Science Update

Vitamin D helps to promote myelin regeneration in MS patients

Vitamin D has been extensively studied for bone health and cancer as well as for its anti-inflammatory benefits and also its role in modulating the immune system in autoimmune diseases. 

Autoimmune disorders occur when the bodies immune system is tricked into thinking that the bodies own healthy tissues are foreign and starts attacking itself. As a result the immune system makes antibodies that attack various tissues. 

Previous studies have demonstrated that vitamin D decreases the disease severity in autoimmune disorders by regulating T cells in the immune system. This makes the body more tolerant of itself and less likely to mount autoimmune responses.

According to a new study published four days ago in The Journal of Cell Biology researchers identified that the vitamin D receptor promotes the differentiation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) and increases myelin sheath regeneration.

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) continue to lose the myelin sheath (insulation) around the neurons. When these neurons become demyelinated OPCs migrate toward these cells and they differentiate into mature myelin-producing oligodendrocytes. This process or ability however decreases as we age.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom investigated the possible role of several nuclear receptors in remyelination. They found that inhibiting the vitamin D receptor (VDR) receptor impaired OPC differentiation and reduced the cells' ability to remyelinate axons ex vivo. In contrast vitamin D that binds and activates VDR increased OPC differentiation.

Low vitamin D levels have been associated with the onset of multiple sclerosis. This suggests a new role with vitamin D and MS patients. In addition to its impact on immune function vitamin D may also affect the disease progression by controlling myelin sheath regeneration thus enhancing remyelination in MS patients and in patients suffering from other demyelinating diseases.

In addition to the consideration of vitamin D it is important to assess the gut in all autoimmune disorders. There was a great article in PLOS One last September in which researchers stressed the importance and the role of the intestinal barrier function and multiple sclerosis. The research team stated that the future to treating MS should not only focus on the central nervous system but also on repairing and restoring the intestinal barrier.

By. Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN