Research published online this week suggests a beneficial effect of vitamin D for systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) patients.
SLE is a T and B cell-dependent autoimmune disease characterized by the appearance of autoantibodies, regulatory T cell (Tregs) depletion and an increase of Th17 cells.
Tregs are cells which modulate the immune system, acting as a self-checker of immune function to prevent excessive reactions. Th17 cells are thought to play a role in inflammation and tissue disruption in autoimmune diseases. The long-term disorder may affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
Previous studies have shown vitamin D’s effect in increasing Tregs as well as decreasing Th1 and Th17 cells.
Nathalie Costedoat-Chalumeau and colleagues’ research aimed to identify the safety and immunological effects of vitamin D supplementation in SLE patients with vitamin D deficiency.
Twenty participants were administered 100,000 IU vitamin D3 once per week for 1 month, followed by 100,000 IU D3 once per month for 6 months.
The researchers found vitamin D status increased significantly from mean 25(OH)D 18.7 ng/mL to 51.4 ng/mL at 2 months, and 41.5 at 6 months. Disease activity decreased slightly, although the change was not significant. The percentage of Tregs increased significantly from baseline, as well as a significant decrease in Th17 cells. The researchers also observed an increase in CD4+ cells, and decrease in memory B cells, all beneficial for decreasing SLE symptoms. Most importantly, none of the participants experienced SLE-flare ups during the 6 month follow up period.
The authors call for further research on the subject. Dr Costedoat-Chalumeau states:
“The study has highlighted interesting pathways to explore. Among the identified signatures, we observed the down-regulation of RNA polymerase functions and histone expression… These deserve further research owing to their possible involvement with a decrease in the accumulation of autoantigens and the activation and proliferation of autoreactive T and B lymphocytes.”
Costedoat-Chalumeau N, et al. Restoration of regulatory and effector T cell balance and B cell homeostasis in systemic lupus erythematosus patients through vitamin D supplementation. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2012.