Rheumatoid arthritis has been treated for several decades with laser therapy. While there is reason to believe the effects of laser treatments are based on cellular and photochemical mechanisms, the exact process of these mechanisms is still unknown. Last May, researchers from the National Institute of Rheumatology and Physiotherapy in Hungary published an ex-vivo study looking for new insights into the way laser therapy effects rheumatoid tissues. The study looked specifically at protein expression in synovial membranes.
Five people who were undergoing knee surgery for RA donated tissue samples. One sample from each person was treated with near-infrared laser at a dose of 25 J/cm(2). A second sample from each person was an untreated control. 2-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by mass spectrometry was used to determine the expression of synovial proteins.
Four of the treated samples showed a decrease in vimentin and precursors of haptoglobin compared to the control. Two of the treated samples showed a decrease in ?-enolase. Several other proteins showed greater expression after treatment, including 70-kDa heat shock protein, 96-kDa heat shock protein, lumican, osteoglycin, and ferritin.
Vimentin and ?-enolase are both autoantigens considered to play an important role in RA autoimmunity. The other proteins which were increased after treatment are not known to play a role in RA, but may be involved in some fashion with the pathogenesis of RA. The study was limited by its small sample size, but suggests that LLLT treatment of RA may be effective due to suppression of autoantigens.
For guidelines on treating arthritis with LLLT see this guide: LLLT dosage guidelines for treating arthritis pain