Role of opsins and light or heat activated transient receptor potential ion channels in the mechanisms of photobiomodulation and infrared therapy

Sulbha K. Sharma, Sakshi Sardana, Michael R. Hamblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Photobiomodulation (otherwise known as low level light therapy) is an emerging approach for treating many diseases and conditions such as pain, inflammation, wound healing, brain disorders, hair regrowth etc. The light used in this therapy generally lies in the red and near-infrared spectral regions. Despite many positive studies for treating different conditions, this therapy still faces some skepticism, which has prevented its widespread adoption in clinics. The main reasons behind this skepticism are the lack of comprehensive information about the molecular, cellular, and tissular mechanisms of action, which underpin the positive effects of photobiomodulation. Moreover, there is also another therapeutic application using longer wavelength infrared radiation, involving either infrared saunas or heat lamps which are powered by electricity, as well as infrared emitting textiles and garments which are solely powered by the wearer's own body heat. In recent years, much knowledge has been gained about the mechanism of action underlying these treatments, which will be summarized in this review. There are three broad classes of primary chromophores, which have so far been identified. One is mitochondrial cytochromes (including cytochrome c oxidase), another is opsins and light or heat-sensitive calcium ion channels, and a third is nanostructured water clusters. Light sensitive ion channels are activated by the absorption of light by the chromophore proteins, opsin-3 and opsin-4, while mitochondrial chromophores are activated by red or near-infra red (NIR) light up to about 850 nm. However NIR light at 980 nm or longer wavelengths can activate transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels, probably after being absorbed by nanostructured water clusters. Heat-activated TRP channels undergo a conformational change triggered by only small temperature changes. Here we will discuss the role of opsins and light or heat activated TRP channels in the mechanism of photobiomodulation and infrared therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100160
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • IR emitting fabrics
  • Infrared therapy
  • Mitochondrial chromophores
  • Nanostructured water
  • Opsins
  • Photobiomodulation
  • Transient receptor potential ion channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrochemistry


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