Healing with Light
by Nina Mikirova, PhD, Director of Research and
Ron Hunninghake, MD, Chief Medical Officer
Phototherapy is the medical use of light to activate the healing properties of the blood. Phototherapy has been used for over 80 years to treat a wide spectrum of ailments, including everything from acne to fibromyalgia to serious infection.
Phototherapy makes use of ultraviolet (UV) bands of light. Most of us are familiar with the UVB band of sun light. Excessive time in the sun can result in a bad burn due to UVB. The UVC band of sun light is known to kill germs. The UVA band is thought to modify the immune response of cells and may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
The medical use of ultraviolet light takes two forms. Both involve the irradiation (exposure to light) of blood or blood components with one or more of the UV bands of light. We will briefly discuss the form of light therapy called photopheresis. We will then turn our attention to the current revival of the light therapy now being offered at Riordan Clinic: UBI (ultraviolet blood irradiation.)
Photopheresis is a technique that exposes isolated white blood cells to both a photoactive drug and UVA light. The treatment was introduced in 1987 and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and immune-mediated diseases such as graft-versus-host disease (a complication related to bone marrow or stem cell and organ transplants). The treatment is thought to control these diseases by inducing the death of certain white blood cells called lymphocytes. The overall effects of photopheresis on the immune system remain poorly characterized. Patients that respond well to the treatment notice significant improvements in their quality of life. Toxicity is minimal. Compared with control groups, patients treated with photopheresis have better survival times.
An older and easier-to-administer form of ultraviolet light therapy is called UBI. This is also called autologous blood irradiation—autologous meaning “the use of one’s own blood.”
In the early 1920’s, Emmet Knott developed a method for drawing a small amount of the subject’s own blood and passing it safely through a chamber where it was treated with UV light and then returned to the body. He used the same wavelengths of UV light that come from the sun in order to make use of its healing properties.
Knott irradiated the blood of his first human subject—a case of sepsis, or blood-borne bacterial infection. The patient recovered within 24 hours of the treatment. By the summer of 1942, over 6,500 patients had been treated with this therapy with a success rate that was greater than 95% with no harmful side effects.
In 1943 medical authors reported on the use of UBI in a series of cases involving viral pneumonia. They noted a complete disappearance of symptoms in 24 to 76 hours following a single treatment. All coughing disappeared in 3 to 7 days. Lung X-rays cleared in 24 to 96 hours.
Mechanisms of UBI treatment
How does UBI work? Two basic hypotheses have emerged from various practitioners
1) The UV treatment of the blood in the treatment chamber destroys or alters bacteria and viruses in the extracted blood in such a way as to create a kind of vaccination effect when the killed germs are returned to the body. This provokes an activation of the immune system which in turn hunts down and destroys the remaining bacteria or virus in the body.
2) The treatment of this small fraction (about 5 percent) of the blood then propagates throughout the entire volume of the blood, emitting a secondary irradiation of biophotons that have been induced by the UV light in the treatment chamber.
Knott and other early researchers suggested that UBI has a complex effect on the immune system. On the one hand, the UVC lights in the UBI machine act in a germicidal way. On the other hand, the UVA lights (the machine contains both) act to modulate or alter in some way the functioning of the white cells that are having an auto-immune effect.
Proponents of UBI published their findings in dozens of scientific articles. Thousands of patients were treated at medical centers. UBI fared well in several clinical trials, but most of the published studies consisted of a series of cases without controls.
One critical study (Moor et al.) pointed out the lack of controls and the unclear criteria for success in the articles published by UBI’s proponents. It also claimed that UBI had no effect on bacteria or toxins.
In another critical study (Schwartz et al. in 1952) funded in part by the American Medical Association, the researchers showed that it was not the direct treatment on the blood that destroyed the bacteria.
It is important to mention that The US Foundation for Blood Irradiation (FFBI) manual emphasizes that UBI is a nonspecific therapy, as its exact mode of operation is unknown.
Ultraviolet Therapy for Patients with Inflammation
UBI therapy is practiced in Russia, Germany, the United States, and many other countries. There are many published studies that demonstrate its effectiveness in the treatment of many serious forms of infection, such as peritonitis, septicemia, tuberculosis and post-surgerical infections. They all affirm that UBI is an effective tool in hospitals and clinics. Most of the completed studies were conducted in Russia. Short descriptions of these studies are presented below.
On the basis of the analysis of the results of the treatment of 115 patients with acute sepsis (life-threatening blood infection) the authors established that transfusion of autologous blood irradiated by UV rays reduced the likelihood of death by almost three-fold.
An analysis of UBI in 85 patients with various surgical diseases has shown the method to be simple, available and highly clinically effective. The experience with the use of ultraviolet irradiation of the blood in 98 patients with purulent-inflammatory disease was described. UBI of the blood considerably improved the results of treatment of these patients. The highest effectiveness of UBI of the blood is noted in treatment of sepsis.
Analysis of the results of clinical immunological study of the use of UBI in pediatric pneumonia indicated that it corrected the immune response of the child to the bacterial aggression through adequate production of monocytic phagocytes and plasma cells. It also influenced the completeness of immune response and the reduction of T-lymphocyte deficiency in the acute phase of the disease. UBI considerably reduced the mortality rate of this disease in young children.
Eighty-one patients with inflammatory diseases responded favorably to UBI.
In another study, 199 patients with different forms of peritonitis enabled the authors to recommend the inclusion of UBI. It reduced lethality two fold.
An experience with treatment of 1,527 patients with different forms of acute inflammation was analyzed. UBI was an effective method of treatment for these conditions, resulting in rapid arrest of local and general symptoms of the disease. The number of complications and recurrences were also reduced.
Ultraviolet Therapy for Patients with Diabetes
The effect of UBI on treatment of diabetes was analyzed in several studies. Below are presented data of several Russian and German studies of ultraviolet irradiation of autologous blood in the complex treatment of patients with diabetes mellitus.
In one study, a single reinfusion of UV-irradiated autologous blood was performed in 76 patients with non-insulin-dependent (NID) and insulin-dependent (ID) diabetes mellitus. Lipid peroxidation, the activity of glycolysis and pentose cycle principal enzymes, red cell cyclic nucleotides, hormones concentrations, and glucose utilization were investigated. The study showed that general physiological action of UV radiation is primarily due to the lipid peroxidation and damage of cell membrane properties. UV radiation is valid in combined therapy of NID diabetes mellitus as it activates an intracellular repair mechanism and improves tissue utilization of glucose.
Another paper was concerned with the results of a study of the effects of a single reinfusion of photo-modified (UV light irradiation) autologous blood on the levels of plasma hormones, lipid peroxidation and antioxidant system of erythrocytes, the activity of the main enzymes of glucose metabolism in erythrocytes, and the state of cellular immunity in 45 patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in the 2-day and the 14-day periods following treatment. The treatment was shown to cause prolonged activation of intracellular glucose metabolism, a decrease in the endogenous insulin consumption by tissues, and a decrease in the blood concentration of insulin.
Several recent clinical reports demonstrate positive experiences with UBI in a scenario of prevention or long-term delay of diabetic complications. The use of laser treatment did not vary greatly, but patients’ vision was improved and was maintained at a constant level for an extended period—in many cases, for decades. These experiences were supported by long-term improvements of blood pressure amplitude, lowered plasma viscosity and thrombocyte hyperaggregability. Diabetic foot ulcers could also be avoided.
Ultraviolet Therapy for Patients with HIV Infection
Ever since it was shown that UV radiation has an effect on viruses in vitro, the possibility that UV therapies may affect the progression of HIV disease has attracted the attention of clinicians and laboratory scientists. Additional in vitro and animal studies made it possible to determine types of UV exposure and dose ranges that have HIV-deactivating potential.
The safety of UV phototherapy for patients infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains controversial. Ultraviolet light from artificial and natural sources was first shown to enhance HIV growth in experiments using cell culture systems. In vivo studies using transgenic mice, with HIV, further indicated that sunlight and artificial UV-B in doses as low as 9 ml/cm2 can potently stimulate viral replication in the skin. In these experimental systems, ultraviolet radiation was thought to activate viral replication.
In a self-controlled prospective study of the effect of UV phototherapy on plasma HIV viral level, patients received UV-B phototherapy. Plasma HIV levels showed no significant increase or decrease in most of the patients, defined as a three-fold change from baseline (mean fold change from baseline after 8 weeks of phototherapy, − 1.1). Trend analysis indicated no significant pattern of change in viral levels. The CD4+ cell counts also remained unchanged. The conclusion of this study was that no significant effect of UV-B exposure was seen on plasma HIV-1 levels and this type of therapy appeared to have little effect against this ever-mutating, hard-to-control virus.
UBI therapy is used to treat a variety of diseases, some of which are extremely complex. While there are no negative side effects from the treatment, it is still considered experimental by most insurance companies and conventional clinicians. To learn more about the UBI therapy that is offered at the Riordan Clinic, visit our website at www.riordanclinic.org or call 316-682-3100 to make an appointment today.