Skin exposure to ultraviolet light is known to have both beneficial and negative health consequences depending on cumulative time of exposure. Some of the adverse effects associated with repeated, long, and cumulative exposure include premature aging of the skin, DNA damage, and a much greater risk of Melanoma (skin cancer). On the other hand, some exposure to UV light can help the body produce vitamin D3.
The other vitamin D important to humans, D2 only comes from plants and mushrooms
A lack of vitamin D3 is the known cause of osteoporosis, rickets and other metabolic bone diseases. Because UV light is a component of natural sunlight, this vitamin D3 deficiency is more prevalent in areas of the world where sunlight is limited for a significant part of the year.
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that skin samples exposed to RayVio’s 293nm Wavelength UV LED for just 0.52 minutes produced more than twice as much vitamin D3 as samples exposed to 32.5 minutes of sunlight. The group published their findings in Scientific Reports. The correct exposure time and cumulative exposure times for any section of skin are the keys to whether or not the UV light is beneficial to health or harmful.
On the one hand, the study proved that exposure to the RayVio UV light produced twice as much vitamin D3 as the skin exposed to 32.5 minutes of sunlight. UV light is also known to be more damaging than sunlight to the skin in less time. This was not part of the study but is generally well understood. So, to get the beneficial effects, exposure must be carefully controlled.
Tyler Kalajian and his research team, led by Dr. Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D., and supported by Boston University School of Medicine and a Boston University Ignition Award performed the study.
“We tested ultraviolet LEDs from different sources and at different wavelengths. RayVio’s 293nm LED showed the most significant potential for vitamin D3 production in the shortest amount of time,” said Dr. Holick, a Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University School of Medicine, and endocrinologist at Boston Medical Center. “This study will lead to a new generation of technology that can be labeled as photopharmacology in which the use of LEDs with targeted wavelengths can cause specific biologic effects in human skin to help treat and prevent chronic illnesses.”
The researchers pointed out that using a device with RayVio’s UV LED could be an ideal therapy for helping vitamin D3 deficient patients with fat malabsorption syndromes such as inflammatory bowel disease and gastric bypass surgery produce the vitamin.
Under the proper supervision of a doctor, vitamin D3 producing UV LED device could be used on skin areas that undergo less cumulative exposure to sunlight such as upper legs and arms and abdomen and back, thereby minimizing the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancer.
The researchers and RayVio also noted that the UV LED device emits a much narrower band of UVB light and thereby decreasing the likelihood of skin damage compared to exposure to the higher wavelengths of UV radiation.
“The potential of digital UV technology for phototherapy is enormous,” said Dr. Robert C. Walker, RayVio’s CEO. “Dr. Holick’s research with our UVB LEDs demonstrates the potential for new applications that can potentially improve and save hundreds of thousands of lives. In the U.S. alone, seventy-five percent of teens and adults are vitamin D deficient. Thanks to the work of the research team and the pioneering work of the Boston University Photonics Center on UV LEDs, we may soon see innovative treatment options like simple integration with a wearable device could aid millions of people.”
T. A. Kalajian, A. Aldoukhi, A. J. Veronikis, K. Persons, and M. F. Holick, “Ultraviolet B Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) Are More Efficient and Effective in Producing Vitamin D3 in Human Skin Compared to Natural Sunlight,” Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 11489 (2017). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-11362-2