Non-invasive diagnostics based on spontaneous ultra-weak photon emission

Center for Photonics in Living Systems (Partners: Leiden University, TNO, Samueli Institute)
Postal address: P.O. Box 9502, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Visiting address: Gorlaeus Laboratories, Bioscience Park, Einsteinweg 55, 2333 CC Leiden
Contact person: Eduard van Wijk,

All living organisms spontaneously emit photons albeit in varying levels of intensity. These photons in the visible light range (420 – 550nm) are thought to be emitted as a result of the energy released by radical oxygen species falling back to less energetic states. Radical oxygen species are produced in every cell that is capable of oxidative respiration. For several decades it is possible to measure these photons using photon multiplier tubes. A particular distribution of photon emission intensity was discovered for the human body: the thorax and abdomen have the lowest emission while the extremities have the highest emission. Additionally, seasonal and daily rhythmicity has been observed in the intensity of photon emission of human hands.

Diagnostic properties have recently been discovered in relation to photon emission. Hypothyroidism is successfully diagnosed by measuring photon emission of the index and middle finger. In hemiparesis patients differences in the symmetry of photon emission between the left and right hand were found, suggesting photon emission symmetry as a novel diagnostic measure. Since photon emission is measured over a period of time, dynamical information about the body is obtained. Therefore, photon emission seems very suitable to study the dynamics of health and disease.

Although most of the early UPE measurements were mostly focused on determining the intensity of the signal, a new research area has recently opened up in which novel methods of analyzing the time series data that results from the measurements are developed. For instance, fractal properties of the signal have been related to subtypes of pre-diabetes. Squeezed state parameters, applying calculations from the quantum optics fields, have revealed differences between people with a longstanding practice of meditation and people just recently practicing meditation. Thus, signal properties can reveal information about the health or sub-health state of a person.

A very recent development in this research area is the attempt to integrate human ultra-weak photon emission data with other types of data obtained from the same individuals. Since UPE is thought to result from oxidation reactions in the body an obvious area to look for relationships is blood and urine metabolites. Biochemical changes in lipid peroxidation, oxidative stress, energy metabolism and other pathways can be measured for developing a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind photon emission. This also allows the building of an integrated systems view of processes in the body that are related to health maintenance from the molecular level up towards the organization of dynamic photon emission patterns.

The current research effort of the Center of Photonics in Living Systems is to develop novel non-invasive diagnostic tools based on ultra-weak photon emission. These tools consist of the technology to measure the photons, the development of novel photon count statistics and parameters, tools to integrate photon emission data with other types of data and conducting studies in healthy and sub-healthy humans. It’s highly likely that biochemical communication in the body (which is slow) is complemented with a fast communication modality based on photons. This exciting research area has the potential to fundamentally change current views on biology, health and disease.