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Visible Blue Light Therapy: Molecular Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities

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Background: Visible light is absorbed by photoacceptors in pigmented and non-pigmented mammalian cells, activating signaling cascades and downstream mechanisms that lead to the modulation of cellular processes. Most studies have investigated the molecular mechanisms and therapeutic applications of UV and the red to near infrared regions of the visible spectrum. Considerably less effort has been dedicated to the blue, UV-free part of the spectrum.

Objective: In this review, we discuss the current advances in the understanding of the molecular photoacceptors, signaling mechanisms, and corresponding therapeutic opportunities of blue light photoreception in non-visual mammalian cells in the context of inflammatory skin conditions.

Methods: The literature was scanned for peer-reviewed articles focusing on the molecular mechanisms, cellular effects, and therapeutic applications of blue light.

Results: At a molecular level, blue light is absorbed by flavins, porphyrins, nitrosated proteins, and opsins; inducing the generation of ROS, nitric oxide release, and the activation of G protein coupled signaling. Limited and contrasting results have been reported on the cellular effects of blue light induced signaling. Some investigations describe a regulation of proliferation and differentiation or a modulation of inflammatory parameters; others show growth inhibition and apoptosis. Regardless of the elusive underlying mechanism, clinical studies show that blue light is beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions.

Conclusion: To strengthen the use of blue light for therapeutic purposes, further in depth studies are clearly needed with regard to its underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms, and their translation into clinical applications.

Keywords: Phototherapy; S-nitrosylation signaling; blue light; inflammatory skin conditions; nitric oxide; opsins; reactive oxygen species; skin cells

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: December 1, 2018

This article was made available online on September 13, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Visible Light Therapy: Molecular Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities".

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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