Prof Anne-Louise Ponsonby recently published in the British Medical Journal (2010) that mothers who experienced lower sunlight levels during early pregnancy were more likely to have offspring who later developed MS, even after taking into account where the mothers were residing within Australia at the time of pregnancy.
Prof Ponsonby will determine if children who develop MS have either low vitamin D levels at birth and/or lower sun exposure during early life. The work is highly novel as it assesses these issues using two new biomarkers developed in Australia over the past three years- neonatal vitamin D assay dried blood spot (DBS) and Ultraviolet Fluorescence Photography (UVFP).
In this study, children with early onset MS are compared to healthy controls. In addition, there is the opportunity to compare case children to children with other immune diseases. This work will provide evidence of critical importance to public health policy on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and recommended levels of sun exposure for infants and children.
The ultimate goal is to improve public health guidelines to influence lifestyle or environmental behaviours of the modern child to prevent the development of paediatric MS. By studying paediatric MS it is hoped that greater insights will also be gained into adult onset MS.
Prof Ponsonby and her team have recruited 19 children with paediatric MS or clinical isolated syndrome (children who have experience a single episode of MS symptoms) and matched these with three controls each to look at levels of vitamin D and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure at birth.
The team has preliminary data which shows the level of vitamin D at birth relates to the mother’s UVR exposure during the pregnancy. They have validated the use of ultraviolet fluorescence photography (UVFP) to determine UVR induced eye changes in the children. Nearly one third of the children examined so far have detectable eye changes using this technique. Prof Ponsonby plans to continue this study with further funding of $29,133 from the Financial Markets Foundation for Children.
Updated: 19 September 2012
Updated: 03 January, 2011