Sunlight may protect against asthma

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Interesting article in Australian press.

Preliminary results show that if the animals had a 15-30 minute dose of light before being exposed to a common allergen their chance of developing symptoms was "significantly reduced".

It has been already found that sun light is a vital contributor to healthy immune system. Time will show when light and therapy will get proper attention from scientists and consumers.

UNSHINE could be a saviour for asthma sufferers, according to world-first Australian research suggesting that rays can relieve symptoms.

But the team at Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research warn against sunbaking to reap the benefits before a safer therapy is developed.

Scientists used mice to test the effects of ultraviolet light on the development of asthma-type signs like inflamed airways and lungs.

Preliminary results show that if the animals had a 15-30 minute dose of light before being exposed to a common allergen their chance of developing symptoms was "significantly reduced".

Research leader Prue Hart said UV exposure produces a cell type in a mouse that, when transferred into other mice, suppresses the immune reactions and halts symptoms.

"We measured the response of the airways and if the mice had been radiated beforehand they had very little responses to those allergens," Professor Hart said.

She said the research was the first to prove sunlight was among the environmental and genetic factors that influence the chronic disease.

It was a "hugely exciting" development and could explain why asthma rates were high at a time when people aren't getting as much sun exposure as they did 50 years ago, she said.

"We are now working to better understand that mechanism with the aim of generating new ways to prevent and treat it."

But Professor Hart cautioned the theory had yet to be tested on humans.

And given that overexposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer, sufferers should not rush out to sun bake.

"We advise sticking exactly to Cancer Council regulations," Professor Hart said.

"Our aim is to eventually isolate and separate out the beneficial elements of ultraviolet light to develop a safe and effective asthma therapy."

John Shave, chief executive of the Asthma Foundation of Western Australia, which funded the research, said it had the "potential to significantly improve the lives of people with asthma not only in Australia, but around the world".

More than two million Australians have the condition, including one in six children - the third highest prevalence internationally.

Medical costs and productivity lost from asthma are estimated to cost the nation over $700 million a year.

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