Photobiomodulation CME Part I: Overview and Mechanism of Action

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology


Photobiomodulation (PBM), previously known as low-level laser light therapy, represents a non-invasive form of phototherapy that utilizes wavelengths in the red light (RL, 620-700 nm) portion of the visible light (VL, 400-700 nm) spectrum and the near-infrared (NIR, 700-1440 nm) spectrum. PBM is a promising and increasingly used therapy for the treatment of various dermatologic and non-dermatologic conditions. Photons from RL and NIR are absorbed by endogenous photoreceptors including mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase (COX). Activation of COX leads to the following changes: modulation of mitochondrial adenosine triphosphate (ATP), generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and alterations in intracellular calcium levels. The associated modulation of ATP, ROS and calcium levels promotes the activation of various signaling pathways (e.g., insulin-like growth factors, phosphoinositide 3-kinase pathways), which contribute to downstream effects on cellular proliferation, migration and differentiation. Effective PBM therapy is dependent on treatment parameters (e.g., fluence, treatment duration and output power). PBM is generally well-tolerated and safe with erythema being the most common and self-limiting adverse cutaneous effect.

PubMed ID