Phototherapy suppresses inflammation in human nucleus pulposus cells for intervertebral disc degeneration

Min Ho Hwang, Hyeong Guk Son, Jae Won Lee, Chang Min Yoo, Jae Hee Shin, Hyo Geun Nam, Hyun Jung Lim, Seung Min Baek, Jeong Hun Park, Joo-Han Kim, Hyuk Choi

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The etiology of intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration accompanied by low back pain (LBP) is largely unknown, and there are no curative therapies. Painful IVD degeneration is associated with infiltrated macrophage-mediated inflammatory response of human nucleus pulposus (NP) cells. The present study aimed to address the hypothesis that pro-inflammatory cytokines derived from macrophages lead to the altered molecular phenotype of human NP cells and to investigate the effects of phototherapy (630, 525, 465 nm with 16, 32, 64 J/cm2) on pain-related cytokine interleukin (IL)-6 and chemokine IL-8 under inflammatory conditions in human NP cells. Human NP cells were treated with soluble factors derived from macrophages in an inflammatory microenvironment, similar to that found in degenerative IVD. Human NP cells were also treated with phototherapy (630, 525, 465 nm with 16, 32, 64 J/cm2), and their cytokine and chemokine levels were detected. The soluble factors caused modulated expression of IL-6, IL-8, and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) at the gene and protein levels, causing a shift toward matrix catabolism through the expression of MMPs and increased pain-related factors via preferential activation of the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) p50 protein. Importantly, phototherapy attenuated the protein and gene expression of pain-related factor IL-6 at all doses and wavelengths. Interestingly, phototherapy also modulated the protein and gene expression of IL-8, which is responsible for the anabolic response, at a wavelength of 465 nm at all doses, in human NP cells. These findings suggested that phototherapy, at an optimal dose and wavelength, might be a useful therapeutic tool to treat IVD degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalLasers in Medical Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018 Mar 3



  • Inflammation
  • Intervertebral disc degeneration
  • Macrophage
  • Nucleus pulposus cell
  • Phototherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology

Cite this

Hwang, M. H., Son, H. G., Lee, J. W., Yoo, C. M., Shin, J. H., Nam, H. G., Lim, H. J., Baek, S. M., Park, J. H., Kim, J-H., & Choi, H. (Accepted/In press). Phototherapy suppresses inflammation in human nucleus pulposus cells for intervertebral disc degeneration. Lasers in Medical Science, 1-10.