More Sun means a better immune system

Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses. Scientists from the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology have discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system – T cells – will not be able to react to and fight off serious, life-threatening infections in the body. Calcium supplement tablets, with vitamin. For T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria or deadly viruses, the cells must first be ‘triggered’ into action and ‘transform’ from inactive and harmless immune cells into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen.The researchers found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant, ‘naïve’ to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood. – “We have discovered that the first stage in the activation of a T cell involves vitamin D, explains Professor Carsten Geisler from the Department of International Health, Immunology and

Microbiology. When a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it has an immediate biochemical reaction and extends a signaling device or ‘antenna’ known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it search for vitamin D. This means that the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won’t even begin to mobilise.” T cells that are successfully activated transform into one of two types of immune cell. They either become killer cells that will attack and destroy all cells carrying traces of a foreign pathogen or they become helper cells that assist the immune system in acquiring “memory”. The helper cells send messages to the immune system, passing on knowledge about the pathogen so that the immune system can recognize and remember it at their next encounter and launch a more efficient and enhanced immune response. T cells form part of the adaptive immune system, which means that they function by teaching the immune system to recognize and adapt to constantly changing threats. Activating and Deactivating the Immune System;  For the research team, identifying the role of vitamin D in the activation of T cells has been a major breakthrough. – “Scientists have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for calcium

absorption and the vitamin has also been implicated in diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, but what we didn’t realize is how crucial vitamin D is for actually activating the immune system – which we know now.” The discovery, the scientists believe, provides much needed information about the immune system and will help them regulate the immune response. This is important not only in fighting disease but also in dealing with anti-immune reactions of the body and the rejection of transplanted organs. Active T cells multiply at an explosive rate and can create an inflammatory environment with serious consequences for the body. After organ transplants, e.g. T cells can attack the donor organ as a “foreign invader”. In autoimmune disease, hypersensitive T cells mistake fragments of the body’s own cells for foreign pathogens, leading to the body launching an attack upon itself. The research team were also able to track the biochemical sequence of the transformation of an inactive T cell to an active cell, and thus they could intervene at several points to modulate the immune response. Inactive or ‘naïve’ T cells crucially contain neither the vitamin D receptor nor a specific molecule (PLCgamma1) that would enable the cell to deliver an antigen specific response. The findings continues Professor Geisler “could help us to combat infectious diseases and global epidemics. They will be of particular use when developing new vaccines, which work precisely on the basis of both training our immune systems to react and suppressing the body’s natural defenses in situations

where this is important – as is the case with organ transplants and autoimmune disease.” Most Vitamin D is produced as a natural byproduct of the skin’s exposure to sunlight. It can also be found in fish liver oil, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel or can be taken as a dietary supplement. Carsten Geisler Professor,  Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology. University of Copenhagen. History of the University. With its more than 525 years, the University of Copenhagen is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. Being the largest institution of education and research in Denmark, the University has gone through numerous changes through the ages. The University of Copenhagen was inaugurated on June 1st 1479, after King Christian I was granted approval for its establishment by Pope Sixtus IV. Based on a German model, the university consisted of four faculties: Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy. Governance. As was the case with all other medieval universities, the University of Copenhagen was a part of the universal Roman Catholic Church. From an organisational point of view, the University we find in the statutes of 1479 differs very much from that of today. The University was an academic republic with its own laws, courts and

prison systems. The advent of the reformation in 1536 meant a radical change in the position and role of the University in Danish society. But from the organisational point of view, the university was to remain an academic republic along the lines of the medieval model far into the future. Thus, it was not until 1771 that the university lost its own jurisdiction. And only in the second half of the 20th Century did the last traces of what was called “professorial power” in the 1960s finally disappear.From the inauguration in 1479 until 2004, the university was led by a Rector and a Consistory. The form of governance has changed over time due to the passing of new laws and innovations. The most radical alteration was that of 2004/2005, where the Consistory was replaced by a Board of Governors. Research and Education; Where we consider research and teaching to be two equally vital parts of the University’s activities today, teaching was clearly the more important of the two in the Middle Ages, and this also applied to the University of Copenhagen. Even though significant scientific results were attained in older times, it was not until the end of the 1700s that research began to have any real impact as one of the two main elements in the life of the University. From medieval doctrines to modern science;  The charter of 1788 set the terms of reference for the University’s transformation, from a classical European university, into

a modern institution for research and education. Moreover, the 19th Century marked the beginning of a hitherto unfinished phase of growth. The University of 1788 had a teaching staff of about 20 permanent teachers and around 1,000 students. By 1900, the numbers had grown to about 60 and roughly 4,000, respectively. At the beginning of the 21st Century, the University of Copenhagen, with its 37,000 students and more than 7,000 scientific, technical and administrative employees, its more than 100 educations distributed over as many departments and other sections, stands forth as Denmark’s largest educational institution. In 1997, the University linked up with the other institutions of higher education in the metropolitan area and in Scania, Sweden, to form the University of Oresund, the purpose of which is to provide these institutions with a framework for increasingly integrated collaboration on research and education. In 2007, The University of Copenhagen came to include two new faculties: the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The new faculties is the result of a merger with The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University and The Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences will, together with the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Science, make up one of the largest Health and Life Science Centres in Northern Europe.  Press Officer, Sandra Szivos University of Copenhagen

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