Vitamin D could repair nerve damage in multiple sclerosis, study suggests
A protein activated by vitamin D could be involved in repairing damage to myelin in people with MS, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. The study, published in the Journal of Cell Biology, offers evidence that vitamin D could be a possible treatment for MS in the future.
Researchers, from the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair, identified that the ‘vitamin D receptor’ protein pairs with an existing protein, called the RXR gamma receptor, already known to be involved in the repair of myelin, the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres.
By adding vitamin D to brain stem cells where the proteins were present, they found the production rate of oligodendrocytes (myelin making cells) increased by 80%. When they blocked the vitamin D receptor to stop it from working, the RXR gamma protein alone was unable to stimulate the production of oligodendrocytes.
In MS, the body’s own immune system attacks and damages myelin, causing disruption to messages sent around the brain and spinal cord; symptoms are unpredictable and include problems with mobility and balance, pain, and severe fatigue. The body has a natural ability to repair myelin, but with age this becomes less effective.
Dr Susan Kohlhaas, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, said: “More than 100,000 people in the UK have multiple sclerosis and finding treatments that can slow, stop or reverse the worsening of disability is a priority for the MS Society. We’d now like to see more studies to understand whether taking vitamin D supplements could, in time, be an effective and safe treatment for people with MS.
She continued: “For now though, this is early stage research that’s been done in the laboratory and more work is needed before we know whether it would hold true in people with MS. It’s not a good idea, however, to be deficient in vitamin D and we’d encourage anybody who thinks they might be to speak to their GP.”