Australian researchers have found that exposure to measured doses of ultraviolet light, such as sunlight, could reduce asthma.
The research team at Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, through funding provided by the Asthma Foundation of WA, studied the effect of ultraviolet light on the development of asthma-like symptoms in mice, such as inflamed airways and lungs.
The study found:
Exposure to ultraviolet light for 15 to 30 minutes before allergen exposure significantly reduces the development of asthma-like symptoms
This UV exposure produces a cell type that, when transferred into other mice before they're sensitised to an allergen, can prevent the development of some of the asthma-like symptoms.
Associate Professor Prue Hart, leader of the research team, which includes Dr Debra Turner, Dr Shelley Gorman and PhD student Jacqueline McGlade, is excited by the ground-breaking results and possible future applications.
"This research clearly shows that controlled exposure to ultraviolet light markedly limits the development, incidence and severity of asthma symptoms in mice," said Associate Professor Hart.
"It appears that sunlight can suppress specific immune reactions, so we are now working to better understand that mechanism with the aim of generating new ways to prevent and treat this chronic disease.
"Given that overexposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer, it is important that we isolate and separate out the beneficial elements of ultraviolet light if we are to develop a safe and effective asthma therapy."
The Asthma Foundation of WA is committed to finding a cure for the condition and annually provides over $200,000 in research grants. Since 1968 the Foundation has donated more than $3m, helping establish Western Australia as an internationally recognised leader in this field.
John Shave, CEO of the Asthma Foundation of WA, comments: "The Asthma Foundation and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research have a long and close association, and we are both very proud of what researchers in this State have achieved over the years.
"This research, together with other research funded by the Asthma Foundation of WA, has the potential to significantly improve the lives of people with asthma not only in Australia, but around the world."
The Asthma Foundation of WA and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research expect that the asthma and ultraviolet light study will take several years to complete.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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