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NASA space technology shines light on healing

Doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have discovered the healing power of light with the help of technology developed for NASA's Space Shuttle. Using powerful light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, originally designed for commercial plant growth research in space, scientists have found a way to help patients here on Earth.

Doctors are examining how this special lighting technology helps hard-to-heal wounds, such as diabetic skin ulcers, serious burns, and severe oral sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation. The project includes laboratory and human trials, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and funded by a NASA Small Business Innovation Research contract through the Technology Transfer Department at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"So far, what we've seen in patients and what we've seen in laboratory cell cultures, all point to one conclusion," said Dr. Harry Whelan, professor of pediatric neurology and director of hyperbaric medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The near-infrared light emitted by these LEDs seems to be perfect for increasing energy inside cells. This means whether you're on Earth in a hospital, working in a submarine under the sea or on your way to Mars inside a spaceship, the LEDs boost energy to the cells and accelerate healing."

Dr. Whelan's findings will be summarized in upcoming issues of Space Technology and Applications International Forum 2001 and in The Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine and Surgery. Other related peer-reviewed journals have published articles on Whelan's medical research with light-emitting diodes. Dr. Whelan's NASA-funded research has already seen remarkable results using the light-emitting diodes to promote healing of painful mouth ulcers caused by cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment is quick and painless.

The wound-healing device is a small, 3.5-inch by 4.5-inch (89-millimeter by 114-millimeter), por
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Contact: Jerry Berg
jerry.berg@msfc.nasa.gov
256- 544-0034
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center
17-Dec-2000


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