For more than 30 years, scientists have known that multiple sclerosis is much more common in higher latitudes than in the tropics
Because sunlight is more abundant near the equator, many researchers have wondered if the high levels of vitamin D engendered by sunlight could explain this unusual pattern of prevalence.
Vitamin D may reduce the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, says Hector DeLuca, Steenbock Research Professor of Biochemistry at University of Wisconsin-Madison, but in a study published in PNAS this week, he and first author Bryan Becklund suggest that the ultraviolet portion of sunlight may play a bigger role than vitamin D in controlling MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a painful neurological disease caused by a deterioration in the nerve's electrical conduction; an estimated 400,000 people have the disabling condition in the United States. In recent years, it's become clear the patients' immune systems are destroying the electrical insulation on the nerve fibers.
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