Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that vitamin D blocks damaging immune cells from getting to the central nervous system, possibly explaining how vitamin D might be beneficial in multiple sclerosis.
Research has shown a link between vitamin D and multiple sclerosis (MS) for some time now. Scientists originally saw the connection when they noticed an increasing prevalence of MS further away from the equator. We have a visual blog covering this topic. More recently, there has been some clinical research showing vitamin D may help prevent MS or help treat some aspects of MS.
In the present study, researchers wanted to take a closer look at possible mechanisms of how vitamin D may work in MS. So they gave rodents with an animal form of MS high doses of vitamin D.
People and animals with MS have T-cells that poorly affect the central nervous system. In this study, after the researchers gave the rodents high amounts of vitamin D, they still noticed high amounts of T-cells in their blood. However, interestingly, these T-cells were not accessing the central nervous system in large numbers like they usually they do in MS. The researchers noticed that the rodents on vitamin D had fewer T-cells in their brain or spinal cords.
“Vitamin D may slow a process of making a sticky substance that allows the T-cells to grab onto blood vessel walls, which allows the T-cells to remain in circulation and keeps them from migrating to the brain,” said study lead Dr. Anne Gocke.
Furthermore, the researchers found that upon withdrawal of vitamin D, the chance of a MS flare-up increased in the rodents.
“The most important thing is that the way vitamin D works in T-cells in mice is the same way that it works in people,” Dr. Gocke stated.