A recent animal study discovered that vitamin D may have an important role in the management of multiple sclerosis (MS) by increasing proteins involved in remyelination.
MS involves an immune-mediated response, in which the body’s immune system attacks the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves (the central nervous system). The foreign substance responsible for this abnormal immune response, known as an antigen, remains unknown. Therefore, MS is considered to be “immune mediated” rather than “autoimmune.”
The immune system attacks the myelin within the central nervous system. Myelin insulates the nerve fibers, helping signals be transmitted from the brain to the spinal cord.
MS obtained its name from the scar tissue, known as sclerosis, which forms from the damaged myelin. This causes disruption to messages sent around the brain and spinal cord, producing a wide variety of symptoms, such as mobility and balance issues.
Sadly, no cure has been discovered for MS. Most treatments focus on slowing the progression of the disease and managing symptoms. Although, in recent years, research has produced promising results for the use of vitamin D in the treatment of MS. The ultimate test, randomized controlled trials, have shown that vitamin D supplementation improves the quality of life and reduces the frequency of relapse among patients with MS.
In a recent study, researchers investigated the effects of vitamin D on two important proteins involved in the remyelination process, CNPase and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). CNPase is considered a marker for myelin forming cells, and MOG provides structural integrity to myelin.
The researchers induced demyelination among 33 mice. Then, the mice were divided into three groups. The first group received daily injections with vitamin D diluted in olive oil. The second group received daily injections with olive oil daily, and the third group did not receive any injections.
After five weeks of the assigned treatment, researchers assessed protein levels in the cerebral cortex among the three groups. There were no differences in total protein concentrations.
The researchers discovered that the levels of CNPase and MOG were significantly increased in the vitamin D injected mice compared to the other two groups. The CNPase levels were increased about 1.7 times among the mice given vitamin D in comparison to the other two groups. Meanwhile, MOG expression was increased by approximately 1.31 and 1.41 times in the vitamin D injected mice versus the mice without injections and the mice injected with olive oil only, respectively.
The researchers concluded,
“Vitamin D3 may have an important role in the process of remyelination by increasing CNPase and MOG expression.”
Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. Recent animal study proposes mechanism for the role of vitamin D in multiple sclerosis. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.
Mashayekhi F. & Salehi , Z. Administration of vitamin D3 induces CNPase and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein expression in the cerebral cortex of the murine model of cuprizone-induced demyelination. Folia Neuropathologica, 2016.