Life in the 21st century is different from what it once was. Most of us live in contemporary homes in cozy suburban neighborhoods or stacked cities surrounded by modern technology such as the Internet, TVs or automobiles. The only plants we really see are the trees that line our neighborhoods. Only a small fraction of our community still lives in rural areas on farms, surrounded by fields of crops and animals. People are attracted to the cities, believing cities hold much more opportunity than farm life.
However, new research proposes that a farm life may hold more benefits than meets the eye. A study conducted by VIB and Ghent University shows that living on a farm may contribute to a decreased susceptibility to allergies and the effects of asthma. The study focuses on aspects of farms, such as farm dust and raw cow’s milk, that people are exposed to while living in rural areas.
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It is a common belief that drinking raw cow’s milk provides protection against allergies and that farm dust helps children become strong and less susceptible to disease. Before, there was no scientific basis for this claim, but researchers have now conducted a study providing actual data to support this idea.
In this study, researchers brought farm dust extract from Germany and Switzerland and exposed mice to it as part of an experiment to simulate farm conditions. The results revealed that the mice were later fully immune to house dust mite, the most common cause of human allergies. Amazingly, the study also uncovered the reason for this strange phenomenon. Scientists discovered a protein, A20, that is created in large quantities by the body when exposed to farm dust. This protein, existing in the mucous membrane of the lungs, makes the respiratory tracts react less severely to allergens.
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The team investigated further to see if these findings apply to humans as well. After examining patients suffering from allergies and asthma, the team discovered that the patients had missing or malfunction A20 proteins. On the other hand, examining 2,000 farm children revealed that most of them had A20 and were thus well protected.
The team is currently trying to find the factor in farm dust that activates A20. This research has opened new doors that can hopefully lead to the creation of an asthma vaccine, as well as other benefits to provide relief to those suffering from allergies.
Featured Image Source: National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety