How Vitamin D Repairs Myelin in Multiple Sclerosis
An international team of researchers have proposed how vitamin D repairs myelin in multiple sclerosis. This finding could lead to new remyelination treatment options.
Numerous previous studies have discussed how vitamin D supplementation can have a favorable impact on the course of multiple sclerosis, including reducing relapse. Others have indicated that low levels of the vitamin are associated with an increased incidence of MS or the presence of more brain lesions.
Researchers in this latest study found that the vitamin D receptor interacts with RXR gamma receptor, a protein that has been shown in previous research to be involved in the repair of myelin. Myelin is the protective covering for nerve cells that is damaged and destroyed in people who have MS.
Although the body has special cells called oligodendrocytes that can repair damaged myelin, this natural ability is compromised in people who have multiple sclerosis. This study, however, showed that
- When scientists added vitamin D to brain stem cells (which have both vitamin D and RXR gamma receptors), production of oligodendrocytes increased 80 percent
- When scientists blocked vitamin D receptor activity, the RXR gamma protein was not able to promote the production of oligodendrocytes without help from the vitamin D receptor
According to the study’s senior author, Professor Robin Franklin, of the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge, the findings provide “significant evidence that vitamin D is also involved in the regeneration of myelin once the disease has started,” which means “we could see a myelin repair drug that works by targeting the vitamin D receptor.”
The findings of this and previous research on the role of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis have not resulted in researchers or physicians making any definitive dosing recommendations. However, since vitamin D deficiency is widespread and low levels have been linked to other health challenges in addition to MS, having your vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test and talking to your doctor about supplementation are suggested.
de la Fuente AG et al. Vitamin D receptor-retinoid X receptor heterodimer signaling regulates oligodendrocyte progenitor cell differentiation. Journal of Cell Biology 2015 Dec 7; 211(5): 975-85
University of Cambridge