Scientists suggest that replacing asphalt with forest soil reduced the risk of diseases that develop due to malfunctioning of the immune system.
A group of scientists from Finland and the Czech Republic have found that if in kindergarten asphalt is replaced with forest soil, children can have a stronger immune system. The authors of the new study, published at Science Advances, believe that these changes are associated with a decrease in the risk of diseases, in the development of which a dysfunction of the immune system plays a role.
Immune-mediated diseases are characterized by the development of inflammation due to dysregulation of the immune system. Such diseases include type 1 diabetes mellitus, eczema, bronchial asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. The causes of these diseases are poorly known. It is hypothesized that in urban environments, children encounter unusually low numbers of microbes. In this regard, the immune system “trains” little, and its reactions can become pathological. Therefore, it is in urban children that such diseases develop more often.
Scientists proceeded from the idea that contact of children with natural elements (dirt, pollen) will strengthen their immunity. To test this theory, they changed the environment in two kindergartens in an urbanized area of Finland. Asphalt pavements were replaced with forest soil, and bushes and mosses were planted.
The study involved 75 children. They were monitored for 28 days, at the beginning and end of the experiment, the scientists conducted a state of their skin microbiome and immune system. The authors of the study focused on those indicators of immunity that play a role in the development of immune-mediated diseases.
During the observation period, the skin microbiome in children became more diverse than in the control group. They also showed positive changes in cells and proteins that are involved in the regulation of the immune system. The detected changes indicated an improvement in immunity and a decrease in the risk of diseases associated with disruption of its work.
Scientists believe their findings require confirmation in larger studies. Only then will it be possible to recommend the introduction of similar environmental changes in other kindergartens.