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How UVB reduces autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis – April 2014

UVB light attenuates the systemic immune response in CNS autoimmunity

Johanna Breuer1,†, Nicholas Schwab PhD1,†, Tilman Schneider-Hohendorf PhD1, Martin Marziniak MD1,2, Hema Mohan PhD1, Urvashi Bhatia1, Catharina C. Groß PhD1, Björn E. Clausen PhD3, Carsten Weishaupt MD4, Thomas A. Luger MD4,5,6, Sven G. Meuth MD, PhD1,5,6, Karin Loser PhD4,5,6,* andHeinz Wiendl MD1,5,6,*
Annals of Neurology, DOI: 10.1002/ana.24165

Objective: Environmental conditions (e.g. latitude) play a critical role in the susceptibility and severity of many autoimmune disorders, including Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Here, we investigated the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of immune regulatory processes induced in the skin by moderate ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on central nervous system (CNS) autoimmunity.

Methods: Effects of UVB light were analyzed in a murine model of CNS autoimmunity (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE)). Additionally, patients with relapsing-remitting MS were treated with narrowband UVB phototherapy. Immunomodulatory effects were examined in skin biopsies, serum samples and in immune cells of the peripheral blood.

Results: Regulatory T cells (Tregs), which are induced locally in the skin-draining lymph nodes in response to UVB exposure, connect the cutaneous immune response to CNS immunity by migration to the sites of inflammation (blood, spleen, CNS). Here, they attenuate the inflammatory response and ameliorate disease symptoms. Treg-inducing tolerogenic Dendritic Cells (DCs) were further necessary for induction of this systemic immune regulation by UVB radiation since ablation of Langerhans cells abolished the UVB-induced phenotype. MS patients treated with UVB phototherapy showed an increase in induced Tregs and tolerogenic DCs accompanied by the downregulation of the T-cell effector cytokine interleukin (IL) -21. The treatment further induced elevated serum levels of vitamin D.

Interpretation: Local UVB radiation of the skin influences systemic immune reactions and attenuates systemic autoimmunity via the induction of skin-derived tolerogenic DCs and Tregs. Our data could have implications for the understanding or therapeutic modulation of environmental factors which influence immune tolerance.


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It has been known for many years that UVB, like vitamin D, reduces MS, TB, and other autoimmune diseases. This paper is starting to show how UVB actually helps.

See also VitaminDWiki

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