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A biophoton (from the Greek βιο meaning "life" and φωτο meaning "light"), synonymous with ultraweak photon emission, low-level biological chemiluminescence, ultraweak bioluminescence, dark luminescence and other similar terms, is a photon of light emitted from a biological system and detected by biological probes as part of the general weak electromagnetic radiation of living biological cells. Biophotons and their study should not be confused with bioluminescence, a term generally reserved for higher intensity luciferin/luciferase systems.

Biophotonics is the study, research and applications of photons in their interactions within and on biological systems. Topics of research pertain more generally to basic questions of biophysics and related subjects - for example, the regulation of biological functions, cell growth and differentiation, connections to so-called delayed luminescence, and spectral emissions in supermolecular processes in living tissues, etc.

The typical detected magnitude of "biophotons" in the visible and ultraviolet spectrum ranges from a few up to several hundred photons per second per square centimeter of surface area, much weaker than in the openly visible and well-researched phenomenon of normal bioluminescence, but stronger than in the thermal, or black body radiation that so-called perfect black bodies demonstrate. The detection of these photons has been made possible (and easier) by the development of more sensitive photomultiplier tubes and associated electronic equipment.

Biophotons were employed by the Stalin regime to diagnose cancer, and their discoverer, Alexander Gurwitsch was awarded the Stalin Prize. Although the method has not been tested in the west[1], the biophoton concept has been appropriated into the pseudoscientific jargon of alternative medicine, for example to supply a basis for supposed natural cures for cancer.[2]



In the 1920s, the Russian embryologist Alexander Gurwitsch reported "ultraweak" photon emissions from living tissues in the UV-range of the spectrum. He named them "mitogenetic rays" because his experiments convinced him that they had a stimulating effect on cell division. (see Morphogenetic field) However, the failure to replicate his findings and the fact that, though cell growth can be stimulated and directed by radiation this is possible only at much higher amplitudes, evoked a general skepticism about Gurwitsch's work. In 1953 Irving Langmuir dubbed Gurwitsch's ideas pathological science.

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