In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with John Mitrofanis. John is a world leading researcher on the effects of photobiomodulation on brain activity. His work is centred around seeking treatments and preventative measures for neurodegenerative diseases; namely, Parkinson’s disease. John is now based in France, where he works as a researcher at the biomedical research centre, Clinatec in Grenoble France. In his book, Run in the Light, John outlines the most current understanding of the pathologies involved in Parkinsons disease, and how both exercise and photobiomodulation can be used as inexpensive, simple and essentially no-risk modalities to both prevent and delay the progression of the disease. John’s research is on the cutting edge. He is inquisitive and extremely open-minded in his pursuits. Our conversation was stimulating and I learned a lot from it. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

In our discussion, John and I speak about his career, how he got involved in Parkinson’s disease research and light therapy. John’s training was centred around deeply studying small sections of the brain and how they work. He hoped that this could lead to more broad revelations about how brain activity was conducted in a more general sense and would lead to a more comprehensive understanding about the brain. In the early 2000s, he recalls how funding opportunities were shifting preferentially towards research opportunities that were linked with a disease; an unfortunate by product of science research nested in an economic/political model. As a result, his work transitioned into the pathologies associated with Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disease is increasingly pervasive (particularly in males) and has a relatively undefined aetiology. Treatments for Parkinson’s disease are also scant and have not progressed dramatically in the last few decades. Characterised by pathological disruption and loss of dopaminergic cells in the substantia nigra, therapies primarily consist of dopamine replacement protocols that solely treat the symptomology of the disease. However, researchers like John had come to realise that mitochondrial dysfunction and disrupted cellular metabolism were a large facet of the pathology and that this could be modulated by infrared light in animal models. Many years of experimentation and development lead John and other groups around the world to begin examining the effects of local and non-local infrared wavelengths on the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease. The results so far have been extremely positive; not only in the fact that these protocols can treat the symptoms of the disease, but unlike current treatments, also prevent further degeneration of the dopaminergic cells. To make things even better, these treatments are very cheap, easily implementable, do not require the attendance of a practitioner and have no side effects. The work of John and others in this field represent a huge step forward not only in the treatment of Parkinson’s, but also Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is also likely that these therapies would be capable of exerting positive effects on any disease that has associated mitochondrial dysfunction (essentially all disease).
John and I discussed why red and infrared wavelengths of light have the capacity to arrest and treat the neurodegeneration of Parkinson’s. While there are a variety of mechanisms that may be at work, much about this topic is yet to be explored with an open mind. We did, however, discuss the interaction of this light with mitochondria and the resultant increase in function. This is partially explained by the red light chromophore, cytochrome c oxidase, but also via other unstudied mechanisms. We speculated the possibility that the light was acting through the largest chromophore in biology; water. Infrared light has profound effects on what John would term, interfacial nanowater, but can also referred to as EZ water, structured water, fourth phase water or cell water (See my podcast with Gerald Pollack). While the idea that infrared light is working through water to alter the progression and symptomology of disease is simple and parsimonious, it is yet to be assessed in any rigorous manner. We also touched on some data that emerged about 5 years ago demonstrating that circulating chlorophyll metabolites can interact with infrared light to increase cellular energy production. Both John and I remarked about how this paper has gone relatively unrecognised and ultimately unexplored. These ideas could be vital in bringing in a new era of disease prevention and treatment by focussing on the foundational aspects of health; mitochondrial function and the interactions between water and light.
We also touched on the role of exercise in brain health and how the joined modalities of photobiomodulation and physical exertion can be used both as a preventative as well as a therapeutic measure.

Now at Clinatec in Grenoble, France, John is continuing his research on photobiomodulation and Parkinson’s disease. John’s book, ‘Run in the Light‘ is a brilliant distillation of both the current knowledge regarding neurodegenration and also a hopeful look into the future of prevention and low-cost, simple and effective therapeutic options. I strongly encourage the book if you’re interested in learning about neurodegeneration and its relationship to light and exercise. The book is also filled with the relevant references for those who want to go deep into the literature. I had a great conversation with John and I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to share his knowledge and wisdom.

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cij5PPXHqnU&t=3279s
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7yTATBMwnCiuvYc5v5fBT7?si=EoRQKN_7S-y1LX5Kc40wdw&dl_branch=1
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/john-mitrofanis-photobiomodulation-neurodegenerative/id1583658048?i=1000534639495