered the late, we were changing the cell incubator in DMEM. Also, in order to evaluate whether changes in mRNA (messenger RNA) levels occurred at the protein level, we irradiated ultra-narrow band red LED light 1.0J/cm2 on the cultured human dermal papilla cells for three consecutive days and collected culture supernatants at 24 hours after irradiation. Then, we analyzed concentration changes in HGF, leptin, VEGF, TNF-a which showed changes in mRNA by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The study result showed that concentrations of HGF, leptin and VEGF increased significantly by ultra-narrow band red LED light irradiation, but there was no significant concentration change in TNF-a.

Should start to use ultra-narrow band red LED light routinely while you are still young

May I ask Dr. Ogasawara again? The precondition is that dermal papilla cells are essential for hair growth in irradiating ultra-narrow band LED light, isn’t it?

Ogasawara:Of course, dermal papilla cells are required. However, it is difficult to deliver the ultra-narrow band LED light to dermal papilla cells which exist in deep subcutaneous tissues gently.

You mean that it is better to start using ultra-narrow band red LED light while you are still young, don’t you?

Ogasawara:Men tend to start to lose their hair when they are 20 years or so.Thus, I recommend that you should get an early start on ultra-narrow band red LED light routinely.

How about women?

Ogasawara:I believe that ultra-narrow band red LED light is also effective for women’s hair. Then, I asked Dr. Shinsaku Kawada, Director of Kawada Plastic Surgery Clinic in Okayama, who is renowned for laser treatment, to use ultra-narrow band LED light equipment.
I expect that he will give a presentation on clinical data in women whom ultranarrow band red LED light is irradiated around at the end of this year.

[Takashi Hirao]

Graduated from School of Engineering Osaka University. Obtained the doctoral degree of Graduate School of Engineering Osaka University. Doctor of Engineering, Doctor of Philosophy. Currently the Auditor for FROSFIA Inc. a venture company originated in Kyoto University.

Interviewer/writer: Akiyoshi Sato Photographer: Naoyuki Tamura

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