Shining a Light on Fertility: The Power of Photobiomodulation

Our society today is characterized by major changes. More and more women and couples are focusing on different aspects of life at a young age and thus are taking their time planning for children. Statistics from the AIFS (Australian Institute of Family Studies) show that in 1971, almost 50% of all mothers gave birth to their first child between the ages of 20-24. By comparison, in 2020, only about 14% of mothers in the same age range gave birth, compared to about 35% in the 30-34 age range.2 

 

Furthermore, people are generally getting older, which can be seen as a reason to postpone the desire to have children. A major challenge is the increasing infertility that expectant mothers and fathers have to contend with at an older age. The quality of egg- and sperm cells decreases with age, making fertilization increasingly difficult. Accordingly, the age of the woman and other aspects such as the sperm quality of the man, are considered the most common causes of infertility. 3,4,15

 

Likewise, today’s time offers a rapid advancement in technologies. The application of light in the form of photobiomodulation (PBM) shows promising possibilities to support people in a non-invasive and easy way.

In this article, we will discuss how photobiomodulation can be beneficially applied in relation to fertility. We at Luminous Labs are developing a technology based on photobiomodulation that is scientifically proven. In doing so, we strictly distinguish ourselves from medical devices. Through our expertise and scientifically sound research, we are committed to sharing options and knowledge. The aim of this article is to present a scientific elaboration on the subject and to critically examine the points.

 

Table of contents

 

1. What is photobiomodulation?

2. Introduction of the experts

3. Problem situation: Fertility

4. Interaction mitochondria and fertility

5. Photobiomodulation and fertility

5.1 Female fertility

5.2 Male fertility

6. Application scenario

6.1 Example: Female infertility

7. Focus: Study

8. Conclusion

 

1. What is photobiomodulation?

 

In order to be able to establish a link between photobiomodulation and fertility, it is useful to explain the term itself in more detail and to take a small step back in history. The use of light as a therapeutic agent is over 10,000 years old. Even at that time, people could imagine that spending time in the sun could benefit health and well-being. Thus, methods of using light were first invented by the ancient Egyptians and then frequently used by the Greeks by bringing depressed people into contact with the sun.

The use of LED lamps has been extensively researched by NASA in recent decades. As part of this research, scientists found a particular combination of red and near-infrared light wavelengths in the 600 to 900 nanometer (nm) range to be very beneficial. Over the past three decades, it has been discovered that these wavelengths of light have a unique ability to alter cellular function. In addition, they help the mitochondria in our cells to produce energy in the form of ATP in a more efficient and effective manner.

The application of red and near-infrared light is scientifically called photobiomodulation (PBM) or low-level laser therapy (LLLT). The energy generated by laser irradiation is absorbed in the intracellular chromophores and converted into metabolic energy. 1, 5, 6

 

2. Introduction of the experts

 

For this article, the knowledge of two experts in photobiomodulation and their focus on longevity research was used. Barbara Sekulovska is a Ph.D. student in the field of psychology and inclusive education. As part of her work, she co-founded Luminous Labs with her co-founder, having the goal to help people live longer fulfilling lives. Thomas Lechner is a Ph.D. student in lighting design and is the second founder of the company. The interest in using photobiomodulation to assist people in different life situations motivated the two to develop lighting devices using this technology. Since infertility is a relevant topic, they would like to integrate this field into their work in order to possibly open up new paths for other people.

The publications of bioinformatician Aubrey de Grey with his focus on longevity research were considered as inspiration. Aubrey de Grey promotes the statement that people are getting older and older, which is why many couples’ desire to have children is postponed to a later date. As an expert in this field, he focuses on the longevity of people. In this case, the aging of the body’s cells plays an exciting and essential role, against which measures must be taken. 16

Likewise, neuroscientist and professor of neurobiology Andrew D. Huberman influences the idea of this article. He has already addressed the issue of fertility or infertility as well.

Infertility affects women and men equally

“Understanding how fertility and fertilization occurs in the brain and body will allow you to maximize your vitality and longevity.”

Andrew D. Huberman

In his presentation, in addition to a general understanding of fertility, he talks about the effects of age on fertility and emphasizes the role of mitochondria in sperm. More detailed info on this will be taken up in the article. 7

3. Problem situation: Fertility

 

With age, fertility decline is a challenge that many couples struggle with. This is due to a deterioration in egg and sperm quality. The mitochondria, which are considered as the power plants of the cells, play a relevant role in this process. Mitochondria are cell formations in which energy is produced that is necessary to perform various functions in the body. For example, their existence as power plants of the oocyte is essential. They are relevant for successful fertilization and the implantation and development of the embryo.

On average, most body cells consist of about 2000 mitochondria. In comparison, the oocyte (egg mother cell) contains about 6000 mitochondria. In terms of the male gender, the neck of the sperm also contains a large number of mitochondria. In the process of cellular respiration, they produce energy that moves the sperm toward the egg. This movement process is crucial for eventual fertilization.

In the reproductive system, mitochondria become less effective with age. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) within the cells, which is reduced with age. ATP is a chemical molecule responsible for providing energy in every cell of a living being. This energy is responsible for all work processes such as mass transport and locomotion. Once ATP is reduced, eggs and sperm subsequently lack abundant energy.c3, 8

To counteract this scenario and drive the body’s cells, photobiomodulation is considered a promising option.

 

4. Interaction mitochondria and fertility

 

Mitochondria perform a relevant function in human spermatozoa and oocytes and their surrounding granulosa cells in relation to the fertility of the individual. Their main function is cellular energy production, which is controlled by nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Consequently, they are essential for embryo implantation and development.

Although sperm mitochondria are not directly related to the embryo, they play an important role. They influence energy production, which affects the following:

 

  • Sperm movement
  • Acrosome reactions
  • Sperm oocyte fusion.

 

The mitochondria of the oocyte produce energy, which is important for the meiotic division of the oocyte. In addition, the calcium metabolism of the oocyte and epigenetic events are influenced during the transition from oocyte to embryo. Consequently, they can be transmitted to future embryos and shape any inherited diseases. Furthermore, they coordinate cellular adaptation to stress factors and oxidative stress. Thus, the approximately 6000 mitochondria of the oocyte fulfill an important function. 8, 9

 

5. Photobiomodulation and fertility

Photobiomodulation stimulates the mitochondrial activity of all body cells such as the oocytes and sperm. The stimulation can counteract the aging process. 3


5.1 Female fertility

According to the WHO (2023), currently 17.5% of the population is officially affected by infertility. A woman’s fertility decreases with increasing age. At the age of late 30s, women are 30% less fertile than in their early 20s.10 As already mentioned, the increasing infertility and the accompanying deterioration of the oocytes are mostly related to the decline of the mitochondria. Since photobiomodulation focuses on this point and stimulates the cells, the degradation process can be slowed down.

In the study by El Faham et al. (2018), an invasive method was chosen in which a fiberoptic probe was inserted into the uterus. As a result, it was noted that the proper fluence and number of exposures stimulated mitochondrial activity and consequently maintained cell viability without damaging them. The receptivity and regeneration of the endometrium was improved. 5

 

Accordingly, photobiomodulation can be used as an efficient form of application in the field of infertility. In the study, the dose and duration of application were strictly regulated. However in “in vivo” processes there is always a risk that must be considered. Consequently, this procedure must always be closely monitored and can only be performed under certain conditions.

 

The application of a straightforward, non-invasive method would bring many benefits. As a possible application scenario with Luminous Labs’ devices, the following routine is considered a possibility:

Luminous Labs devices use cold light, which eliminates the possibility of overheating body parts and improves the irradiation.

5.2 Male fertility

Male infertility occurs in about 7.5% of all men in Europe. Consequently, more and more couples are turning to reproductive medicine interventions to become pregnant. Photobiomodulation is a treatment method aimed at biostimulation of tissues and cells.

The study by Saylan et al (2023)12  dealt with asthenozoospermic patients. Asthenozoospermia is when sperm in the ejaculate are not sufficiently motile, resulting in impeded fertilization. It has been shown that the application of photobiomodulation improves sperm speed and motility.

 

In the field of reproductive medicine, PBM has been used to increase sperm metabolism, motility and viability due to its positive effect on mitochondria, resulting in activation of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and ATP production. This application may be particularly useful in avoiding the use of chemicals in sperm culture medium and promoting sperm survival and movement, especially in largely immobile sperm samples. 11, 13,14

Also adapted to the man, the panels of Luminous Labs offer suitable application possibilities. The following use is considered an example:

 

6. Application scenario

The effect of photobiomodulation in relation to fertility in women and men shows high potential. Now it is considered helpful to create a flexible and uncomplicated application possibility for interested persons. The continuity of irradiation is an important aspect.

The devices from Luminous Labs are designed for these scenarios. Luminous Labs provides light panels which offer a combination of red and near infrared light in a spectrum of 600 nm – 900 nm. The panels can be used individually in different sizes for private use. Here, the dosage and light intensity can be adjusted to the personal desired goals. Since the devices can be easily applied at home, an optimization of the desired results can be considered promising.

 

 

6.1 Example: Infertility

To show the application methods in more detail, let’s look at the following example: A woman at the age of 36 has wanted to have a child together with her partner for quite some time. Due to her private situation, the desire to have a child did not arise until she was in her early 30s. So far, unfortunately, the occurrence of a pregnancy has been unsuccessful. Now, however, there is the possibility of simply applying the photobiomodulation-based light panels at home. The irradiation activates the mitochondria and thus the body cells as well as the oocytes. The generated energy in the oocytes can be considered as a “motivational boost” and in the best case lead to an improvement in fertility.

 

In addition, the partner could equally use the irradiation method with the same device to boost his sperm movement. Even if the focus in this scenario is on the woman, the chance of a pregnancy occurring could be optimized by irradiating both participants. As possible recommendations for use, the data from Chapter 5 can be adopted. Since the devices can be used directly at home, the routine can be easily integrated into everyday life.

 

It has been shown that photobiomodulation can have an impact on fertility. Another exciting point is that studies have shown that photobiomodulation has additional benefits for all sexes in addition to fertility. Accordingly, additional benefits can be achieved through the use of the panels. Examples of this include:

 

    – Improvement of hormonal fluctuations

    – Mood improvement

    – Skin rejuvenation

    – Sleep improvement

    – Promote muscle regeneration 1 

 

The couple described in the scenario now has several opportunities to use photobiomodulation to promote fertility but also for other benefits.

7. Focus: Study

 

A study conducted in Japan in 2012 (Ohshiro et al.)3 showed positive results with the use of photobiomodulation. A total of 74 Japanese women suffering from infertility with an average age of 39 years participated in the study. The participants had previously used the assisted reproductive technology (ART) method, but without success. The study was scheduled from 1996 to 2000 and was extended until 2012 due to the successful outcomes. As a result, it was found that about 22% of the women were able to achieve pregnancy. In 59.5% of the cases, a successful live birth occurred.

 

The number of miscarriages generally tends to increase from the age of 34. From the age of 35, about 25% of all successful fertilizations lead to miscarriages. The higher the age, the more drastically the percentage increases. 7 Accordingly, the live birth rate of the study participants appears to be unaffected.

 

A light dose of 830 nm was applied in the study. The light was applied bilaterally with light pressure of the treatment probe against the tissue at points on the neck. This stimulated the head and neck muscles to enhance penetration into the target blood vessels. Users utilized radiation approximately 2 times per week to every 2 weeks, depending on their ability. Results were shown after only 21 applications.

8. Conclusion

The issue of infertility in women and men affects the lives of many people. In parallel, findings in the field of light research and photobiomodulation cause new opportunities. In this article, based on expertise and scientific research, an attempt was made to raise the possibility of combining these aspects.

 

The use of photobiomodulation activates our body cells and their mitochondria. As a result, this activation also plays an important role in our cells of the reproductive organs.

The fact by itself that there are about 6000 mitochondria in the oocyte, which is far more than in most body cells, shows that photobiomodulation can have a great effect here. The listed advantages of the application undoubtedly represent great potential, which can be exploited. 

 

Are you ready to shine a light on fertility? If you like this article, please share it with your network. If you are interested in red-light technology for yourself, shop here.

Photobiomodulation has a lot of benefits to offer:

 

As one example of many, did you know that it can help promote hair growth?
For the most part we have the Mitochondria to thank – but what exactly are the Mitochondria and what do they do? This Blog post should answer any question you have.

 

List of references

 

[1] Luminousred Photobiomodulation Forschungsdatenbank. By Vladimir Heiskanen. 2023

[2] Births in Australia. AIFS [online]. 2023

[3] Personal Overview of the Application of LLLT in Severely Infertile Japanese Females“. Laser Therapy. 2012

[4] How to Enhance Fertility with Photobiomodulation. citypulsacupuncture [online]. August 2022

[5] Has the Time Come to Include Low-Level Laser Photobiomodulation as an Adjuvant Therapy in the Treatment of Impaired Endometrial Receptivity? July 2018

[6] The History of Photobiomodulation: Endre Mester (1903-1984). August 2017

[7] Huberman Lab. How to Optimize Fertility in Males and Females [online]. January 2023

[8] The Role of Mitochondria in Human Fertility and Early Embryo Development: What Can We Learn for Clinical Application of Assessing and Improving Mitochondrial DNA? Februar 2022

[9] Mitochondria in Human Fertility and Infertility. Mai 2023

[10] 1-in-6 people globally affected by infertility. WHO [online]. April 2023

[11] Photobiomodulation Therapy for Male Infertility. October 2020

[12] Effects of Photobiomodulation Therapy on Human Sperm Function. April 2023

[13] Effects of Pulsed‐Wave Photobiomodulation Therapy on Human Spermatozoa. April 2022

[14] Effects of Photobiomodulation Therapy (PBMT) on Bovine Sperm Function. 2016

[15] Age structure. WHO [online]. September 2019

[16] Solving the Aging Problem: An Interview with Aubrey de Grey [online]. April 2020

Disclaimer:
This blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, illness or health issue.

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