Sunshine effects on MS might be more complicated than previously thought, mouse study suggests

By Nathan Seppa

Ultraviolet radiation from sunshine seems to thwart multiple sclerosis, but perhaps not the way most researchers had assumed, a new study in mice suggests.

If validated in further research, the finding could add a twist to a hypothesis that has gained credence in recent decades. The report appears online March 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have hypothesized that MS is rare in the tropics because people synthesize ample vitamin D from exposure to the UV radiation in equatorial sunlight. What’s more, MS is more common in the high latitudes of northern parts of Europe and North America than in regions farther south. That pattern has led to the assumption that higher levels of vitamin D might prevent people from developing MS, what became known as the latitude hypothesis.

But a direct cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin D deficiency and MS has never been established. In past experiments, giving vitamin D supplements to mice with an MS-like disease required giving the animals harmful amounts of the nutrient, notes Hector DeLuca, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“It just didn’t add up,” he says. “We decided to go back and see if maybe UV light by itself was doing something.”

In MS, the fatty myelin sheaths that insulate nerves in the central nervous system are damaged by attacks by the immune system. In a series of experiments in mice, DeLuca and his team induced a condition comparable to human MS by injecting the animals with proteins that instigate similar myelin damage.

The researchers exposed some mice to UV radiation before and after giving the animals the damaging injection. Another group of mice got the injection but not the UV exposure.

The mice exposed to UV rays suppressed the effects of MS-like disease better than the control mice, the researchers found, even though the amount of radiation wasn’t enough to greatly increase the animals’ blood concentrations of vitamin D.

read the rest via UV Radiation, Not Vitamin D, Might Limit Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms – Science News.


One Response to “UV Radiation, Not Vitamin D, Might Limit Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms”

  1. Multiple Sclerosis on October 4th, 2010 5:54 pm

    Vitamin D deficiency is known to have a bad effect on people with MS. It has also been found that a healthy dose of vitamin D administered to children while they grow up reduces their chances of developing multiple sclerosis later in their lives.

    This article was very interesting to read. Thank you for a very insightful information!

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