Glowing red light from High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate, or HEALS technology has been proven to aid in the healing of human wounds, burns, diabetic skin ulcers and oral mucositis. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Higginbotham
technology originally developed for plant growth experiments on space shuttle
missions has successfully reduced the painful side effects resulting from
chemotherapy and radiation treatment in bone marrow and stem cell transplant
In a two-year
clinical trial, cancer patients undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplants
were given a far red/near infrared light emitting diode treatment called High
Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate, or HEALS, to treat oral
mucositis. The trial concluded that there is a 96% chance that the improvement
in pain of those in the high-risk patient group was the result of the HEALS
this technology as a healing agent was phenomenal,” said Dr. Donna
Salzman, clinical trial principal investigator and director of clinical
services and education at the Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit
at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
Hospital. “The HEALS
device was well tolerated with no adverse affects to our bone marrow and stem
cell transplant patients.”
device, known as the WARP 75 light delivery system, can provide a
cost-effective therapy since the device itself is less expensive than a day at
the hospital and a proactive therapy for symptoms of mucositis that are
currently difficult to treat without additional, negative side effects.
could offer patients several benefits: better nutrition since eating can be
difficult with painful mouth and throat sores; less narcotic use to treat mouth
and throat pain; and an increase in patient morale.
light sources releasing energy in the form of photons. They release long
wavelengths of light that stimulate cells to aid in healing. HEALS technology
allows LED chips to function at their maximum irradiancy without emitting heat.
NASA is interested in using HEALS technology for medical uses to improve
healing in space and for long-term human spaceflight.
Ignatius, founder and chairman of Quantum Devices Inc., of Barneveld Wis.,
developed the WARP 75 light delivery system for use in the trial. The device uses
the HEALS technology to provide intense light energy: the equivalent light
energy of 12 suns from each of the 288 LED chips—each the size of a grain of
salt. It is one of many devices using HEALS technology, developed in
collaboration with NASA.
In the early
1990s, Quantum teamed with the Wisconsin
Center for Space Automation
and Robotics to develop Astroculture 3, a plant growth chamber using near
infrared HEALS technology for plant growth experiments on shuttle missions.
Over the years, Quantum has worked to develop HEALS technology for use in
medical fields, specifically with pediatric brain tumors and hard-to-heal
wounds such as diabetic skin ulcers, serious burns, and oral mucositis.
Nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Unit at the Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital demonstrates use of a WARP 75 device. Credit: NASA/MSFC/Higginbotham
the help of NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program, Quantum Devices and its
medical partners have been able to take a space technology and adapt it for an
entirely different application to significantly help people here on
Earth,” said Glenn Ignatius, president of Quantum Devices. “This
collaboration between NASA and commercial companies has spurred innovation that
is touching millions of lives on Earth—for the better.”
trial was funded by NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program at the Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Ala. It included 20 cancer
patients from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and 60 cancer patients from the Univ. of Alabama
at Birmingham Hospital
and the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, also in Birmingham. The trial was the brainchild of
Brian Hodgson, DDS, a pediatric dentist at Marquette
University and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin—both
in Milwaukee, Wis.
Dr. Harry T. Whelan, Bleser Professor of Neurology at the Medical College of
Wisconsin, served as the clinical trial principal investigator at Medical
College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital
participated in the multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled research
study—a way of testing a medical therapy where some groups receive treatment
and others receive a placebo treatment that is designed to have no real effect.
Participants were randomly placed in one of four study groups: low- and high-risk
patients receiving the experimental light therapy through the WARP 75 device,
and other low- and high-risk patients receiving light through a similar device
without therapeutic effects. The low-risk patients were those whose
chemotherapy and radiation treatment tended to cause mild or no mucositis and
the high-risk patients were those whose therapy treatment tended to cause
severe cases of mucositis.
received the light therapy by a nurse holding the WARP 75 device in close
proximity to the outside of the patient’s left and right cheek and neck area
for 88 seconds each, daily for 14 days at the start of the patient’s bone
marrow or stem cell transplant. During that time, trained clinicians assessed
the patient’s mouth and patients completed a simple form to indicate their
level of pain.
is proud to be a part of the HEALS technology medical advancements that are
improving the lives of cancer patients and providing new, innovative medical
applications,” said Helen Stinson, technical monitor for the NASA HEALS
contract. “It’s exciting to see the spinoffs from NASA’s science and
technology initiatives continually improve the quality of life for people here
The WARP 75
device is currently undergoing Food and Drug Administration premarket approval.