Light Focus: Light as therapy

Explore the therapeutic advantages of daylight treatment systems. Commencing in Munich in 2013, we look to the future and see how the use of light could aid diagnostic and treatment practices.


Light as therapy in 2013, a daylight therapy system from Osram was installed at the Interdisciplinary Pain Therapy Centre in Munich, the world's first such centre to use a lighting system as part of its therapy programme.

The ceiling-mounted system has been installed in physiotherapy and group therapy rooms, as well as the clinic's reception and waiting area. Based on a mix of Dali-controlled LED and fluorescent light, it produces different colour temperatures and patterns. The system has an output of 4000 lux, eight times brighter than ordinary office lighting, and close to natural daylight conditions.

Patients with conditions such as arthritis and muscle inflammation receive a concentrated dose of light of similar composition to daylight. The aim is to improve their sleep at night, increase alertness during the day and improve their overall physiological and psychological health.

Light is part of the therapy treatment at a pain therapy centre in Munich
Light is part of the therapy treatment at a pain therapy centre in Munich

'The solution has been designed to be both costefficient and adaptable for other pain centres, clinics and doctors' practices,' says Osram's Andreas Wojtysiak. 'We developed various concepts suited to different room sizes and arrangements, as well as varying light at different times of day,' he added.

'If the light concept works in the manner we envisage in pain therapy, the next few years will certainly see it being established as a standard treatment for specific therapeutic units,' says Prof Thomas Tölle, director of the Interdisciplinary Pain Therapy Centre in Munich and president of the German Pain Society. 'It could also be used in places where a high degree of concentration is required, for instance in schools or fire service control centres.'

Retinopathy Mask

A new National Centre for Healthcare Photonics is to be set up at NETPark in County Durham. This will specialise in a fast-developing area in healthcare which involves the use of light to diagnose and treat medical conditions and illnesses. It includes a range of new phototherapies as well as bio-medical imaging and in vitro diagnostics.

Applications are wide ranging from wound, skin and cancer care to niche applications in neurology and ophthalmology. The centre is scheduled to open in 2017, and will have facilities and expertise that can be accessed by companies of all sizes, from university spin-outs to SMEs and major multinationals, helping them develop technologies for commercial purposes.

One company based at NETPark aready working in this area of healthcare is PolyPhotonix. It has manufactured a phototherapy-based sleep mask for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease caused by diabetes. As well as avoiding the use of drugs to treat the condition, it also preserves the sight of sufferers, according to the company.

A new centre using light for diagnosis and treatment among other things is due to open in 2017
A new centre using light for diagnosis and treatment among other things is due to open in 2017

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) was approached by the North East Local Economic Partnership (North East LEP) to create and manage the centre. The CPI is an innovation catalyst organisation that provides assets and expertise, allowing companies to show that new products and processes are feasible before committing to industrial-scale manufacture. Government has allocated £10m as part of the North East Growth Deal expansion to fund the new centre. An additional £8m will be sourced from industrial partners and other competitive grants.

Clinicians and medical specialists will collaborate with experts in photonics, biochemistry and engineering to create a new generation of diagnostics and treatments. The centre will host prototyping and pilot scale facilities to enable the production of devices at the required quality and consistency to enter early and late-stage clinical trials.

'The field of healthcare photonics is an incredibly exciting one, not just for the technologies that are being developed but because of the very real impact these technologies have on people's health and wellbeing,' says Dr Simon Goon, managing director of Business Durham that manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council.

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