Novak Djokovic and the Mysterious Light-Emitting Nanotechnology Patch

What is the truth behind the nanotechnology patch that contributed to Novak Djokovic's success in tennis? Discover the science and controversy surrounding the "nanocrystal" patch.

Recent media reports highlight elite athlete Novak Djokovic’s use of a light-emitting “nanotechnology patch”, the Taopatch, crediting the device for his performance success.

This Science Shot provides a scientific evaluation of the underlying technology, existing evidence, and controversy surrounding similar wearable photobiomodulation devices.

Photobiomodulation: The Therapeutic Potential of Light

Photobiomodulation is the non-thermal use of light to stimulate or alter biological activity (Hamblin, 2016). Wavelengths in the red to near-infrared range have specific therapeutic effects, with mechanisms involving photostimulation of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, signalling pathways, and antioxidant production (Wang et al, 2016).

Photobiomodulation

Observed benefits include accelerated wound healing, tissue regeneration, reduced inflammation and pain, and changes in stem cell behaviour (Hamblin, 2016). Animal studies show enhanced neurogenesis, cognitive function, and emotional regulation from transcranial and intranasal light delivery. Human trials show efficacy in pain relief, stroke recovery, and depression.

Engineering Light-Emitting Nanopatches

Nanoparticles designed to react with body heat now allow for the convenient delivery of red/NIR light (Wang et al, 2016). Nanocrystals crafted from galinstan alloys embedded in flexible adhesive patches leverage oxidation reactions at room temperature to emit desired wavelengths (Rahoui et al, 2018).

Nanotechnology Patch

Animal studies using this approach reveal increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor and cell proliferation pathways in models of brain ischemia and Alzheimer’s disease (Rahoui et al, 2018), while human trials show improved fatigue recovery when applied to acupuncture points (Leloup et al, 2021).

Limitations of Current Research

While promising, current research has limitations. Sample sizes remain small, lacking diversity and randomization. Few studies implement sham controls, blinding, or comparator groups. Independent reproducibility remains scarce. Meticulous parameters surrounding wavelength, fluence, duration, and location require optimisation through dose-response assessments. Safety data is limited.

Evaluating Photobiomodulation Patches in Context: The Case of Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic’s use of the Taopatch is consistent with his embrace of complementary medicine and unconventional therapies. However, as scientist Carl Sagan famously stated:

extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

and rigorous, reproducible science remains essential to validate efficacy and safety prior to widespread adoption (Goodman and Greenland, 2007).

While transdermal, photobiomodulation-emitting nanotechnology has exciting potential, truly objective analysis requires independence from influencer endorsements and emotional ideation. Premature promotion in the absence of substantive data risks distorting consumer perceptions and spreading pseudoscience.

Conclusion

In conclusion, light-emitting nanopatches capable of photobiomodulation represent an emerging technology with hypothetical therapeutic promise. However, available research possesses limitations and gaps persist around elucidating mechanisms. While eventual potential exists, hype presently outpaces science.

Independent studies are required to confirm benefits beyond speculation, assess safety, and optimise protocols. Scientific discipline emphasising evidence-based assessment is required when examining extraordinary claims. Objective analysis of early-stage technologies free of endorsement remains critical to responsible translation.

References

  • Bhattacharjee, Y., & Bairner, A. (2022). Sport, health and the ethics of performance enhancement: attitudes and technological tolerance in the case of Novak Djokovic. Sport in Society, 1-19.
  • Goodman, S. N., & Greenland, S. (2007). Assessing the unreliability of the medical literature: a response to John Ioannidis. The Journal of clinical epidemiology, 60(5), 456-458.
  • Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Shining light on the head: photobiomodulation for brain disorders. BBA clinical, 6, 113-124.
  • Leloup, J., Nachtergaële, L., Nouette-Gaulain, K., Rossi, A., Gaignier, F., Sliwa, J., … & Hansen, N. (2021). Effect of Photobiomodulation on Performance During a 6-Minute Walk Test in Healthy Professional Firefighters: A Randomized, Triple-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial-A Pilot Study. Journal of athletic training, 56(1), 49-56.
  • Rahoui, M., Jazi, H., Amjadi, S., Kamalinejad, M., Faezizadeh, Z., & Arbabian, S. (2018). Ameliorative effect of nanocrystalline alloy Taopatch on rat cognitive impairment induced by icv-streptozotocin: Implication for Alzheimer’s disease therapy. Metabolic brain disease, 33(5), 1629-1638.
  • Wang, Y., Huang, Y. Y., Wang, Y., Lyu, P., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Photobiomodulation (blue and green light) encourages osteoblastic-differentiation of human adipose-derived stem cells: role of intracellular calcium and light-gated ion channels. Scientific reports, 6(1), 1-11.
Quantum Soul
Quantum Soul

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