Photonics as a light-based optical technology, has been hailed as one of the dominant scientific applications for the third millennium. In utilizing photons instead of electrons, photonics has achieved tremendous gains in data transfer rates and information processing.
As an extension of photonics, biophotonics covers research in the interaction between light and biological matter, with particular regard to the ultra-weak photon emission (UPE) that is endogenously produced in cells, organs and organisms, and with regard to delayed luminescence (DL). In a further analogy to photonics, growing evidence has demonstrated that such biophotons serve an essential function in biological information processing.
Recently, the unravelling of this biophoton functioning has become feasible due to the availability of cutting-edge technology, specifically ultra-sensitive photomultiplier tubes (PMT) and charge-coupled device (CCD) imaging systems. By combining the development of these advanced measurement tools with innovative analysis procedures, biophotonics has been able to open up a new “optical window” on the organization of living systems.
This multidisciplinary approach has created major diagnostic opportunities in health research. As such, non-invasive photon recording and signal analysis has been implemented to detect a number of metabolic changes that correspond to the continuum from health to disease. An example is the diagnostic indication of early stages of type 2 diabetes. Also, biophoton-parameters show strong correlations with free radical reactions in tumor growth. Another promising research area relates to energy topics such as stress reduction, biological aging and vitality.
Vitality is a key concept in an additional example of MELUNA’s activities: the fruitful application of the biophotonics paradigm in the field of agriculture. UPE and DL parameters are predictive benchmarks of growth altitude and optimal vitality as a quality of agricultural products, and were found to correlate with herbal classification according to therapeutic properties.
As for the type of light radiated, spontaneous ultra-weak photon emission (UPE) is low-intensity and non-thermal light, with wavelengths typically within the spectral range of 300–750 nm (UV and UV/VIS), depending on the system observed. Rate of photon emission generally lies in the order of 101–103 photons·s−1·cm−2. Not requiring stimulation from an external source, the endogenous origin of UPE lies in oxidative metabolic reactions — biophotons are therefore closely related to the generation of e.g. reactive oxygen species (ROS). When perturbed, such reactions may give rise to excessive amounts of ROS, causing multiple types of organic damage.
Advanced analysis of a number of UPE parameters has resulted in effective and validated tools for the detection of a variety of physiological conditions and dynamic changes in state of health. For instance, a test based on fractal properties of the UPE signal accurately predicts different subtypes of pre-diabetes. Also, using quantum optics calculations of squeezed state parameters, UPE analysis proves to be a valuable test instrument in determining organic allostatic stress states and corresponding vitality related variables. As a corollary, such an analysis indicates the level of a person’s experience with stress-reduction techniques such as meditation.
To read more on evidence-based health research conducted by MELUNA, please click here.
In contrast to UPE, Delayed Luminescence (DL) is a decaying photon emission in reaction to stimulation induced by exposure to an external light source. The main difference between DL and fluorescence as a more generally known type of luminescence, lies in the time of decay of the excited state, with DL referring to light that fades in milliseconds to seconds.
Since a biological system is characterized by its unique DL buildup and decay properties, DL has been utilized as a sensitive indicator for the chemical and physiological state of such systems.
The application of DL based tools has yielded promising results in the area of agricultural product screening and control. For more information on MELUNA projects in this field, please click here.
Optical detection methods in biophotonics rely heavily on photomultiplier tubes (PMT): a sophisticated photosensor module that is known for its particularly high sensitivity. Following, is a concise explanation of the essential components and functioning of the Photomultiplier Tube.
The principle of the PMT is based on an evacuated glass tube with a transparent window that allows photons to hit the primary photocathode component, which will emit electrons when thus illuminated. In the sensor-construction and located behind the photocathode, the second electrode, a dynode, has a slightly more positive voltage than the cathode. This potential difference creates an electric field that draws the electrons liberated from the photocathode, until they hit the dynode, thereby liberating “secondary” electrons.
Following this, the process will repeat itself at a series of dynodes with consecutively more positive potentials, that are sequentially located in the PMT.
This process will result in a continuous multiplication of the number of liberated electrons. For example: with an electron multiplication per stage of about 10, the liberation of one single electron from the photocathode will have produced 108 electrons at stage 8.
By then, signal strength is considered large enough to be detected with standard electronics and can be amplified into a measurable pulse, the outcome of which is displayed by a counter.
Designed and constructed by MELUNA, the mobile photomultiplier device comes equipped with two sensitive PMTs, allowing for a simultaneous UPE recording of both hands. Both PMT’s open to separate dark chambers, with electronically synchronized shutters placed between each chamber and the opening of the corresponding PMT. Also, both channels of the counter card are triggered by the same timer, ensuring the simultaneous photon counting of both hands.
As for the material used, the container case owes its extreme rigidity to its metal construction. Prevention of light leakage is further improved by the application of specially constructed metal contacts. Operating in ambient room temperature will not reduce the sensitivity of the selected sensors, which allows for a convenient use in clinical settings and research environments.
Located at the front side of the container case, two openings allow for the insertion of the hands. To prevent light leakage from these insertion openings, specially constructed light tight gloves are utilized that fit and close around the elbow.
Recording the dorsal or palm side of the (dark adapted) hands generally takes about 3 minutes, with background photon counts measured directly before the actual UPE recording. After completion of the measurements, data are immediately processed, utilizing special software developed to determine: UPE strength, Fano factor, Squeezed State properties of the photon signal, and left-right symmetry.
To facilitate even more mobility and convenience in experimental settings and clinical offices, PMT model PCS-DH was developed (model depicted in image), which comes with a seperate container case per dark chamber.
When absorbed in a variety of biological molecules, cells, and tissues, photons generally induce transitions between electronic states, thereby producing physical effects within living organisms, effects that result in secondary radiation. In considering the health-disease continuum, the characteristics of such photon emissions have been shown to contain significant diagnostic information, in particular with respect to early indications of systematic effects of allostatic stress load on the organization of metabolic reactions.
Based on findings from UPE research in this field of strain, stress and coping (both physiological and psychological), MELUNA has constructed an advanced functional diagnostic tool for the assessment of relevant photon signal parameters: the PASS® analysis system, acronym for Personal Accumulated Stress Structure. In recent years, a combination of MELUNA PMT model hardware and PASS® software has been tested and validated as a tool for providing UPE analysis of stress and vitality related variables. Click here for a recent publication on this research.
Compared to the regular biochemical approach, photon profiling has the advantage of being a non-invasive diagnostic tool for allostasis. As an additional advantage, outcomes are obtained almost instantly.
In the general analysis mode, the PASS® software compares the photon signal parameters of each measurement site to a database of related statistical values, after which the parameters will be assigned a weighted percentage score depending on measurement site, age and sex of the subject.
PASS® offers the option to represent these weighted percentage outcomes in a bar code structure. The barcode is a statistical graphical profile type that allows for the simultaneous depiction of multiple photonic properties in a manner that is both informative and fully quantified. In the example figure, the PASS® parameters have been rendered illegible to protect legal reproduction rights of MELUNA.
[ Excerpt from back cover —]
The production of biological light (ultra-weak photon emission or biophotons) within cells and tissues is characteristic of an alive organism. The reader starts on journey of discovery about biophotons in relationship to biological matter and about how such biophotons can be detected utilizing specialized very photon-sensitive technologies.
In this book, Roeland Van Wijk provides a unified synthesis that facilitates easy entry into an exciting sub-field of biology. Light in Shaping Life encompasses the history of biophoton research, insight into how biophotons are generated, and into their involvement with life. Also included, is an overview of the potential benefits of such research to a better understanding of health and medicine.
[ Excerpt from back cover —]
Biophoton Technology in Energy and Vitality Diagnostics opens a new window in the fascinating mystery of life and vitality. The endogenuous metabolic dance of biophotons and matter is recorded by the light that escapes from our body. In recent times many aspects of this dance are elucidated both from the perspective of the molecules and from the perspective of energy.
Biophoton Technology in Energy and Vitality Diagnostics helps in shifting your mind-set. It brings together the most advanced metabolic approaches in molecular cell biology and most modern methodologies of studying the human photon emission. Health care professionals interested in vitality will learn the new systems biology approach (from molecule to society) and how vitality is measurable using human photon energy technology.
Dr. Roeland Van Wijk has a background in Biology and is specialized in Physical Science (Biophysical Chemistry). He was affiliated as Associate Professor in Molecular Cell Biology at the Utrecht University until his retirement.
Currently, Roeland is scientific director of MELUNA Research and research advisor of The Sino-Dutch Centre for Preventive and Personalized Medicine.
He authored more than 350 scientific papers on topics in stress biology and biophotonics.
Dr. Eduard Van Wijk has a background in Cognitive and Biological Psychology. In 1999, he was affiliated as senior researcher at the International Institute of Biophysics and later at the Leiden University (Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research, Division of Analytical BioSciences).
Currently, Eduard is affiliated with MELUNA Research with a responsibility for the topic biophotonics in relation to health (lifestyle) and disease. He is co-founder of The Sino-Dutch Centre for Preventive and Personalized Medicine, The Netherlands.
Rajendra Bajpai Rajendra’s profile can be found on Linkedin. Weblink: Rajendra Bajpai on linkedin.
Dr. Yu Yan finished his study in Biology at Hangzhou University, China and obtained his Ph.D. degree at University Mainz in Germany. After his study, he worked in the field of biophoton research and biophotonics.
In 2009, Yu Yan joined MELUNA Research. He specializes in the department of biophotonics, NIR, Raman and UVVIS spectroscopy, and is a key researcher for the development of new measurement technologies.
Zhongchen Yan finished his undergraduate and graduate study in electronics at the elite Chinese Tsinghua University. After his study, he worked at universities and institutes in Hangzhou, China. His working fields include integrated circuit technology (IC), automatic control and computer technology. From 1999 to 2009, he worked at the International Institute of Biophysics in Germany.
He continued his work at MELUNA Research, using his knowledge of electronics, mechanics and computer science in the development of new technologies to measure biophoton emission.