Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that is caused by deterioration in nerve fibers, caused by attacks by the patient’s own immune system. It can manifest in a large variety of ways, but more often than not it severely affects the live of those who have to live with it. For decades, scientists have been aware of the knowledge that in areas near the equator, occurrences of this disease are far less common compared to higher latitudes, but few thought to find out why this was. That is, until now.
Very recently, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison did a study on the relationship between multiple sclerosis and sunlight exposure. The results they found were surprising. In the past, researchers thought that Vitamin D played a role in controlling multiple sclerosis, but with this research scientists discovered that ultraviolet light may have an even bigger effect.
Ultraviolet light and Vitamin D are connected very closely to one another. Both come from the sun, and both, in certain amounts, can do a lot for the body; they help regulate the immune system. Since the 1970’s, however, scientists thought that it was vitamin D, and not ultraviolet light, that helped to stave off the effects of multiple sclerosis. It is true that vitamin D on its own has been proven to block the effects of the disease, but such large amounts also cause a dangerous amount of calcium in the blood.
However, after some testing it was found that people living around the equator do not have large amounts of calcium in their blood. For a while that was puzzling, at least until scientists turned their sights to the effects of ultraviolet radiation.
After injecting two groups of mice with a protein that would cause multiple sclerosis to develop in mice, scientists tested by exposing one group of mice to ultraviolet radiation for the equivalent of two hours a day while leaving the other mice alone. While the development of multiple sclerosis was not changed between groups, it was discovered that the mice who had received the ultraviolet radiation exhibited less symptoms of the disease.
While this is certainly a very interesting development in the quest to learn more about multiple sclerosis, it is obviously just a first step into a very complicated area. Much more testing will be required before anything concrete can be figured out as to whether sunlight is good for multiple sclerosis yet, but from the outlook, these results seem to promise many interesting developments in the quest to fight multiple sclerosis in the future.