Wavelengths matter

A recent article compared the action of visible red 660nm with near-infrared 980nm.

The 660nm wavelength is a very lovely and rich shade of red, very much like the red velvet in Gwen’s photo of theatre curtains. In contrast, the wavelength 980nm is way out of the visible range and our eyes cannot see it at all.

This study showed that both wavelengths stimulated the cells into action through the mitochondria, the powerhouses inside cells. When the 980nm wavelength was used, it quickly stimulated the cell, but the effect died away pretty quickly.

In contrast, the visible red 660nm was slower to get going, but the effect lasted for at least 24 hours.

What does this finding mean?

Remember that mitochondria are like batteries, powering the cell to keep it healthy and active. The longer the mitochondrial batteries remain powered up, the longer the cell will function and – very importantly – the longer it will live.

Visible red 660nm, a rich colour to our eyes, is also a rich source of energy for our cells, and the energy that this wavelength generates will last for well over a day.

There has been interest in the use of longer wavelengths (900-1100nm) for light hats. This research article strongly suggests that it would be better to stick to visible red wavelengths.


Fuchs, Christiane, Merle Sophie Schenk, Linh Pham, Lian Cui, Richard Rox Anderson, and Joshua Tam. “Photobiomodulation Response From 660 Nm Is Different and More Durable Than That From 980 Nm.” Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 53, no. 9 (November 1, 2021): 1279–93.

Thanks to Gwen King on Unsplash for the lovely image.

Mitochondria have a social-life!

The discoveries about mitochondria continue to grow.

A while back, it became clear that many neurodegenerative diseases, especially Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, resulted from the cell batteries, the mitochondria, failing to properly power up the cell. This results in the cell being unable to do its job, for example making dopamine. It also results in the early death of the cell.

In 2019 came the stunning news that mitochondria are nomadic. They pop out of cells, plunge into the bloodstream and whizz around, then get out, metaphorically towel themselves dry and pop back into a different cell – possibly in a completely different part of the body.

This ability raised the question of what controls the mitochondrial migration. There must be some signalling system making this happen. One has visions of King Mito barking out orders to mitochondrial minions, who scurry around with their clipboards and spreadsheets…

The signalling system is the next big thing for scientists to understand. It offers vast opportunities for potential treatments and prevention strategies.

Now comes the news that mitochondria act like social creatures. The cosy up to each other, fuse together, split apart, and appear to communicate with each other. Absolutely fascinating!

Here’s a link to a wonderful article in Qantamagazine. It describes very beautifully the implication of a review paper by Martin Picard and Carmen Sandi, who were the first to describe this new feature of mitochondrial behaviour.


Martin Picard, Carmen Sandi,The social nature of mitochondria: Implications for human health,
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 120,
2021,Pages 595-610,ISSN 0149-7634,


I had an interesting query today regarding the penetration of red and near infrared light into the body.


Does the penetration of red and near infrared light increase as the wavelength increases?


Alas, no. The human body isn’t going to make life that easy for us!

Penetration studies have shown that 810 nanometres (written as 810nm) has the best ability to penetrate through the skin and into the body tissues.

There are some wavelengths in the red and near infrared spectrum that hardly penetrate at all, while others are better. 810nm is the best.

810nm is in the near infrared range. Because it is at the very edge of our ability to see, an 810nm light looks very pale.

Visible red 670nm is pretty good, but not as good as 810nm. However, when the 670nm wavelength reaches the cell, it is highly efficient at getting the cell batteries (mitochondria) to recharge and kickstart the cell.

Thanks To Steve Harvey on Unsplash for the great photo from Nottingham.

Magnificent mitochondria

Thomas Ryan and David Tumbarello, two British researchers, published a very interesting two-page review article due to be published in September 2021, but made available early.

It seems that mitochondria, the batteries in our cells, aren’t merely being driven by other, more high-status, parts of the cell. It looks like the mitochondria themselves might be in the driver’s seat, at least for some aspects of their activity. We should take more notice of them.

Continue reading “Magnificent mitochondria”

Mitochondria & Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease researchers have had to do a complete revision of thinking. For decades, the focus has been on getting rid of an abnormal protein, called amyloid, that plonks itself  in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

It was a reasonable hypothesis. Amyloid and Alzheimer’s seem to go together, so it seemed logical that in getting rid of amyloid proteins, Alzheimer’s would be cured.

Billions of dollars later, and despite lots of trials with amyloid-chewing drugs, it seems that amyloid is not the culprit.

Q: So what is the culprit?
A: Lots of things, especially mitochondria, the batteries that power our cells.

It’s not a surprise that miserable mitochondria are heavily involved in Alzheimer’s. More and more evidence is showing that moping mitochondria appear in many different diseases. It seems that cell battery management is critical, which makes a lot of sense.

The number of articles linking Alzheimer’s and mitochondria are increasing, and the hope is to find pharmaceutical solutions. That’s good, but there is a solution already in place. And one without side effects.

Photobiomodulation acts on the cell mitochondria, the cell batteries, and boosts the cell activity, stimulates the cell nucleus to start making new cells, opens up the blood vessels and stimulates the blood vessels to sprout more branches. We know from research, case studies and observations of people with Alzheimer’s disease that red and near infrared transcranial lights used daily can improve memory, judgement, attention and concentration, mood, apathy, sleep quality, fatigue, not to mention increasing enjoyment of life.

It would be so good if some of those billions of dollars for Alzheimer’s research would include more work on photobiomodulation.

1. Stojakovic, A., Trushin, S., Sheu, A. et al. Partial inhibition of mitochondrial complex I ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and cognition in APP/PS1 female mice. Commun Biol 4, 61 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-020-01584-y Link.
2. Bell, Simon M.; Barnes, Katy; De Marco, Matteo; Shaw, Pamela J.; Ferraiuolo, Laura; Blackburn, Daniel J.; Venneri, Annalena; Mortiboys, Heather. 2021. “Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Biomarker of the Future?” Biomedicines 9, no. 1: 63. Link

Thanks to Mika Baumeister on Unsplash for the wonderful image of a battery.