DEC 21, 2016 6:34 PM PST

Boost Your Immune System with An Extra Dose of Sunlight

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Sunlight gives us more than vitamin D, a new study shows. Through a completely separate pathway, sunlight prompts immune cells called T cells to move more quickly through the body, helping them reach infected tissues faster.

Source: Georgetown University

“What we found is a completely separate role of sunlight on immunity," said the study's senior investigator, Gerard Ahern, PhD. "Some of the roles attributed to vitamin D on immunity may be due to this new mechanism."

Blue light from the sun is the specific component that makes T cells move faster, and it can reach through to the second layer of the skin, called the dermis. This explains how the skin successfully protects itself from the microorganisms that it frequently encounters. The skin has nearly twice as many T cells as there are circulating in the blood. Once the blue light from the sun reaches T cells living in the dermis, the newly energized cells then move on to circulate in the blood throughout the entire body.

Blue light is also safer for the skin than ultraviolet light, which is required for vitamin D production. Overexposure to ultraviolet light is associated with skin cancer and melanoma.

Ahern and his team studied the interplay between T cells and blue light by examining isolated T cells and their response to blue light. After being activated by blue light exposure, T cells are triggered to synthesize hydrogen peroxide, which then activates the signaling pathway responsible for the super-energized T cells.

White blood cells, including T cells, release hydrogen peroxide naturally during infection both to kill bacteria and to recruit other immune cells to the infection site to boost the immune response. After discovering the involvement of hydrogen peroxide in the studies with sunlight, Ahern said that the research “all fits together.”

Ahern’s findings contain the first report of a human cell responding to sunlight by increasing its speed, and in the future, therapy based on blue light could be used to boost the immune system.

The study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center

 

 

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Smart Tattoo That Could Save Your Life
OCT 06, 2020
A Smart Tattoo That Could Save Your Life
Color-changing tattoos, powered by nanotechnology, that sense imbalances in your biochemistry providing a visual signal ...
OCT 11, 2020
Microbiology
Getting Closer to a Vaccine for Flaviviruses
OCT 11, 2020
Getting Closer to a Vaccine for Flaviviruses
Flaviviruses like dengue, West Nile, Zika, Japanese Encephalitis, and yellow fever infect over 400 million people a year ...
OCT 15, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Gene Variants Influence Aging and Mobility in the Elderly
OCT 15, 2020
Gene Variants Influence Aging and Mobility in the Elderly
Small changes in a gene that is involved in controlling the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine could influence how ...
OCT 17, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Fat Droplets in Cells Help the Immune System Fight Infection
OCT 17, 2020
Fat Droplets in Cells Help the Immune System Fight Infection
Scientists have found that our immune system has a surprising helper: droplets of fat that sit inside cells.
OCT 18, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Pandemic-enforced lockdowns cut premature deaths from air pollution
OCT 18, 2020
Pandemic-enforced lockdowns cut premature deaths from air pollution
A new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health reports that pandemic-enforced lockdowns in China and Europe h ...
OCT 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
New Treatment Reverses Late Stage Type 2 Diabetes
OCT 20, 2020
New Treatment Reverses Late Stage Type 2 Diabetes
Researchers from the Netherlands have developed a minimally invasive therapeutic procedure that allows people to discont ...
Loading Comments...