Amazing new research suggests that our Sun may have a role in causing arthritis, as Scientists as the John Hopkins University have discovered a correlation between the 11-year solar cycle and peaks in people contracting the debilitating disease.
The research could have a profound effect on arthritis cures and prevention, and is likely to also open up new research into how the sun and other planets can affect human health.
Although they don’t provide a cause, the authors say it may be due to geomagnetic activity reducing the production of melatonin, which boosts the immune system,
And identifying the link could lead to preventative measures in future, such as relocating susceptible individuals to areas with less geomagnetic activity.
The study was carried out by Dr Simon Wing, a Johns Hopkins University physicist and first author of the paper, and his wife, Dr Lisa Rider of the National Institutes of Health.
They first investigated the correlation when Dr Rider spotted data from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, showing that cases of RA and GCA followed close to 10-year cycles.
‘That got me curious,’ said Dr Wing. ‘Only a few things in nature have a periodicity of about 10 to 11 years and the solar cycle is one of them.’
The findings found increased incidents of RA and GCA to be in concert with the cycle of geomagnetic activity of the sun.
The research, which tracked correlations of the diseases with both geomagnetic activity and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) solar radiation, focused on cases recorded in Olmsted County, Minnesota, the home of the Mayo Clinic, over more than five decades.
The physicists compared the data with EUV radiation for the years 1950 through 2007 and geomagnetic activity from 1966 through 2007.
Included were all 207 cases of GCA and all 1,179 cases of RA occurring in Olmsted County during the periods.
And correlations proved to be strongest between the diseases and geomagnetic activity.
GCA incidence – defined as the number of new cases per capita per year in the county – regularly peaked within one year of the most intense geomagnetic activity, while RA incidence fell to a minimum within one year of the least intense activity.
Correlations with the EUV indices were seen to be less robust and showed a significantly longer response time.
Dr Eric Matteson, chair of the division of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic and a co-author of the study, said the results were ‘more than a coincidental connection.’
The findings were apparently consistent with previous studies of the geographic distribution of RA cases in the US.
Such research found a greater incidence of the disease in sections of the country that are more likely to be affected by geomagnetic activity, such as Washington DC.
The authors, though, make no claim as to a causal explanation for their findings.
However, they identify possible causes as being reduced production of the hormone melatonin, which is thought to boost the immune system.
A study of 142 electrical power workers found that production of melatonin – was reduced by 21 per cent on days with increased geomagnetic activity.
Confirming a link between RA and GCA and geomagnetic activity would apparently help to mitigate the impact of the activity on susceptible individuals.
This could include relocating people to lower latitudes or developing other – unspecified – methods to counteract the effects.
For now, the authors said their findings warrant further investigations covering longer time periods, additional locations and other autoimmune diseases.
The results were published in BMJ Open.
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