The Health Sciences based Laser Research Centre, under the direction of Prof. Heidi Abrahamse is leading efforts to investigate the field of phototherapy with specific emphasis on Low Intensity Laser Irradiation (LILI) or photobiomodulation (PBM), Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), Phyto-Photodynamic Therapy (P-PDT) and Stem Cell Therapy. While this treatment modality is very well established in many countries, laser therapy is utilised by very few disciplines and the full spectrum of uses is yet to be realised in South Africa. The therapeutic value of PBM for application in wound healing and stem cell therapy (regenerative medicine) is investigated by establishing biochemical responses and its effects on the metabolic events in cell culture and artificial skin constructs. 

Research in PDT used for cancer treatment and focuses on the effectiveness of Metallophthalocyanine photosensitisers in the most prevalent South African cancers. Currently, the group consist of 5 staff members (two NRF C1 rated researchers), 5 post doctorate fellows, 7 doctorate, and 8 masters students. Major strides have been made in laser research with regard to cancer therapy, wound healing and stem cell differentiation with several publications emanating in the last 5 years. 

The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) was established in 2006 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and is managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF). In 2016 Prof Heidi Abrahamse was awarded the prestigious Chair in Laser Applications in Health which was bestowed by The Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor. International acknowledgement of their scientific contribution to the field was reflected when the group hosted the first international World Association of Laser Therapy conference, attended by 190 delegates representing 28 different countries in October 2008 on the African continent. 

The Laser Research Centre also hosted a PDT Conference in 2012 in collaboration with the African Laser Centre and DST as part of the Germany/South Africa Year of Science. In 2015 the LRC hosted an international workshop on Mechanisms, Applications and Clinical Training in Photobiomodulation, which was attended by 90 students and practicing clinicians as well as industry. In 2016 a public lecture entitled “Can all diseases be treated with light?” was presented by Prof Michael Hamblin (Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA), a distinguished visiting professor to the LRC. 

A workshop on “Laser Therapy Photobiomodulation Training Course 2016” was also hosted by the LRC, and was presented by Mr. James Carroll (CEO Thor Lasers). In 2017 the LRC hosted a seminar “Bioprospecting of Medicinal plants for human welfare”, which was presented by Prof. Parimelazhagan Thangaraj from the Department of Botany, School of Life Sciences, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India. 

Laser Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, P.O. Box 17011, Doornfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2028, (Tel): 27 11 559-6406 (Fax): 27 11 559-6884.