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PUVA Therapy (Psoralen and Ultraviolet A Therapy)

PUVA Therapy Overview

PUVA is an acronym for psoralen and ultraviolet A. PUVA refers to the interaction of long wavelength ultraviolet light (320-400 nm) with a pharmaceutical molecule of plant origin, psoralen, producing a type of "photochemotherapy." PUVA is useful in treating a number of human diseases.

Psoralens are a family of plant chemicals that are able to absorb light in the ultraviolet A (UVA) spectrum (320-400 nm). Once this absorption has occurred, these chemicals become activated and can react with biological molecules in a number of ways. Without exposure to the correct wavelengths of light, psoralens are not biologically active. Although human tissues are relatively resistant to the effects of ultraviolet A light alone, this changes dramatically when psoralens are present in the skin tissue. The most obvious change is a marked increase in ultraviolet sensitivity manifested as burning of the skin (the equivalent of sunburn). It is hypothesized PUVA may work by inhibiting the production of the basic genetic material, DNA, and/or by damaging receptors of skin cells (epidermal cells) and particular immune cells (T-lymphocytes).

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