#9 How does high power density red light therapy work?

Full body systemic benefits and getting high enough doses for localized effects

A lot of people who have been interested in the Sky Portal and Nightshades for circadian rhythms have been asking about the other devices so here as a primer. Btw, we added a bunch of new photos of all these products so if you don't like buying something just based on a photo of a PCB being tested, go ahead and take another look. 15% discount code (bleedingedge) automatically applied with this link through end of August i.e. expires at midnight pacific time today.

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The premise of red and near-infrared light is that it makes mitochondria work better. The challenge with red light is it concentrates more on the skin, whereas near-IR can penetrate further, allowing for a broader range of effects. If you look at the research papers, you'll find that the researchers can name more cellular components than I do, but at the end of the day, I don't think they actually have a much deeper understanding than "makes mitochondria work better".

Mitochondria vs genetics, microbiomics, and the rest

If you're taking a broad perspective on health you might wonder why mitochondria are so important. While there are many of them and they're in every cell, that's not a de-facto explanation of their importance over any other number of things in the body that are also critical. A cardiologist might say it is the entire organ of the heart that is most critical, and someone else might argue it’s the gut microbiome, but these people might be getting too far into the weeds. It's largely the premise that mitochondrial dysfunction is fundamental to etiology across all or most disease rather than say, genetics. So while it cannot prevent a particular disease, it might reduce the odds of any disease in the same way any lifestyle change that improves baseline health might.

As mentioned in the previous newsletter, no one pays attention to the foundations of health and the root of the problem might lie in the legibility challenges associated with taking this perspective. Just like mitochondrial problems might be a better explanation for disease, illegibility might be the root cause of the society’s inability to solve this problem rather than the various conflicts of interest (big pharma, big food, healthcare industrial complex, overfocus on AI biotech despite curse of dimensionality, etc.) that could instead be viewed as a downstream phenomenon. Cheap sensors and wearables may provide enough legibility that it could eventually be too hard to ignore the information that some of us find self-evident just based on the research we have available today.

High power density near-infrared, red, and UV light

The reasoning behind the Ironforge, Redforge, and D-Light devices is that in addition to the systemic effects, there are tons of localized benefits, which may require a concentrated dose to get the maximal benefits. Some examples: targeting specific muscles being trained on that day; targeting injuries/pains; targeting cerebral benefits; targeting endocrinological/hormonal effects; targeting hairline or face for aesthetic purposes. The evidence for all these specific effects is scattered across thousand of studies so you might want to take a look at this database and search for specific terms. Some effects are more profound than others.

The reason I started working on near-infrared light was to accelerate healing of a partially torn finger pulley. Since a finger pulley is rather small, and I wanted to achieve an optimal dose on the pulley itself rather than on my skin I knew the existing products wouldn't cut it. Moreover, I didn't just want to heal my finger, I wanted my hands to be more resilient overall and to maximize training benefits in my forearms, which are typically considered the limiting factor in climbing. A boxer might care about strengthening the bones in their wrist; a tennis player or golfer might focus on their elbow; a runner might focus on their quads and shins; a software engineer might focus on their brain; a model might focus on their face; etc.

Compared to a big panel you can have doses on the order of 100x in localized areas. If you know about red light therapy, you'll know there is a biphasic response curve and you don't want to get too much, but the problem is that with a regular panel, you might only be getting 1-5% of what you want for something localized. But then if you do want that whole body effect, it's just as easy to pass the device everywhere and get that. Compared to a panel, the whole body effects still work better because the majority of the light actually hits your body, whereas being a foot way from a panel might mean 80% of the light goes off to the side.

The best time to use red or near-infrared light is in the morning or a few hours before some physical activity. I intend to use it twice daily, morning and late afternoon. If I'm going to train late in the afternoon, I'll move the 2nd session to be a couple hours before then. The best time to use the D-Light would be midday, but you could also use it in the morning if that's more convenient for you. Using the D-Light in the evening might interfere with sleep.

You might be wondering why our red lights look white instead of red and that’s just how bright they are. Everything red looks white when it gets hot enough e.g. molten steel.

Optimal sleep, alertness, and happiness

To recap on the Sky Portal, it solves the problem that a typical indoor environment has only about 1% of the brightness of an outdoor environment. It also drowns out short wavelength blue light from your ambient lighting and screens by causing your pupils to contract with long wavelength sky blue, while also providing near-infrared to mitigate the damage from the remaining high intensity blue that doesn't fully get eliminated. The Nightshades cut out both bands of blue at night when you don't want to be alert, which allows melatonin to be produced. Melatonin is extremely important for health separately from just sleep, and it's ideal to synthesize it endogenously by blocking blue and green light at night.

Finally, we now have another style of Nightshades in titanium, which gets you a lightweight, sub-20g product.


Want to work with Chroma?

As mentioned in the last newsletter, Chroma will be closing down in the coming weeks after we fulfill orders. We’re still looking at opportunities to start working toward enterprise and military solutions. It’s just difficult to get most individuals interested in figuring out the details of the product so we’d rather get to the point where we can just say, “the Air Force and big company XYZ that you know uses it so you should too; trust us that it’s the best”. To that end, we are looking at some Air Force research contract opportunities and we would need some people working on those. We’re interested in people with either a STEM, B2B sales, or product management background with the key requirement that you be able to work at least 51% time (no other primary employment) for at least December, January, and February. You can reply directly to this if interested, or pass this along to someone who might be. The focus would be primarily on transitioning these products to meet Air Force needs.

If Chroma is to succeed in a major way, we will need powerful allies. Even if we are closing down B2C and primary operations for a bit, building the proper relationships takes time. We can slowly build up these connections in the background while the rest of the world sleeps on this technology, and then when we’re ready, we pounce.