How do we bring the latest science and technology in preventative healthcare to a wider audience?
When both my parents were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other I was scared. I didn’t know much about the disease and was too afraid to research it. During the emotional year I spent looking after them just the word ‘cancer’ felt daunting. I was terrified and believed I was powerless to prevent it affecting those I loved.
In the week before my mother’s death (she was the last to go), I stumbled upon a book fittingly called “Tripping over the Truth” by Travis Christofferson, an American science writer. I can’t recall how I came across the book, or why I dared open it. But once I began reading, everything changed.
I lost my fear and started devouring every conceivable book and research paper on cancer and degenerative conditions that I could find.
On reflection, what I discovered was certainly not ground-breaking. Disease does not just descend on us due to “bad genes” or “bad luck”. We as individuals create, through our diet, environment and the lifestyle choices that we make, the terrain in our bodies, either leading us on a path to optimal health or chronic disease, or anything in-between these two extremes. This realisation gave me a profound feeling of empowerment.
I needed to spread the word and make as many people around me realise that we can, and should, look after our health and wellbeing. There is no reason whatsoever for us to accept aches and pains just because we have reached a certain age or have been living with them for as long as we can remember. This triggered me to give up my 20-year career as a City lawyer and launch Fjor, a health and wellbeing company that combines common-sense stuff like good nutrition, exercise, good sleep and stress mediation with modern health technologies like light therapy.
Leveraging my previous career I see my role as a facilitator, someone that raises awareness and brings the cutting-edge science and technologies to a broader audience. It is all very well and good that a small, select group of so-called biohackers are fully immersed in this field, but we need ordinary people on the street to also become enlightened!
It is this passion for new technologies and finding ways in which to make them known and accessible to a broader audience that led me launch a prototype light therapy booth with the objective to bring light therapy to the wider public. I am a keen advocate for using light to achieve excellent health. My aim is to make it affordable and available so that it becomes as commonplace in people’s lives as going to the gym - with a lot less effort involved!
What are the benefits of red light therapy?
Photobiomodulation (PBM), a term that was coined in the 1980s, is now the preferred term used to describe red and near infrared (NIR) light therapy, increasingly replacing the term Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT). It involves exposing cells or tissue to low levels of red and near NIR light, and is referred to as “low level” or “cold laser” because the energy density levels of the light used are low compared to surgical lasers and do not involve the heating of tissue. The shift in terminology from LLLT to PBM reflects that less expensive non-coherent light-emitting diodes (LEDs), emitting light over a wider range of wavelengths, provide similar results to coherent monochromatic laser.
The therapy has been around for over fifty years, having been discovered in 1967 by Endre Mester at the Semmelweis Medical University in Hungary where he observed a increased rate of hair growth and improved wound healing in lab rats.
PBM is now being used therapeutically to reduce inflammation, chronic joint disorders, to promote healing of wounds, deeper tissues and nerves and to treat neurological disorders and pain. PBM can also be used to increase muscle performance and several studies have been conducted in athletes, where it has been shown to improve muscle performance and reduce post-exercise muscle damage. It can also be used during athletic training to improve performance.
The wavelengths of light used for PBM are in the 600-1070 nm range as tissue penetration is maximised within this range. Wavelengths in the range 600–700 nm (red light) are used to treat superficial tissue and has been proven to enhance the appearance of the skin by increasing blood flow and speeding up the regeneration process, reducing scarring and treating skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, whilst longer wavelengths in the range 780–950 nm (NIR), which penetrate further, are used to treat deeper-seated tissues, helping reduce inflammation and joint problems like arthritis, rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Wavelengths in the range in-between these two “therapeutic windows” have so far been found to have limited biochemical activity and are therefore not commonly used.
Photobiomodulation is now making significant progress in obtaining the recognition it deserves from the medical establishment, scientific literature and the media. The Journal of Biophotonics, a peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to research on the interactions between light and biological material, has been in existence since 2008.
This positive development is due to a series of factors, perhaps the biggest advancement was made as a result of the progress achieved in understanding the effect of PBM at a molecular, cellular and tissue-based level. The work of Tiina Karu’s in Russia is of fundamental importance as it identified cytochrome c oxidase, a protein within the mitochondria (the power plants of our cells), as receptors of light and it introduced the concept of “retrograde mitochondrial signalling” to explain how a single relatively brief exposure to light could have effects on an organism lasting several hours, even days or weeks.
The effects of PBM is photochemical, similar to photosynthesis in plants. With the correct intensity and exposure times, red and NIR light reduces oxidative stress and increases the mitochondria’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is achieved when light is absorbed by cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria. When cells are under stress, the mitochondria produces nitric oxide (NO). This displaces oxygen from cytochrome c oxidase, thus reducing ATP, causing an over production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) resulting in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to inflammation and accelerated cell death. PBM allows oxygen back in, restoring ATP production and reducing oxidative stress. When normal mitochondrial function and cell metabolism is restored, improved health and wellbeing ensues.
Why light therapy booths?
My idea for light therapy booths came about last autumn while thinking how best to incorporate the treatment into the range of health technologies I offer my clients.
Fjor’s London office is based inside a building mostly made of glass. Given light therapy is best administered with as few clothes on as possible, this was not the ideal setting.
I began looking at the private booths that people were using to make phone calls. My first thought was to convert one of these but then I realised the benefits of designing a light therapy booth that could be planted in a variety of settings and be easily accessed by anyone.
I designed my booth with scalability in mind and within a few months my prototype was ready. Once I have secured funding, I can begin to roll this out to as many locations as possible. The booth can be placed in any space where there is access to some level of security and maintenance capability. It is relatively cheap to produce and doesn’t require huge investment from the service provider. It uses very little space and only needs maintenance on a level with a vending machine.
I envisage the booth being installed in office blocks, university atriums, gyms, health spas, shopping centres, railway stations and airports (what a great pick me up after a tiring and health-crippling flight).
I have also designed the wireframes for an app that can be used for locating a booth, booking and paying for sessions, unlocking it and reporting any problems that may arise. Once these booths are in production, the app will be developed further and made available for use with IOS and Android phones.
Bringing it to light
I am driven by a passion to raise awareness of the importance of light.
Fake foods, pesticides, environmental pollutants, sedentary lifestyles, little time spent outside, stress, insufficient quality sleep and our modern approach to light contribute to chronic diseases.
What so many people haven’t yet fully understood is that light is in fact an essential nutrient. By spending most of our time inside with little access to natural light from the sun, while also exposing ourselves to harmful blue light emitting from TVs, computers, tablets and smartphone screens, we are damaging our bodies, in particular our mitochondria, in a profound way.
According to our mitochondria, modern life is well and truly rubbish, contributing to theemergence of so much chronic disease. Flipping the coin to the other side, by embracing and promoting the science and technology that is emerging, modern life can offer health and longevity at a level that has never been experienced before.
Other projects that I am embarking on involve improving the indoor lighting conditions in offices and workplaces, care homes, hospitals, schools, universities and private homes, making light therapies available to e.g. the elderly in care homes and educating the public about the harmful effects of too much screen time. Some of these projects can be privately funded, others would lend themselves well to community-based or crowd-funding initiatives. This way Fjor would be engaging with an investor community that wishes to become as much part of this journey as I do. If we take action collectively in a collaborative manner, we can achieve so much more.
We live in exciting times where we can merge science and technology to achieve optimum health. Anything that helps do this deserves to be brought into the limelight. If we do not take action soon, our generation, and worse still, that of our children, will suffer serious health consequences. Together we can reverse the negative trend and raise a new generation that will not suffer the serious health consequences we are experiencing now, who will be living long and fulfilling lives free of crippling disease.