The LED light that heals.

Continuing with the unintentional theme for the day of medical advances we bring you the following article on infrared LED lights and how they seem to help speed the healing process.

Wired News: Light at the End of the Tunnel

On this much, scientists and doctors agree: Tiny flashes of infrared light can play a role in healing wounds, building muscle, turning back the worst effects of diabetes and repairing blinded eyes. But what they can’t decide on is why all these seemingly miraculous effects happen in the first place.

For more than a decade, researchers have been studying how light-emitting diodes, or LEDs—miniscule, ultra-efficient bulbs like the ones found in digital clocks and television remotes—might aid in the recuperative process. NASA, the Pentagon and dozens of hospitals have participated in clinical trials. Businesses have sold commercial LED zappers to nursing homes and doctors’ offices. Magazines and television crews have drooled on cue. Medicare has even approved some LED therapy.

Despite all that effort, “there’s not a clear idea of how this works. There are just working hypotheses,” said Marti Jett, chief of the molecular pathology department at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

One possibility comes from Dr. Harry Whelan, a colleague of Jett’s and a neurology professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In a 2002 study backed by the National Institutes of Health and the Persistence in Combat program from the Pentagon’s research arm, Whelan used LEDs to restore the vision of blinded rats. Toxic doses of methanol damaged the rats’ retinas. But after exposure to the flashes of infrared light, up to 95 percent of the injuries were repaired.

Human trials have been less dramatic, but still shockingly effective. Using a Food and Drug Administration-approved, handheld LED—playfully called Warp 10 for its Star Trek style—wound-healing time was cut in half on board the USS Salt Lake City, a nuclear sub. Diode flashes improved healing of Navy SEALs’ training injuries by more than 40 percent. And a Warp 10 prototype was used by U.S. Special Forces units in Iraq, Whelan asserts.

This is also timely for my family as my Dad has been struggling with his eyesight for months after suffering from a partially detached retina. Some days his vision is halfway decent and other days his vision gets all fogged up again. Perhaps he just needs to sit with the TV remote blinking into his eyes for a while every day to help kick that healing process into high gear.

Seriously, if they can figure out how this works and what the optimal frequencies are it could be a big boost in cutting down recovery time as well as dealing with difficult to heal injuries.

12 thoughts on “The LED light that heals.

  1. This has my attention, too. I had retinal rips in both eyes that are precursors to retinal detachment. Luckily, by some fluke they caught it early in life and I was able to have laser surgery to stop the degeneration.

    I wasn’t kidding in that thread about evolution when I used myself as an example of really poor eyesight. It’s amazing I’m not blind. (And I’d be out of business…I’m an artist)

    Did your Dad have the surgery (no laser…old fashioned scalpel) to repair his retina? My understanding was there was nothing but invasive surgery that could fix it after it “let loose”.

    This is great stuff, I’m going to check into this some more…

  2. I just remembered something I read a few years ago on the use of LEDs in replacing filament bulbs, and its use in the home.  Just think about the combination of home LED lighting mixed with IR LEDs.  Granted, it could potentially play hell with your home electronics…

  3. I wonder if a simple LED device could be built at home for personal or family use to aid in healing. I’d like to try making one, but I’d like to know the frequency of the near infrared light.  This frequency is important because the near infrared light has to pass through water in tisue in order to do its work and only a certain frequency range will work.  I also wonder if the light works better if it is pulsed.  If you have any answers, I’d be grateful for any help.  Then, If I can make one and if it works, I’ll send construction info to anyone interested.

  4. All of the LED info is public domain since it was developed by NASA. I have it all- the frequencies are 680, 730 and 880 nm and at that frequency it penetrates 23 cm (about 9 inches)through the surface tissue and muscle. The units are manufactured and sold by one company who has the rights from NASA and insurance and medicare will pay for it or you can get if for 2400.00 or build it for about 250.00.I’m going to build a couple myself for friends since I ain’t rich . By the way 880nm is a standard frequency for infrared LED security lights that you can buy anywhere

  5. heres the white paper and how to construct it…
    p.s. my father[80+ ] has a degenerate nerve dease of the eye itc common[i cannot remember the name],im going to build one and try it…..cant hurt, hes almost blind.

  6. Has anyone built the near infraread device?If so,does it work for healing vision or skin problems?How much did it cost to make?

  7. Hello,

    Did anyone find any plans for building one of these devices? I’d really like to know. I also can’t afford hundreds or thousands of dollars for one, but I can build one.


  8. As of yet I’ve not heard of any publicly available plans to build such a device as the research is still continuing.

  9. Hello,

    I was very interested in this as one of my friends suffered from the after-effects of a chemotherapy.
    So 1 year ago I built one, and last month I have built
    a few more. You need only a few things :

    The PCB board :  a epoxy (fiber glass) pcb like this one :

    The lights : I made 15 rows of 10 LEDs in series with a resistor to control the current that goes through it. I choose to combine 6 infrared (invisible) LEDs with 4 red (visible) LEDs, that way you can check the working and nobody is tempted to look into the light (because of the very bright red visible LEDs).
    Look at this eBay shop :

    Powersupply : I bought on eBay a few laptop power supplies that provide 3,5 Amp at 20 Volt (eBay search: or similar). 

    The resistors : value depends on the power supply and the number of LEDs you put in series. Monitor the current and the temperature of the LEDs and adjust the resistor value accordingly. Solder the resistors on the copperside, because they become really hot.

    Put a large ( 3 meters 10 feet) electric cord between the power supply and the PCB, because that will make handling the light more comfortably.

    After soldering everything together let the finished PCB with LEDs burn for at least 24 hours before the final assembly. That way you can repair any LEDs that behave badly.

    To finish it you can glue a PCB of the same size on the back (copperside outwards). Use silicon kit as glue. The extra PCB will insulate the copperside of the front PCB from physical contact (the surface gets really hot, 36 – 42 grade Celsius). 

    Then smoothen the outsides with sanding paper or similar, tape it with a nicely coloured insulation tape that can withstand temperature.

    Good luck,

    BTW My friends are very happy with the lightplate !
    The cost is approx 150 USD, depending on the choice of supplier(s).

  10. The resistors : value depends on the power supply and the number of LEDs you put in series. Monitor the current and the temperature of the LEDs and adjust the resistor value accordingly. Solder the resistors on the copperside, because they become really hot.

    Maybe you should use higher wattage power resistors if they’re overheating.  Or go to a 16V power supply.  Heat can shorten your LED life. 

    The resistance value should be based on the voltage drop you need across the LED array.

  11. Thanks Ragman, for the addition. The wattage of the resistors is important. I combined low-wattage resistors in parallel to fix that. The other reason for mounting the resistors on the copperside is the notion of heat. Sounds odd, but I found that although the surface tempeature of the LEDs and the resistors may be the same, the resistors feel a lot hotter and the same applies for the copper and solder points. If you try a higher current (for more light), the temperature of the copper and resistors may become uncomfortable while the current that goes through the LEDs is still within acceptable range.
    That is why I suggest to move the resisors to the copperside.


  12. Picked up this thread from ‘5 Related Entries Chosen At Random For No Good Reason:’  As it is a year later- How’s it going? Any evidence of placebo effect?

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