Copper and red light therapy

What is red light therapy? Why would you or your patient want to take a copper supplement if you are using red light therapy? This post is intended for physicians or for patients to share with their physicians.

What is red light therapy according to

Red light therapy comes in two wavelengths of LED bulbs: 660 nm and 850 nm, the latter being in the near infrared region of the spectrum. Most of the Amazon treatments are advertised as “FDA cleared.”

  • stimulate hair growth
  • wrinkle ablation, skin repair, and overall skin health
  • muscle and joint pain relief.

Back in 1997 researchers at the Rocheseter General Hospital irradiated isolated rat liver mitochondria fith 660 nm light from an argon dye laser. [1] They found increased activities of NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (Complex I), ubiquinol: ferricytochrome C oxidoreductase (Complex III) and ferrocytochrome C: oxygen oxidoreductase (Complex IV) (0.6 J/cm2, 1.2 J/cm2, 2.4 J/cm2 and 4.8 J/cm2, P < 0.05). The activities of succinate ubiquinone oxidoreductase (Complex II), ATPase (Complex V), and lactate dehydrogenase were not affected by photo irradiation. [1] Many compounds that transport electrons also absorb visible light. These include heme groups and Fe-S centers in complexes I-IV. While complex IV has two heme groups, only complex IV has copper. Trying to determine if these compounds absorb at 660 and 820 nm is difficult. Complex IV lives in phospholipid membranes rather than in free solution. Red wavelengths of light tend to scatter more.

Figure 1A [2] shows what appears to be an absorption spectrum. It is not. The authors are measuring H3 incorporation into DNA in cells grown in heavy water. H32O. Dr Karu has gone into greater detail as what these “action spectra” are all about. This online publication tells us that Dr Karu made many of these assignments prior to the X-ray structure of cytochrome C oxidase.

Figure 2, Adapted from a Karu online publication. Note the change in absorbance after irradiation with 830nm changes the absorption spectra. The noisy lines are the actual absorbance spectra. The smooth, dashed lines are curve fitting estimations.
  • 820 nm band belongs mainly to oxidized CuA, prior work by Karu, Cu2+-formate, a surrogate for Cu2+ interacting with a carboxyl group, absorbs in this region.
  • the 760 nm band to reduced CuB, the
  • 680 nm band to oxidized CuB
  • 620 band to reduced CuA, free Cu2+-(his)2 complexes have absorption peaks at 645nm.
  • 400-450 nm band is more likely to be the envelope of a few absorption bands in the range 350-500 nm (i.e., a superposition of several bands).
  • 404-420 nm oxidized heme,
  • 450 nm region, reduced CuB.

Some experiments…

This red light therapy has been FDA approved for wrinkles, wound healing, and hair growth. Would a MitoCopper cream enhance the red light therapy? Would it kick up the mitochondria in those hair follicles into high gear or simply supply copper to lysyl oxidase?These experiments will not answer the big questions but will hopefully tell you whether or not the MitoCopper cream is working for you. If you truly wanted to be scientific, you’d use four treatments: (1) no treatment, (2) just red light, (3) just MitoCopper cream, (4) MitoCopper cream with red light.

  • Assuming that you do not want to draw squares on your hair thinned scalp with a black Sharpie, find landmarks on your scalp to guide in the application of your copper cream. Leave a similar sized region as a control. Use your red light as per the instructions. Take photos each day before applying the copper cream and using the red light.
  • If you are using red light therapy to dissipate post pregnancy stretch marks, Pick a particular set of marks to apply CopperOne cream. Take photographs before applying the cream and using the red light.


  1. Yu W, Naim JO, McGowan M, Ippolito K, Lanzafame RJ. (1997) Photomodulation of oxidative metabolism and electron chain enzymes in rat liver mitochondria. Photochem Photobiol. 1997 Dec;66(6):866-71
  2. Tiina I Karu TI (2010) Multiple roles of cytochrome c oxidase in mammalian cells under action of red and IR-A radiation. IUBMB Life 2010 Aug;62(8):607-10. free article
  3. Sarti P, Forte E, Mastronicola D, Giuffrè A, Arese M. Cytochrome c oxidase and nitric oxide in action: molecular mechanisms and pathophysiological implications. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Apr;1817(4):610-9. PMC free article
  4. Bhattacharya, M., & Dutta, A. (2019). Computational Modeling of the Photon Transport, Tissue Heating, and Cytochrome C Oxidase Absorption during Transcranial Near-Infrared Stimulation. Brain sciences, 9(8), 179. PMC free article

Published by BL

I like to write educational websites

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